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Capacity: 54,816 (baseball); 62,439 (football)
Harris County Domed Stadium

 

 

 

Area of fair territory: 109,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Large

 

Fences: 10 ft

 

Elevation: 40 feet

 

 

General Information

Address:
8400 Kirby Drive
Houston, Texas 77504

Who Played Here: Houston Astros (NL); Houston Oilers (NFL, 1965-96)
Opened: April 12, 1965
Last Astros game: October 9, 1999
Surface: Tifway 419 Bermuda grass (1965); Astroturf (1966 to date)

Architects: Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Construction: H.A. Lott, Inc.
Owner: Harris County
Cost: $35 million (1965); $60 million (1989 expansion).


First-season attendance: 2,151,470
Worst-season attendance: 858,002 (1976)
Best-season attendance: 2,450,451 (1998)

 

History

     The summers in Houston, Texas, are grotesquely hot and sticky - too hot to play or watch baseball.  But an entrepreneur named Judge Roy Hofheinz - the owner of the Houston Astros - conceived of a way to do the impossible: play baseball in the summer in air-conditioned comfort.  It was Hofheinz's idea to build a gigantic dome, large enough to cover a baseball field and grandstands for 50,000 people without a single column obstructing the players' or the spectators' view.

     Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World when it opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium, Houston's Astrodome must indeed seemed to have come from the Space Age.  Not only was it the first sports stadium to have a roof over a playing field, but it also boasted cushioned orange and red seats, 53 futuristic "Sky Boxes," and a $2-million scoreboard featuring home run extravaganzas, cartoons, and helpful instructions to fans.  It is the world's first air-conditioned domed stadium for baseball and football, and also accommodates basketball, boxing, conventions, rodeos, and almost any other entertainment or sporting event.

     Hofheinz lived in a luxuriously furnished apartment inside.  His sports palace featured a natural grass playing field in its first year; the dome, constructed from 4,796 clear plastic roof panes, allowed direct sunlight for grass to grow.  But during day games the bright Texas sun blinded fielders trying to catch fly balls, so many of the roof panels were painted white to soften the glare.

     But the reduced light was insufficient to keep the grass alive, and at one point the dead brown turf was sprayed with green dye.  The Astros were resigned to play the 1966 season on an all-dirt field, until the Monsanto chemical company proposed using an experimental playing surface of nylon grass.  It was installed and named AstroTurf.  On April 8, 1966 the Astros and Dodgers played baseball's first game on synthetic grass; the durability and ease of drainage of the new material made it advantageous even in outdoor venues, and it quickly swept the sports world, football even more than baseball.  A number of the ballparks that followed used artificial turf - Royals Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers, Busch Stadium, Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, the SkyDome, Montreal's Olympic Stadium, and others.

 

     Indeed, the Astrodome is a technological marvel.  Its 660-foot-wide circular roof was the world’s largest self-supporting dome when built, and its many large restaurants and lounges were unmatched in existing stadiums.  Air-conditioning keeps the Dome’s temperature at a dry 72 degrees and over 90 percent of its seats are upholstered in fabric.  So large is this stadium that an 18-story building would fit inside - it is 710 feet in diameter, and occupies 9˝ acres of real estate.  The playing field is 25 feet below street level.  Lighting up the field requires more electricity than is used by a city of 9,000 people, and the central air-conditioning has to circulate 2.5 million cubic feet of air a minute.

     The roof is 208' above the playing field at its highest point, high enough to be beyond the reach of fly balls, although a loudspeaker suspended over center field was once hit by Mike Schmidt for the longest single of his career.  Over the outfield wall, a huge American flag hung in dead center field and baseball's largest scoreboard once ran 474' across the back wall.  Both were displaced when seating decks were added (primarily for football games) in center field in the 1980s.  This expansion brought the baseball capacity to nearly 55,000.  On June 15, 1976, the Astrodome suffered its only rainout when torrential storms flooded the nearby streets and made it impossible to get to the stadium.

