Houston's baseball beginnings

The birth of professional baseball in Houston started with a bang

The 2012 Astros sport throwback Colt 45's uniforms. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Fifty-five years ago, the Houston Astros entered Major League Baseball — just not as the Astros. Back then, they were the Colt 45s. Named after the gun. Before establishing a pro team, Houston had a minor league team from 1888 until 1961 that went by the name of the Houston Buffaloes. In 1962, Major League Baseball allowed the Houston team to enter the National League along with the New York Mets as expansion franchises.

The first job was coming up with a name. The owners of the new franchise crowdsourced the idea to people around Houston. They held a “Name the Team” contest that was eventually won by William Irving Neder. The Houstonian argued that the Colt .45 was emblematic of the Texas frontier’s reputation and fit well with Houston’s image. The owners agreed, and the Colt .45s were born.

On opening day of 1962, the Colt .45s won their first game 11-2 against the Cubs behind a six RBI day from Roman Melias, playing in front of 25,271 people at Colt Stadium. From there, the team went through mostly early expansion woes. The Colt .45s went 196-288 over their first three seasons. Then, three years later, the Colt .45s were gone. It wasn’t because the name was mediocre. There was just a clearly better option.

America’s Manned Spacecraft Center, which was a training facility for astronauts, was 25 miles from Houston. In a little over two years, Houston becoming the epicenter of American space exploration completely altered the country-wide perception of the city. It became known as the home of astronauts, so the new team name ideally would reflect that.

One of the primary reasons Houston was granted a franchise in the first place was the promise of a new stadium. The idea was that Houston would have a beautiful place with modern amenities that would be high-tech to mirror the burgeoning space program in the city. The stadium would be climate controlled so that summertime Houston heat would not discourage fans from coming to day games.

In January 1962, a ceremony was held at the site of the dome where Colt .45s (the guns, not the team) were shot into the flat, bare land. Three years later, the city delivered when it unveiled a brand-new domed stadium. The name of the structure: the Astrodome. With a home called the Astrodome, it was only a matter of time until the name changed. The new name announcement came on December 1, 1964.

The president of the club, Judge Ray Hofheinz, told the UPI that the change was to keep up with the times and that “the name was taken from the stars and indicated we are on the ascendancy.” He also said that Houston “is the space age capital of the world and with our new domed stadium, we think it will also make Houston the sports capital of the world.”

Over a half-century later, the Astros are still the Astros, even if the Astrodome isn’t where they play. But, no matter how many times they change venues or names, the Astros will always be the original Colt .45s.

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3 players the Texans must trade before the deadline

Trading Mercilus would be a big win from a cap perspective. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Strapped for cash and no picks within the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, the Houston Texans should consider having a fire sales ahead of the NFL trade deadline. With the team going nowhere and the uncertainty of the future, J.J. Watt has dominated the rumor mill with the Texans doing the unthinkable of departing from their franchise star.

But despite sitting at 1-6 on the season, the idea of trading Watt has become less probable following Aaron Wilson's appearance on Locked On Texans. During the interview, Wilson — Texans beat reporter for the Houston Chronicle — said it would be hard for ownership to sell the idea of moving on from Watt seven months after the untimely departure of DeAndre Hopkins.

So with the Texans holding on to their future Hall of Famer, that should not hinder the organization from exploring trade options with the other 52 men on the roster not named Deshaun Watson.

The Texans are in desperate need of a rebuild to repair the destruction caused by former head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien. Houston has several tradeable assets on their roster — some of which a contender may overcompensate for in hopes of obtaining the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February.

To get a jumpstart on what could be a two-year rebuilding project, here are three players the Texans should consider moving ahead of the Nov. 3 trade deadline.

Whitney Mercilus

If the Texans elect not to move on from Watt, the organization should have a 180 approach to Whitney Mercilus. The 30-year-old outside linebacker is scheduled to make a projected $35.5 million over the next three seasons, and his on-field production does not match the big payday coming from the Texans.

Prior to his massive $54 million contract extension awarded last December, Mercilus was on a roll in 2019. He recorded 7.5 sacks — five coming within the first four weeks of the season — to go along with 48 total tackles and four forced fumbles. Seven weeks into the 2020 season, Mercilus is nowhere close to matching his 2019 output with only 3.0 sacks, 14 total tackles and no forced fumbles.

But despite his decline as of late, multiple teams around the league can use Mercilus' services to enhance their pass rush. The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans are two championship-contending teams who desperately need to upgrade their front seven in their attempt to represent their respective conference in Super Bowl LV. The Packers are dead last in quarterback pressures, and Jadeveon Clowney is far from the disruptive force the Titans expected.

Mercilus' arrival to any of the two teams may not be a bona fide game-changer, but an upgrade nevertheless. Perhaps a change of scenery could be the key to unlocking the Mercilus who logged a career-best 12 sacks in 2015.

The Seahawks could also use the talents of Mercilus to enhance their linebacking corps, but their recent trade to acquire DT Carlos Dunlay could leave Seattle short on their trade offer to Houston.

Best trade partner: Titans

Duke Johnson

The Houston Texans' run game has been nonexistent throughout the season, and it's time for the organization to experiment with a younger prospect — preferably Scottie Phillips — during the second half of the season.

While it would be nice if the Texans could find a trade partner for David Johnson, no team would be willing to take on the near $8 million base salary he is due next season for his lack of production. Which leaves the better half of the Johnson Brothers up for grabs in Duke Johnson.

Duke has experienced a significant decrease in his touches when compared to last season and could be more beneficial to a playoff team seeking help in their backfield.

The Chicago Bears are the one team where Duke's talents could be beneficial and properly utilized. Chicago lost their Pro-Bowl running back Tarik Cohen for the season due to a torn ACL and has since struggled in the run game. David Montgomery has done a moderate job filling in for the injured Cohen, but the second-year halfback has yet to prove himself as an every-down back.

Duke's skill set as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield is the most suitable attribute he would be able to provide to the Bears. Cohen is one of the most dynamic dual-threat halfbacks, and Duke would be able to give the Bears' offense a sense of normalcy in his absence.

The New England Patriots may explore the market to enhance their backfield. But one can imagine that Bill Belichick is more interested in adding a receiver in an attempt to salvage the remainder of their season.

Best trade partner: Bears

Will Fuller

Next to Watt, Will Fuller has been the second most discussed Texan in the rumor mill. Fuller could survive the trade deadline and become a foundational piece to the Texans' rebuilding project, but Houston may not be willing to tie long-term money into the Notre Dame product given his injury history.

Several teams around the league have their eyes set on a potential deal for Fuller, but none more so the Packers.

Green Bay is seeking a receiver who they can pair alongside Pro-Bowler Davante Adams. A potential deal for Fuller would give the Packers a quality second-tear receiver, while reprising his role as a team's No. 2 option — similar to his early days playing alongside Hopkins.

Fuller would also be a tremendous upgrade to the Patriots. New England does not have any quality receivers on their roster, and their depth has become more vulnerable after the team placed Julian Edelman on IR following knee surgery.

While the Patriots are in dire need to add a receiver, Belichick may hesitate from giving up too many assets — especially draft picks — that could be valuable to their own rebuilding process should the Cam Newton experiment fail. While on pace for a career-year, the Texans should look to cash-in on Fuller while his trade stock is at an all-time high.

Best trade partner: Packers

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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