The Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost

January 3, 1962, Harris County and Astros Officials fire guns into ground to ceremonially begin the new domed stadium, but also to unknowingly confirm the presence of the Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost!

January 3, 1962,
Harris County and Astros Officials fire guns into ground to ceremonially begin the new domed stadium, but also to unknowingly confirm the presence of the Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost!

“I have a question: What event brought about the Astros’ postseason curse? The Red Sox had the Curse of the Bambino, the White Sox had the Black Sox scandal, the Cubs have the Curse of the Billy Goat, but to what do we attribute the Astros’ misfortunes?”

~Question raised by Rick Bush yesterday as a comment.

The Pecan Park Eagle is surprised we’ve all allowed this question to slide past our glazed eyes, minds, and memories for well over a half century without seeking the answer to the adroit Mr. Bush’s most worthy inquiry.

Have the Astros’ varied and painful misfortunes over the years, like those suffered once in Boston and twice in Chicago, also been the result of some kind of curse? Yes, they have. Of course, they have. Nothing else makes sense.

But why? What did we Houston baseball fans ever do to deserve all of the angst and bitter disappointment we’ve endured from the few championship opportunities that have come along, ever so rarely, and then crumbled at the highest level in 1980, 1986, 1999, and 2005?

That 2005 whitewash we absorbed in the World Series even helped the Chicago White Sox break their Black Sox Curse from 1919, giving the Pale Hose their first World Series win since 1917?

Now it’s 2015 and we are in the other league, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 – and facing the real possibility that the Astros could reach the World Series as the opponent of the Chicago Cubs, who are still 107 years removed from their last 1908 crown due to the Curse of the Billy Goat. – Is our own curse setting up the Astros and their fans to be the only team that could ever satisfy the Cubs’ need to also break their own curse by defeating the Astros for their first World Series win since 1908?

What a horrible thought! – But, then again, how often have our Astros fans’ worst fears suddenly hatched and then come painfully true – and there was nothing we could do about it, but try to remember: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

 So, what is our Astros affliction, anyway?

Truth to tell, we never thought much about local curses either until Rick Bush raised the question. I thought long and hard about it all day yesterday. It even followed me into my dreams last night. Then it woke me at 4:30 AM today in a state of lucidity – and that’s not an everyday occurrence for me at this time of day. But that’s how convinced I am that the following answer is the correct one:

The Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost

 How it started. When Judge Hofheinz decided to name our new MLB club the Houston Colt .45s, he offended both the gods of baseball history and legal equity.

The gods of history, supported by the loyal legion of former Houston Buffalos fans, were heartbroken that their beloved “Buffs” would not be allowed, as we first thought, to carry our city’s banner on the stampede from minor to major league baseball.

The gods of legal equity thought it unfair that Hofheinz had chosen to simply appropriate the use of the name “Colt .45s” without seeking legal agreement and negotiation for how they planned to compensate the Colt .45 Gun Company for using their copyrighted name property as the Houston brand for marketing major league baseball.

Harris County and the Houston Sports Association even extended Judge Hofheinz’s original team name pick into the free marketing arena by using several Colt .45 pistols to fire in the ground as the ceremonial earth-breakers for starting construction on the new domed stadium.

How it played out. After three seasons (1962-64), the local MLB club abandoned the name “Colt .45s” in favor of a plan, they said would align Houston more closely with their new identity as “Space City, the Home of NASA, and the face of the future. Starting with the opening of the new domed play venue, the team and the new stadium would henceforth be known as the Astros and the Astrodome.

What they didn’t say. What Judge Hofheinz and the Astros didn’t talk about was the fact that the name change cleared the club from a future legal possibility that the Colt .45 Gun Company might come after them as the team moved forward in marketing more souvenir products under the club’s name.

The Gun Smoke Ghost. The shortest proof of the curse’s existence is this simple: In their 51 years of existence, the Astros have had some great players and bright minds at work for them. The team has won a single 2015 pennant, but the were swept there by the White Sox from winning their only shot at World Series victory.

