Tag Archives: Astrodome

June 9-Sunday Night Lights

*1963 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – The first Sunday night major league baseball game was played on this date in 1963. Sunday night games were banned at the time, but the Houston Colt .45s asked for, and were granted, an exception because of the oppressive Texas heat.

“We would have been lucky to have drawn 4,000 fans if the game had been played in the afternoon.”

This was before the Astrodome was built, in fact the sweltering heat was an impetus for building it. At the time the Colt .45s were playing in open air Colt Stadium, which had virtually no shade for the fans.

The Houston ball club was ecstatic about the results. Besides beating the San Francisco Giants 3-0 in 1-hour and 58 minutes, in front of 17,437 fans, executive director George Kirksey said, “We would have been lucky to have drawn 4,000 fans if the game had been played in the afternoon. You can’t expect people to pay their money to come to the ball park and suffer in the heat.”

The Associated Press in Houston reported the night game temperature was 79°. It would have been 95º during the day.

Of the cities with major league teams at the time, the heat was an issue in Houston more than any other:

Average highs (from www.myforecast.com)
                                         June   July    August
Houston                       90          92         92
St. Louis                        85          89         87
Kansas City                 84          90         87
Washington , D.C.   84          88         86
Baltimore                    83          87         85
Philadelphia               82          86         85
Cincinnati                    82          86         85
Detroit                          79          83         81
Chicago                        79          84         82
New York                    79          84         83
Cleveland                     79          83         81
Minneapolis               79          84         84
Milwaukee                  76          80         79
Boston                          76          82         82
Los Angeles                72          75         76
San Francisco            71          71         72

The Houston club had to deal with the heat until 1966 when the Harris County Domed Stadium opened. Soon after the stadium name was changed to the Astrodome and the team name changed to Astros.

READ MORE/SOURCES:
June 9, 1963 box score/stats
Weather stats
Houston Astros
Associated Press, Houston, via The Hartford Courant, June 11, 1963

April 9-BASEBALL GOES INDOORS

1965 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – Baseball went inside for the first time on this date in 1965. The Houston Colt .45s (today’s Houston Astros) played the New York Yankees in an exhibition game at the Harris County Domed Stadium, the first domed baseball stadium in the world.

The Yankees won 2-1 in 12 innings. Mickey Mantle hit the first-ever indoor home run. President Lyndon Johnson, a Texas native, was among the 47,878 fans at the game. The Harris County Domed Stadium name was soon changed to the Astrodome – the so-called eighth wonder of the world.

An architectural marvel, the Dome presented unanticipated challenges. It was built to allow sunlight to come through a series of clear plastic panels in the roof, thus allowing real grass to be planted. It didn’t work. The grass grew okay, but the players couldn’t see fly balls because of the tremendous glare each panel produced. The panels were painted over to block the sun, but of course the grass wouldn’t grow. Necessity being what it is, artificial grass was invented to put down on the field, hence the name Astroturf.

Astroturf became widespread in baseball and football stadiums for indoor and outdoor sports in the 1970s. Thankfully, many teams have gone back to real grass, including the Houston Astros. Today, those who want artificial turf can at least install something that looks and feels like grass, the most popular being FieldTurf.

Contributing Sources:
The Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas, April 10, 1965