Astro Firsts at Minute Maid Park (ne: Enron Field)

2015 will be the 16th year for the Astros to play their home games at the venue we now call Minute Maid Park, but some its biggest game firsts  happened in the first two official games ever played there.

2015 will be the 16th year for the Astros to play their home games at the venue we now call Minute Maid Park, but some its biggest game firsts happened in the first two official games ever played there.

Using the eye perusal methodology at the wonderfully graphic and detailed box score records available at Baseball Almanac.com, here are the major individual credits to be extended to all those Houston Astros players who became the first to produce an outcome in each of the reported categories used in this column. Please note that we are most sure that we will leave something out. After all, the box scores do not cover the names of the first player to spit a sunflower send onto the field from the dugout – nor do they note the names of any third base coaches who were so busy blowing bubbles with their gum that they became the first windmill churner to send a lead-footed runner into a dead-duck blind end at home plate.

The first official Astros home game to be played at the ballpark that started out as Enron Field was played on Friday, April 7, 2000 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Octavio Dotel was the 1st starting pitcher in the history of the ballpark – and also the 1st Astros losing pitcher.

In that same opener, Doug Henry became the 1st relief pitcher in downtown park history when he took over for Dotel in the 7th. Henry also gave up the first sacrifice fly by an opponent to Mickey Morandini. – Jay Powell pitched the 9th to become the 1st Astro pitcher in downtown park history to be in the game at the finish. Earlier in the game, the Dotel/Tony Eusebio battery gave up the first stolen base by a foe when Doug Glanville took 2nd base.

On offense for the 2000 Opening Day game, Richard Hidalgo hit a home run in the 7th with nobody on and 1 out to become the first Astro ballpark HR hitter, scoring the first run, of course, and also picking up the first RBI at the new digs. – And that was pretty much it for the Astros offense for their maiden voyage at “Enron”.

The following day, Saturday, April 8, 2000. more of the most obvious “first time in the new ballpark Astro player records began to fall.” Catcher Mitch Meluskey committed the 1st Astros error at Enron. Craig Biggio (anyone else would have been an act of sacrilege) collected the Astros’ 1st double and Tim Bogar banged out their 1st triple.

Same game, Craig Biggio picked up the 1st new field stolen base of 2nd off the Brock/Prince battery and Ken Caminiti registered the 1st home club sacrifice fly.

Also in the second official game played on 4/08/2000, Mike Maddux was credited with the 1st downtown Houston win by an Astros pitcher in relief of starter Dwight Gooden and (remember this guy?) Billy Wagner nailed down the 1st save in the history of the Union Station grounds we now know as Minute Maid Park.

Please forgive the shortcomings of brief research for a column. Were it for a book project like our recently completed SABR jewel.  “Houston Baseball: The Early Years, 1861-1961”, we would be turning this thing inside out and sideways before going to publication, but our goals here are much more modest. That is, to see we may gleam of notable individual firsts from the box scores alone – knowing full well that they don’t show everything without a scorecard quality track of each unfolding play.

A notable missing example here is: Who registered the first hit of any kind? I doubt it was Hidalgo’s HR in the 7th, but if it wasn’t, all we can know from the box score is that is that it then had to have been an earlier single by Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Tony Eusebio, or Tim Bogar. – If you have the answer, please share it with us as a comment – along with any other glaring “firsts” we may have missed. Help us make this a better column by filing in the missing parts. Let’s build it together.

As we sort of expected when we first started looking up “famous firsts downtown” today, the list contains the names of both the famous and the forgotten of that first downtown year of the club. Nobody has to be great to be first. They just have to be good enough for someone in management to think that they deserve the opportunity. And that proved true again. Be honest here. – How many of you really remember much, if anything, about Doug Henry or Jay Powell? Today, they are mere blurs to me. Some of us will remember the names, but that’s about it – without a little side trip to the encyclopedic records of a place like Astros Daily or Baseball’s Almanac or Reference.com.

The other thing that struck me from this exercise was time – and again – how quickly it passes. 2015 will be the 16th year (2000-2015) for the Houston Astros to play their home games downtown at the place we now call Minute Maid Park. Before that, the club played 35 years at the Astrodome (1965-1999) and 3 years at Colt Stadium (1962-1964).

Time flies. – Does it not?

 

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2 Responses to “Astro Firsts at Minute Maid Park (ne: Enron Field)”

  1. Bob "Shirtless" Blair Says:

    I believe that Timmy Smith from Bay Town ate the first hot dog at Enron. And hard to believe but his brother was the first to drop a peanut shell on the floor in front of him only to have his mother remind that she taught him better than that and pick it up.
    I think that Billy Jones caught the first foul ball down the first base line. Or it could have been a save on a error by someone up a few rows. We will never know the name of that gentleman who could be credited with first fan error.
    I could be wrong here but I heard that Tom Duggan brought his grandson to game where the kid proceeded to cut off a tee shirt shot from launcher headed for the kid directly behind him.
    Will Marks was the first one to ask “why is the roof closed?”
    Fred Wilks was the first to holler “Is that President Bush?”
    Finally Bob and Brigitte Blair were the first to kiss on the jumbo screen. They were escorted to a private booth eventually.
    The real memories from a baseball game!

  2. sschmella Says:

    Baseball Reference has links to play-by-play accounts of most games, including the Astros’ first regular season game at Enron. Doug Glanville of the Phillies led off the game with a single. Craig Biggio (of course) led off the bottom of the first with a single.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU200004070.shtml#play_by_play::none

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