Great Stadiums (5): Houston, We Have a Problem

Another relic of 20th-century enterprise: The Houston Astrodome in its former glory

Another relic of 20th-century enterprise: The Houston Astrodome in its former glory

The NRG Astrodome, once The Eighth Wonder Of The World in Houston, may (or may not) succumb to the wreckers’ ball, as Ebbets Field did, as the Polo Grounds did, as countless great ballparks have, unless a lot of people step in, as seems the case. Read all about the demise of one of the engineering marvels of history.

Ground was broken for big, cigar-chomping “Judge” Roy Hofheinz’s vision on January 3, 1962. (He first dreamed of a domed stadium in 1952! Within sight of the Astrodome was the Judge’s modernist-sleek Astroworld Hotel.)

The originating home of exploding scoreboards and bugle calls (charge), Texas-sized dugouts (so that more fans could claim “dugout seats”), television monitors, Mercury-astronaut get-ups for the grounds’ crew, and every other imaginable Space Age gimmick—including air conditioning—meant to modernize the National Pastime, the Dome had sadly rusted away amid tractor-pulls, rodeos, and Funny Car exhibitions in the middle of a gigantic, empty parking lot; while back-to-the-future retro stadiums flourish.

Mickey Mantle hit the first home run at the Astrodome during a 1965 exhibition game attended by LBJ and other big-shots. Undoubtedly before the first pitch was thrown, fielders knew the graceful steel web of support girders and glass, thro which passed the sunlight or reflecting artificial light at night, made it impossible to track balls hit in the air. Nonwhite baseballs were proposed. Ultimately, the roof was painted as daylight created the biggest problem. This killed the grass. (It was as if a greenhouse were painted black.) AstroTurf-8, an unforgiving plastic carpet requiring little maintenance and no water or light, was devised.

The modern sports era had begun.

Unless some new county-referendum vote is held with different results, here we have it: the Houston Astrodome (1965-ca. 2014). R.I.P. Or maybe not!


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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