Our man from Minnesota, James Fillmore wrote a very interesting article over at his post at Twinkie Town, The Original Field Of Dreams. It’s about the creation of the Astrodome. I have a personal interest in that because the only MLB game I’ve seen outside the Bay Area was in the Astrodome — in the early 1970s: the Reds against the Astros. I knew nothing of the Astros, but I knew Johnny Bench. And I knew Pete Rose. And I probably knew other players at that time. As I recall, the Reds were a very famous team then.
The article contains all kind of information that I never knew. To start with, the team’s name was changed from the Colt 45s (Ugh!) to the Astros, following the name of the stadium, which was a hat tip to NASA being headquartered in Houston. And apparently, NASA scientists had some involvement in the project. It is an amazing thing. These kinds of things are everywhere now, but then it was cutting edge. I’ve always wondered way the first of these was made in Houston where the weather is generally good. But as Fillmore pointed out in his article: it was all about the money. One of the owners, Roy Hofheinz, was super connected to the state government — a fact that future owners would use to steal public funds for their private endeavors.
But the most interesting part of the story is about the turf. The Astrodome was built with a roof which was “a latticework of metal and glass-ish plastic, it allowed sunlight to glow inside and grow real grass for the field.” Brilliant! Real grass! That’s great. But as everyone knows, that didn’t work out so well. The reason was because it created a huge amount of glare. The players had a hard time fielding balls. So the owners did the obvious thing: they painted over the plastic. Problem solved!
Of course, it created a new problem: the lack of sunlight caused the grass to die. So, “The Astros finished 1965 playing on a field of dead grass, spray-painted green.” There was nothing, the Astros management seemed to think, that could not be solved with a coat of paint! But that only worked for so long. As Fillmore explained:
So it was Monsanto! Of course it was Monsanto! And speaking of corporate criminals, the Astrodome was the first stadium to create “luxury boxes” — where rich jerks can right off expensive game viewing as a business deduction because they are “entertaining” other rich jerks. Of course, all that is gone now. The Astros left the stadium in 2000. It’s last “event” was to shelter victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the people of Houston want to find a use for it. It once represented the future. It’s kind of like having an actual Commodore 64 running Castle Wolfenstein in your study. Sure, there are more advanced things, but nothing more wonderful.