How the Ghost Works. The Astros have a forever record of blowing smoke that certain actions are going to help the club. We fans then get to watch the failure of that promise on the field. Sometimes, the disappointment is predictable.


  • Trading away Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan, and Mike Cuellar were for the good of the franchise. The Astros were blowing the gun smoke of the ghost. – Those were terrible moves!
  • Owner John McMullen thought Nolan Ryan should take a pay cut. All he did was drive one of the most beloved men in Houston player history into the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger. – The smoke from that one choked Houston’s first date with the Hall of Fame.
  • The playoff disappointments of 1980, 1986, and 1999.
  • The World Series disappointment of 2005.
  • McLane deciding to save money by only going after young free agents who would sign cheaply.
  • McLane signing Carlos Lee to a multi-year $100 million dollar deal.

And on and on and on. Smoke. Smoke. Smoke.

Things look much better now. Reid Ryan, Jeff Luhnow, and A.J Hinch look great in the way they have brought this 2015 team along. And I can’t wait until tonight’s opening game of the NLDS for the Astros against the Royals in Kansas City.

Win or lose, I wouldn’t trade the talented core of this 2015 Astros team and our current Luhnow way of doing things for any other plan out there that I see.

No smoke. It’s time to kill the Curse of Gun Smoke Ghost.

Go Astros!






6 Responses to “The Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost”

  1. Rick B. Says:

    I was hoping to stir up some discussion yesterday, but you’ve outdone yourself here, Bill. It’s a worthy explanation and an apt name for the curse. Unfortunately, I fear that the Gun Smoke Ghost may rear its ugly head again and can envision the following heartbreaking scenario: The Astros lose the World Series to the Cubs in seven games, with Jake Arrieta as this year’s Madison Bumgarner. Whom will Arrieta strike out for the final out of the Series? Unfortunately, the list of possible suspects is a long one.
    My pessimism notwithstanding, “Go, Astros! “

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    As a lifelong Colt .45s/Astros fan, I would submit that the team has been cursed by insufficient talent. If you throw in bigtime losses by UH and the Oilers, there is what some have labeled as the Houston Choke. It was suggested that the Rockets two NBA titles exorcised the city’s demons regarding championship games, but . . .

    Bill, your congering up of a possible loss to the other Chicago team and ending their long wait for another World Series win has made me hope that there is something to The Curse of the Billy Goat.

    It would be historic if the Astros end up as the only team to play in the World Series as a representative of both the National League and the American League. And a win would balance out the loss in the first trip to the Fall Classic.

    But first, Kansas City.

    • shinerbock80 Says:

      Tom is right. Insufficient talent and knucklehead owners. In fact, I’d say much of Houston sports history is the Curse of Knucklehead Owners. Their cheapness and lack of understanding of the sport set the teams up to fail.

      Btw- The Billy Goat curse came about in 1945 when the owner of Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago wasn’t allowed to get a Series ticket for his goat. So the Cubs drought from 1908 to 1945 was a curseless one.

  3. emmettmcauliffe Says:

    I think its the curse of Dave Roberts, the Colt .45s first baseman. He was the last player acquired under a St. Louis Browns contract on October 10, 1953 (the franchise shift did not become final until November).

    ps as an intellectual property lawyer I will say that it was not a copyright issue but a trademark issue. And there really isn’t a trademark issue. There is no likelihood of confusion between a gun manufacturer and an entertainment service. Those are completely distinct categories of goods and service. And the doctrine of “dilution” did not exist back then. And by the time the doctrine did develop, the Houston Colt .45s baseball team would’ve become its own famous mark.

  4. emmettmcauliffe Says:

    I forgot to mention .. to further the “Non-PC” theme and the smoke theme, both, in 1953 Dave Roberts played in the Panama Professional League for a team called the Chesterfield Smokers.

  5. jamesa Says:

    Thank you. This site is awesome! I discovered it while trying to do some research and photos of the old Gulf Coast League Galveston Whitecaps in 1950-54. My Dad was a ball boy for them.

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