Astros' Ho-Hum All-Star Legacy

added 7/11/2009 by Bob Hulsey

I wish Hunter Pence and Miguel Tejada well at this year's All-Star Game in St. Louis. But if history is a guide, their presence will not make much impact. Approaching 50 years of All-Star history, the thing that jumps out about the Astros is their lack of notable All-Star achievements.

They somehow manage to shun the limelight at the Midsummer Classic, although it hasn't always been their fault. They've often been underrepresented both in players and plays compared to other clubs.

A Houston pitcher has never been the winning pitcher. They've never earned a save. They've hit just two home runs (Cesar Cedeno, 1976 and Craig Biggio, 1995) but they weren't game-changers. An Astro pitcher has started the classic three times (J.R. Richard, 1980, Mike Scott, 1987 and Roger Clemens, 2004).

For a franchise that has usually had pitching as their calling card over the years, Astro All-Stars may be best known for getting lit up in the interleague competition:

1962 - Turk Farrell gives up a three-run homer to Cleveland's Rocky Colavito.
1992 - Doug Jones is pelted for three runs on four-hits.
1994 - Doug Drabek is touched for three runs, although only one was earned. He allowed four hits. Then John Hudek appeared later in relief, put a pair on who scored after he left the game.
2004 - Before the home crowd, Clemens is smacked for six runs (three earned) as the starter, allowing homers to Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.
2005 - Roy Oswalt gives up a pair of runs in his one inning of work at Detroit.

Likewise, the game has made an appearance in Houston three times but only one was memorable. The 1968 game was so dull that they don't even show the highlight film. It was a 1-0 National League win where the only run scored in the bottom of the first on a double-play grounder. For coming home on the play, Willie Mays was named the game's MVP - probably by NBC which might have otherwise pushed back Johnny Carson's show to well after midnight. If nothing else, the game symbolized how dominant pitching was that year, particularly when the game's best pitchers threw indoors in a notorious pitchers' park.

The 1986 game also featured a lot of strikeouts but it had some offense too. Homers by Lou Whitaker and Frank White (the latter off of Mike Scott) gave the American League a 3-2 squeaker which came down to the last at bat when the Giants' Chris Brown rolled into a double play in the bottom of the ninth.

The 2004 game at Minute Maid Park began with Houston fans raining boos down on the Manager Jimy Williams when he was introduced. He was fired the next day. After Clemens was torched in the first inning, the American League coasted to a 9-4 win. Given the 18-year intervals between each game, Houston fans can look forward to hosting the All-Star Game again in 2022.

Yet, for the most part, the Astros' experience at the All-Star Game has been sitting around or making a pinch-hit appearance or working a middle inning.

In 1962 (first game of two that year), 1966, 1977, 1978, 1993 and 2000, the Astros' representative didn't even play. Poor Darryl Kile was named to the team twice as an Astro (1993 and 1997) but failed to make an appearance in either event. In 1968, 1975, 1984 and 2007, the Astros were limited to one pinch-hitting appearance.

As a rough statistical approximation, Houston should have a little more than two All-Stars attending every year. In many cases though, they haven't been represented well. 1994 was their high-water mark with five All-Stars. In 1979, 1986, 1999, 2004 and 2005, the Astros sent four players. But the fat years don't outnumber the lean years.

Don't blame the Astros' relative youth for their lack of All-Star notoriety. Expansion teams like the Mets, Royals, Blue Jays and Expos have had a larger presence at the classic than we've had.

Perhaps history will change gears in St. Louis but don't hold your breath. Both Astros on this year's squad are reserves so, at best, they'll get in a few at bats then take a jet back to Houston. Good luck, guys! Do us proud!

(For more All-Star history, check out the AstrosDaily All-Star Page.)