 

Renovation:  In the fall of 1989, a $60 million expansion project enlarged seating capacity in the Astrodome by extending the upper decks into the outfield and adding 66 new Sky Boxes on the Club Level.  Two external pedestrian ramps were added to the structure. The floor, which had been dirt since the stadium first opened in 1965 was concreted and the Astroturf was replaced with a new Monsanto "Magic Carpet" system.  The Astrodome scoreboard and home run spectacular were replaced by two Diamond Vision screens, a large matrix board, two auxiliary matrix boards and a game-in-progress board.  Two manually operated, out-of-town scoreboards giving inning by inning scores of games in progress, were incorporated into the outfield wall in 1993.

 

The  Most Memorable moments:

 

1. Game 6, NLCS - October 15, 1986: The Astros were down 3-2 in their best of seven series, just two wins away from reaching their first World Series.  Bob Knepper spun a beat, allowing just 2 hits over 8 innings, but the Mets rallied to tie it in the 9th.  Wally Backman's RBI single put the Mets ahead 4-3 in the 14th, but Billy Hatcher kept the Astros alive with a solo homer off the left-field foul pole to tie the game.  In the 16th, the Mets scored three runs and appeared to have wrapped up a victory, but the Astros rallied again.  Houston scored two runs on RBI hits from Hatcher and Glenn Davis and had runners at first and third with two outs and Kevin Bass at the plate.  Mets closer Jesse Orosco struck out Bass to give the Mets a 7-6 a win and wrap up what some consider the most exciting game in postseason history.

 

2. Game 5, NLCS - October 12, 1980: The first four games on the Phillies-Astros best-of five series had been nail-biters with the last three games being decided in extra innings.  Game 5 would be no different.  The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and had Nolan Ryan on the mound.  The Phillies scored twice in the second, but Houston scored once in the sixth and three times in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.  The Phillies hit Ryan hard in the eighth and rallied for a 7-5 lead.  Houston came back with two runs in the eighth, and the Phillies and Astros were back in familiar territory - extra innings.  The Phillies scored a run in the 10th and held on for a thrilling 8-7 win.

 

3. Mike Scott No-Hitter to clinch NL West - September 25, 1986:  After going 5-11 for the Astros in 1984, Mike Scott sought some pitching advice from Roger Craig, who had just resigned as pitching coach of the Detroit Tigers.  Craig taught Scott how to throw a split-fingered fastball.

     The pitch helped turn around Scott's career and along with it the Astros' success.  Scott won the NL Cy Young Award in 1986, and his best game came on this date - he took the mound with a chance to clinch the NL West title against the Giants, now managed by Craig.  Scott did more than help the Astros clinch the NL West title; he became the first pitcher to do so by throwing a no-hitter.  The Giants managed to hit only three of Scott's 103 pitches out of the infield, and no great defensive plays were needed.  Only three batters reached base - Scott's first pitch struck Dan Gladden in the back, Chili Davis walked in the second and Phil Oullette walked in the eighth.  Rookie Will Clark grounded out to first for the final out, and the Astros celebrated a division title and no-hitter all in the same moment.

 

4. Houston vs. UCLA - January 20, 1968: Elvin Hayes scored 39 points, and No. 2 Houston beat No. 1 UCLA 71-69 before a record crowd of 52,693 in the first nationally televised college basketball game. Houston never trailed after the first few minutes of the game and ended the Bruins' 47-game winning streak.

 

5. Battle of the Sexes - September 20, 1973: In one of the most bizarre events staged in sports, 30,472 people - a world record for attendance for a tennis match - watched Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 with an estimated 50 million watching on TV.  Riggs, whose championship days were in 1939, was less a gladiator in a Battle of the Sexes than he was a a sidekick, a clown prince in a publicity stunt.

 

6. Evil Knievel (January 9, 1971): More than 41,000 people watched Knievel set a world indoor motorcycle record by jumping over 13 cars.

 

7. Astros beat Mets in 24 - April 15, 1968:  The Astros beat the Mets 1-0 in 24 innings in one of baseball's longest games.  With the bases loaded and one out in the 24th inning, Bob Aspromonte hit a groundball that went through the legs of Mets shortstop Al Weis for an error that scored Norm Miller.  Weis was filling in for Buddy Harrelson, the Mets regular shortstop, who was out with a sore arm.  The game still is the longest 1-0 game in history and last six hours and six minutes.  Tom Seaver started for the Mets and Don Wilson for the Astros.  Each team had 79 at-bats and 11 hits.

