Houston's baseball beginnings

The birth of professional baseball in Houston started with a bang

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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Astros beat the Mariners 4-2. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a go-ahead two-run homer off former Houston reliever Ryne Stanek in the seventh inning, and the Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Saturday night to take sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time this year.

Stuck playing catchup through the first 3½ months of the season, Houston has won six of eight to climb into first place all alone.

Seattle lost its fifth straight and fell out of first place for the first time since May 11.

Meyers drove a 1-2 pitch from Stanek (6-3) to right-center field for his 11th homer. Stanek opened the inning by walking Jeremy Peña, and the homer by Meyers cost George Kirby the chance at a victory after he allowed one run in six innings.

Yainer Diaz added a solo homer in the eighth off reliever Trent Thornton that bounced off the top of the wall.

Julio Rodríguez snapped Seattle’s 14-inning scoreless drought when his two-run homer off Framber Valdez gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the sixth. It was his 11th of the season and Rodríguez nearly hit a second longball in the eighth off Ryan Pressly only to watch Trey Cabbage make a leaping catch at the wall in right field.

It was one of two terrific defensive plays by the Astros in the eighth as Joey Loperfido ended the inning with a diving grab of Mitch Garver’s drive into the left-field corner and saved one run from scoring.

Valdez pitched 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three hits, four walks and struck out six. Tayler Scott (7-3) got the final out of the sixth before Bryan Abreu, Pressly and Josh Hader closed out the final three innings. Hader earned his 20th save.

Kirby allowed four hits and struck out six. Houston’s only run off him came on Peña’s infield single that scored Alex Bregman in the fourth.

UNUSUAL STRIKEOUT

Houston slugger Yordan Alvarez struck out to end the first inning when he was called for a pitch-clock violation for not being ready in the box prior to a 3-2 delivery from Kirby.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHPs Justin Verlander (neck discomfort) and Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery) threw bullpens. Verlander threw about 40 pitches with increased intensity, while Garcia threw 15 pitches. Both are expected to throw again sometime early next week. … C Victor Caratini (hip) was expected to catch for a second straight day at Double-A Corpus Christi.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Ronel Blanco (9-4, 2.56 ERA) has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts, but lost to Texas in his last outing before the All-Star break.

Mariners: RHP Bryan Woo (3-1, 2.45) will make just his second start since June 24. Woo allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings on July 12.

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