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Houston Astros

The Houston Colt .45s debuted in 1962, joining the New York Mets in the first NL expansion. The team quickly established an unique identity after moving into the Astrodome, baseball's first venture into indoor baseball on an artificial surface. The carpet laid on the floor of the Astrodome is still called astroturf in tribute.

It wasn't until Harry "The Hat" Walker took over as manager in 1969 that the team began to play winning baseball. Prior to that the only highlights had been Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub - two products of the team's farm system who enjoyed long major league careers. In the wacky, strike-shortened 1972 season the 'Stros finished a surprising second, due in large part to the efforts of pitchers Don Wilson and Larry Dierker, and everyday players Lee May, Doug Rader, Jimmy Wynn, Bob Watson, and Cesar Cedeno. Unfortunately for the Astros, as has been the case often throughout their history, most of those players enjoyed more success on other teams later in their career. With Cedeno as the centerpiece and the imposing J.R. Richard on the mound, the Astros were often pre-season picks to contend, but they could do no better than 2nd place in the 1970s.

In the 1980s Nolan Ryan joined as a free agent and helped form a talented pitching staff. The 1980 team won an exciting playoff for the NL West title over the Dodgers, before bowing to the Phillies in the LCS. The first part of the 1980s were disappointing as talented players Jose Cruz, Dickie Thon, and Bill Doran failed to push the team over the top. The pitching staff was strong with Ryan, Joe Niekro, Bob Knepper, and Mike Scott. By 1986 the team combined young talent with some experienced veterans to win a second division title. Their foe in the NLCS was their fellow expansion team from 1962, the Mets. In an exciting six-game series, the Astros battled to their final out before exiting the season. It was one of the most thrilling playoff series in baseball history.

The team settled into a pattern of mediocrity the next 6-7 years, but by 1994, under new manager Terry Collins, they were ready to contend again. But Collins was unable to drag the team to the top, finishing second in the NL Central three times from 1994-1997. In a bold move, the team hired broadcaster Larry Dierker (their former pitching ace of the early 1970s) to replace Collins. Dierker's handling of the pitching staff and determined approach seemed to inspire the team immediately. Behind "Killer B's" Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Derek Bell, Houston won three Central Division titles from 1997-1999. In 1998 they set a franchise record with 102 wins. Yet in none of those three playoff seasons could they get past the first round, defeated by Atlanta twice. The situation was more puzzling due to the strange slumps Biggio and Bagwell experienced each post-season.

In 2000 they debuted in a new stadium, but the results were terrible. The Astros tumbled from playoff contention as their pitching staff was shelled in their bandbox home park.

The 2001 team rebounded and won the team's fourth division title in five years, posting the best record in the National League. A late season collapse allowed the Cardinals to get in the race and the two teams finished in a tie for the Central lead. The 'Stros won the crown due to a better head-to-head record with the Redbirds. In the playoffs it was more of the same as Atlanta again swept Houston, leaving behind disillusioned fans and frustrated players. The frustration reached the managers office as well. Dierker resigned after complaining that modern players were "too hard to motivate." The Astros skipper retired as the most successful in Houston history, winning four division titles and 55% of his games in five years. In the regular season Bagwell and Biggio continued to add to their Hall of Fame resumes in 2001. However, once again they disappeared in the playoffs, failing to score any runs or drive in any base runners.

In 2004 the Houston Astros finished 2nd in their National League 6 team Central Division and they advanced to the playoffs. In the playoffs they beat the Atlanta Braves in round 1. In round 2, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and missed their opportunity to go to the World Series. [The Cardinals lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox.]

In 2005 the Houston Astros played in their first World Series. They lost to the Chicago White Sox.

In 2006, the Astros finished with a 82-80 record and didnt make the playoffs.


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