 

 

Analysis


     The dimensions of the Astrodome used to terrify hitters.  The power alleys used to stand a frightful 390 feet away, and the fences were originally 16 feet high.  This made the Dome an extreme pitcher's park - this suited fans of Nolan Ryan just fine, and mediocre pitchers like Bob Knepper in the mid-1980s and Jose Lima more recently were transformed into Cy Young candidates.  On the other hand, the park kept hitters like Jose Cruz, Sr., Cesar Cedeno and Glenn Davis, off the radar screens fans everywhere.

     In recent years, the Astrodome still hurt hitters.  Although the dimensions of the park were no longer egregious after 1977, when the power alleys were reduced from 390 feet to 375 feet (the 16-foot fences were reduced to 10 feet), hitters continued to complain that the ball didn't seem to carry well at all.  This is particularly true when the air conditioning system was off, because poor air circulation didn't help hitters at all.  Hitters also complain that visibility here is poor, and that they have trouble picking up the rotation of the baseball once it is released from the pitcher's hand.  Of course, facing Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richards, Mike Scott, Jose Lima or Mike Hampton doesn't help your ability to see the ball, but the generally high number of strikeouts here relative to other parks backs up the claim.

 

 

1997-1999

1999

Error Index: 92 114
Infield-error Index: 91 112

 

     Any hitter with power had a very tough time in this ballpark.  Perhaps the major casualty was Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell, whose 1999 splits follow:

 

1999             Batting Average       Home Runs    RBI        SLG        OBA

 

Home               .271                        12            47       .469       .477

Away               .337                        30             79      .709       .430

 

 

 

 

Park Factors

 

  Run HR Avg L-Avg R-Avg L-HR R-HR H 2B 3B
1992 87 73 96 93 98 75 71 99 94 90
1993 93 89 96 90 102 67 110 94 99 103
1994 93 101 98 111 90 115 94 96 98 89
1995 77 66 90 91 89 40 82 87 90 78
1996 85 77 95 95 95 86 74 95 110 71
1997 88 79 94 95 94 77 79 92 100 186
1998 99 97 100 94 102 89 101 100 125 75
1999 93 67 96 99 94 71 65 94 110 161

 

 

1997-1999

1999

Walks: 95 98
Strikeouts: 113 115

 

 

 

 

Location

Center field (E), Fannin Street; third base (N), Old Spanish Trail; home plate (W), Kirby Drive; first base (S), South Loop Freeway/Interstate 610.  About 15 min. from Enron Field.

 

Seating Chart

 

Astrodome seating diagram

 

 

Dimensions - History

 

Foul lines: 340 (1965), 330 (1972), 340 (1977), 330 (1985), 325 (1992), 330 (1993), 325 (1994)

Power alleys: 375 (1965), 390 (1966), 378 (1972), 390 (1977), 378 (1985), 375 (1992), 380 (1993), 375 (1994)

Center field: 406 (1965), 400 (1972), 406 (1977), 400 (1985)

Apex of dome: 208

Backstop: 60.5 (1965), 67 (1990), 52 (1993).

 

 

Fences - History

 

Left and right field: 16 ft (9 concrete below 3 wire, 2 concrete, and 2 wire plus railing, 1965); 12 ft (concrete, 1969); 10 ft (concrete, 1977); 10 ft (canvas, 1990); 19.5 ft (concrete, 1991); 10 ft (canvas, 1992)

 

Between foul poles and scoreboards: 8 ft (canvas, 1994)

 

Scoreboards: 16 ft (canvas, 1994)

 

Center field: 12 ft (concrete, 1965); 10 ft (concrete, 1977); 10 ft (padded, 1990).

 

 

Capacity - History

 

1965: 42,217

1966: 46,000

1968: 44,500

1975: 45,000

1982: 47,690

1990: 54,816 (baseball); 62,439 (football).

 

 

Fun Facts

 

  • Lowest HR factor in majors from 1996 to 1998

  • Boosts strikeouts more than any other major league park, suggesting that lighting and hitting backdrop are the most important reasons why it is a pitcher's park.

  • On June 10, 1974, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt hit a public-address speaker 117 feet above and 329 feet distant from home plate-what would have been a 500-plus-foot homer ended up a single as the ball dropped in center field.

 

 

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