As baseball begins a new year, There is one drastic new change. The Houston Astros are now in the American League. It comes after spending the first 51 years of existence as a National League member.
Add another batter to the lineup for the Astros in the designated hitter for most of the year. They also have new rivalries with the Mariners, A’s, Angels and Rangers. Houston was moved to the American League to create 15 teams in each league. It adds a club in the American League West and reduces a team in the National League Central.
Houston began as an expansion team along with the New York Metropolitans better known as the Mets in 1962. Houston was known as the Colt 45’s until 1965 when they moved into a new ballpark called the Astrodome. It’s the first time major professional baseball was played inside. After trying grass inside, officials went to something called “Astro-Turf”, better known today as Sprint Turf.
If there was ever a team with an appropriate nickname it was the Astros. The city of Houston was the home to NASA, the space agency flying astronauts into space. The name was cool, but the team was not.
The club Went years without much to shout about. There were early days superstars like Rusty Staub and Jimmy Wynn. Ace pitcher Nolan Ryan came along to provide a stopper in the pitching staff. Yet, even with some talent the Astros could never win.
They finally made post-season action in 1986. Houston squared off with the New York Mets in the National League championship series. The Mets won an extra inning affair in the 14th inning of game six to douse the hopes of Astros’ fans of making the World Series.
It would be 19 years before Houston had another chance to go to the Fall Classic. The second time around the Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2005 National League series. It gave Houston their first ticket to the World Series.
Unfortunately, the Astros, ran into a red-hot Chicago White Sox team. The Chisox swept the Astros in four straight to claim their first World Series in 86 years.
After that World Series, the Astros have fallen on hard times. They had baseball’s worst record last season. Now with a move to the American League the Houston team has a new focus and perhaps new found hope. It might be a good move for a club that has struggled to be a consistent contender for baseball’s top prize, the World Series.