At the October 1960 Major League Baseball owners' meeting in Chicago, Judge Roy Hofheinz took every owner out to eat, Texas style: he had over 400 pounds of barbecue brought up from his own livestock, with enough fixings to go around. His generous meal may or may not have had a noticeable effect on the owners, but by the 17th of that month, they had reached a decision: Houston, Texas would be home to the newest team in baseball.
That following summer, ground was struck on Colt Stadium. Little did anyone know that Hofheinz had also secretly been buying plots of land along south Houston. By the time the Colt .45's got off the ground, he owned nearly 50 acres.
The 1962 Colt .45's were chock full of untested rookies and lifelong journeymen, and their 64-96 record showed it. Manager Harry Craft later said of the team: "It was hard times, waking up every day, head hung low as you walked into certain defeat. Certainly Mr. Hofheinz wasn't pleased." Hofheinz wasn't, but he understood the growing pains of a Major League Baseball franchise. He had a good stable of starting pitchers, but other than the solid Roman Mejias, no one stood out on offense.
Hofheinz decided instead to invest for the future: he traded Mejias along with several other players, getting John Bateman, Rusty Staub, and Ernie Fazio, the oldest of which was 22. All 3 players struggled, and again, the Colt .45's finished near the bottom of the heap.
Houston's inability to do well proved a God-send on draft day: they managed to pick up Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, and Larry Dierker. They also signed aging veteran Nellie Fox, mostly as a guiding force for a team whose average age was under 27. By now, Hofheinz's designs on south Houston were all over the news: he was building a stadium, and not just any stadium - a domed stadium!
Early in the 1964 season, an unmistakable omen appeared in the Colts' path: on April 23, they became the first team to lose a 9-inning no-hitter - a 1-0 heartbreaker by Ken Johnson. Craft was fired 28 games into the season, replaced by Lum Harris, who fared no better. The team finished with 96 losses for the 3rd season in a row. The only bright spot was Bob Bruce, who was 15-9 with a 2.75 ERA.
That winter, construction completed on the Astrodome, and the team was appropriately renamed the Houston Astros. Although the era had many bright stars, it had few shining moments, and is largely forgotten, except for the most diehard of baseball buffs.
Major League Baseball Teams
Houston Astros | Kansas City Athletics