1966 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

Just as the stadium was the headliner of the 1965 season, the ground was the big news of 1966. When the Astrodome opened, players had trouble seeing the ball when it was hit in the air because of the glare of the glass panels in the roof. Day games in the Dome were marked by players ducking from flies and pop ups they couldn't see. The solution was to paint over the panels to reduce the glare. When that happened, the grass could no longer grow. So the dead sod was replaced the next year with an artificial surface made by Monsanto which was soon called "Astroturf". Underneath this rug of fake grass was a layer of sand over a foundation of concrete. Batted balls hopped more reliably but they bounced higher off the artificial turf and grounders seemed to accelerate as they rolled past fielders. It took some tweaking but the new zippered surface would eventually gain acceptance.

The first game played on the new carpet was on April 18th. It was the first major league win for 21-year-old Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning a Hall-of-Fame career that included two seasons as an Astro.

Grady Hatton became the new skipper after Luman Harris was fired. Houston got hot in more ways than one. In May, they climbed into second place in the National League standings. Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a franchise first. Morgan would also become the first Astro to be named a starter on the All-Star team but he couldn't play. He had broken a kneecap before the mid-summer event.

The Astros received another major setback when Jim Wynn was lost for the season after crashing into the outfield fence in Philadelphia on August 1st. Wynn still led the club with 18 home runs. Rusty Staub batted .280 and paced Houston with 81 RBIs and 28 doubles.

If anyone had a good year, it was pitcher Dave Giusti. The righthander won 15 games, including a masterful one-hitter against the Giants on July 22nd. He gave an encore performance on August 13th when he tossed another one-hitter, outdueling San Francisco ace Juan Marichal. He was potent with the bat too, driving in six against Cincinnati on August 21st while tossing a six-hit shutout. The six-RBI mark was a team record that stood for 23 years.

Shortstop Sonny Jackson set a league rookie record with 49 steals while leading the Astros with a .292 average. John Bateman set career highs with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs. Houston's record improved to 72-90 and an eighth-place finish but the ballclub, now filled with blossoming young talent, displayed the inconsistencies of their youth.

8th place, National League

C John Bateman 1770.279
1B Chuck Harrison 952.256
2B Joe Morgan 542.285
3B Bob Aspromonte 852.252
SS Sonny Jackson 325.292
LF Lee Maye 936.288
CF Jim Wynn 1862.256
RF Rusty Staub 1381.280
OF Dave Nicholson 1031.246
OF Ron Davis 219.247
IF Bob Lillis 011.232
IF Felix Mantilla 622.219
Key PitchersWLERA
SP Mike Cuellar 12102.22
SP Dave Giusti 15144.20
SP Larry Dierker 1083.18
SP Dick Farrell 6104.60
SP Bob Bruce 3135.34
CL Claude Raymond 753.13
RP Barry Latman 272.71
RP Ron Taylor 235.71
RP Jim Owens 474.68

Bateman: career year at the plate.
(c) Houston Astros

Jackson: fleet-footed shortstop.
(c) Houston Astros

From The AstrosDaily Media Library

1966 to 1969: Young Stars - From "Houston Astros: A Silver Odyssey" - Adjusted to their new home, the Astros transition from veterans to talent from their farm. (3:00 - MLB video)

Apr 24, 1966 San Francisco's Willie Mays tags Jim Owens for a milestone.(0:28,Elston)
Jun 21, 1966 Sonny Jackson gets his first homer in exciting fashion.(0:33, Elston)
Jul 3, 1966 Rusty Staub breaks the club hitting streak mark of Roman Mejias.(0:18, Elston)
Jul 17, 1966 Lee Maye slaps a double against the Mets.(0:17, Kiner - Mets)
Jul 17, 1966 Rusty Staub and Felix Mantilla spark a three-run rally.(1:12, Kiner - Mets)
Aug 13, 1966 Dave Giusti completes a one-hit masterpiece against the Giants.(0:42, Elston)

Trades and Transactions

Nov 29 1965 - Winter Major League Draft
- drafted Nate Colbert(IF) from StL-N for $25,000
- drafted Greg Sims(OF) from Pit-N for $8,000
- drafted Frank Carpin(P) from Pit-N
- lost Joe Hoerner(P) to StL-N
- lost Don Nottebart(P) to Cin-N
- lost Dave Roberts(OF) to Pit-N

Dec 1 1965 - traded Jack Lamabe(P), Ray Cordeiro(P) and cash to Chi-A for Bill Heath(C) and Dave Nicholson(OF)

Dec 15 1965 - traded Ed Pacheco(IF) and cash to Cal-A for Barry Latman(P)

1966 - signed Scipio Spinks(P) as free agent

1966 - traded Tony Curry(IF) to Cal-A for Howie Reed(P)

1966 - traded Walt Bond(IF) to MIN-A.

Jan 6 1966 - traded Johnny Weekly(OF) and cash to NY-N for Gary Kroll(P)

Jan 29 1966 - Supplemental Free Agent Draft

- 1. drafted Tom Griffin(P) in secondary phase

Apr 3 1966 - traded Eddie Kasko(IF) to Bos-A for Felix Mantilla(IF)

May 17 1966 - paid cash to KC-A for Aurelio Monteagudo(P)

Jun 11 1966 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Wayne Twitchell(P) (#3 pick overall)
- 5. drafted Cliff Johnson(C)
- 22. drafted Bob Watkins(P)

Jun 27 1966 - traded Tom Arruda(P) and cash to Cal-A for Julio Gotay(IF)

Jul 13 1966 - released Robin Roberts(P)

Jul 19 1966 - traded Jim Gentile(IF) to Cle-A for Tony Curry(IF)

Jul 20 1966 - traded Jim Mahoney(IF) and cash to Chi-A for Gene Freese

Sep 27 1966 - sent Aurelio Monteagudo(P) to Cin-N for cash

Oct 13 1966 - traded Gene Ratliff(OF), John Hoffman(C) and Ed Pacheco(IF) to Atl-N for Tom Dukes(P), Dan Schneider(P) and Lee Bales(IF)