1968 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

The nation's turmoil spilled onto the baseball diamond. The start of the season was delayed after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was killed two months later, baseball teams were left to decide on their own whether to postpone their games. Astros management chose not to stop playing but Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte sat out in protest. Both were traded after the season.

A picture of Judge Roy Hofheinz appeared in a Dallas newspaper with a bullseye over it. Major League Baseball had announced plans to expand into four more cities in 1969 and Dallas was not one of them. It irked them even further that Montreal, Quebec, would be joining the National League instead. Some in Dallas were sure The Judge had something to do with the snub.

The Astros got another taste of life's realities when they traveled to Chicago in August. They arrived just after the riotous Democratic National Convention had ended. Bused to the same hotel where the Democrats were headquartered, the team was driven through a gauntlet of angry hippies and Vietnam War protesters. The stench of tear gas awaited them as they were snuck in through the rear entrance by Chicago police.

On the field, it was "The Year Of The Pitcher" as moundsmen dominated the game as never before. A foreshadowing came at the Astrodome on April 15th. Tom Seaver of the Mets and Don Wilson of the Astros hooked up in a scoreless duel that kept going and going. It didn't end until six hours later when shortstop Al Weis let a grounder by Aspromonte roll through his legs in the 24th inning allowing Norm Miller to score the game's only run.

Dave Giusti fired a two-hitter in a 1-0 shutout over Cincinnati on May 22nd. He matched that with a two-hitter against the Cubs on June 26th. Wilson tied a big league record with 18 strikeouts during a 6-1 triumph over the Reds on July 14th.

Houston hosted the 1968 All-Star Game at the Dome. As might be expected with the world's best pitchers throwing in a notorious pitcher's park in a year of superlative pitching performances (Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA, Don Drysdale's 56 consecutive scoreless innings, Denny McLain's 31 wins), the showcase became a 1-0 shutout for the National League. Rusty Staub represented the team as a pinch-hitter.

Grady Hatton was fired as the Astros manager. Harry "The Hat" Walker replaced him. The good news was that the team tied their best record to date - a 72-90 mark. The bad news was that they finished in last place, one game behind New York.

The Astros could be thankful for one win they didn't deserve. On September 7th, Atlanta's Hank Aaron was rounding third and heading home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth when he suddenly lost his balance and fell down. Doug Rader took the throw and tagged him out. With new life, Houston came back for a 6-3 victory. It proved that even the great ones sometimes fail, a lesson for which a last-place team could find solace.

72-90
Last place, National League

Key BattersHRRBIAVG
C John Bateman 433.249
1B Rusty Staub 672.291
2B Denis Menke 656.249
3B Doug Rader 643.267
SS Hector Torres 124.223
LF Bob Aspromonte 146.225
CF Jim Wynn 2667.269
RF Norm Miller 628.237
OF Ron Davis 112.212
OF Lee Thomas 111.194
OF Dick Simpson 311.186
IF Julio Gotay 111.248
Key PitchersWLERA
SP Dave Giusti 11143.19
SP Larry Dierker 12153.31
SP Denny Lemaster 10152.81
SP Don Wilson 13163.28
SP Mike Cuellar 8112.74
CL Steve Shea 443.38
RP John Buzhardt 443.12
RP Jim Ray 232.68
RP Tom Dukes 224.27


Morgan and Menke: Exciting DP tandem.
(c) Houston Astros

Aspromonte: Last of the orginal Colts.
(c) Houston Astros


From The AstrosDaily Media Library

Video:
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)
1968 All-Star Game - 6th inning -Rusty Staub pops up to third. (1:20, Reese, Gowdy - NBC)

Audio:
Apr 15, 1968 Bob Aspromonte breaks a scoreless tie in the 24th inning.(0:58, Elston)
Jun 1, 1968 Commercial announcing the opening of AstroWorld. (0:59, Dene Hofheinz)
Jul 9, 1968 Rusty Staub pinch-hits at the All-Star Game in the Astrodome.(1:14, Simpson, Elston NBC Radio)
Jul 9, 1968 Houston fans salute Mickey Mantle prematurely at the All-Star Game.(1:57, Simpson, Kubek, Elston NBC Radio)
Jul 14, 1968 Don Wilson fans Cincy's Johnny Bench for his 18th strikeout.(1:14, Elston)


Trades and Transactions

Nov 28 1967 - Winter Major League Draft
- drafted Ron Cook(P) from NY-A

1968 - traded Paul Doyle to Atl-N for Sandy Valdespino(OF)

Feb 9 1968 - traded Tommy Murray(OF) and Levi Brown(OF) to Chi-N for Lee Thomas(OF)

Apr 2 1968 - released Larry Sherry(P)

May 4 1968 - traded Aaron Pointer(OF) to Chi-N for Byron Browne(OF)

Jun 1968 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Marty Cott(C) (#3 pick overall)
- 2. drafted Rich Chiles(OF)
- 3. drafted Bill Greif(P)
- 5. drafted Larry Yount(P)
- 18. drafted Ken Forsch(P)

- 1. drafted Buddy Harris(P) in secondary phase

Jun 15 1968 - traded Ron Davis(OF) to StL-N for Dick Simpson(OF) and Hal Gilson(P)

Oct 11 1968 - traded Dave Giusti(P) and Dave Adlesh(C) to StL-N for Johnny Edwards(C) and Tommy Smith

Oct 14 1968 - Expansion Draft
- lost John Bateman(C) to Mon-N (#3 selection)
- lost Nate Colbert(IF) to SD-N (8th selection)
- lost Jose Herrera(OF) to Mon-N (15th selection)
- lost Tom Dukes(P) to SD-N (17th selection)
- lost Ivan Murrell(OF) to SD-N (21st selection)
- lost Ron Brand(C) to Mon-N (29th selection)

Oct 17 1968 - sent Chris Zachary(P) to KC-A for cash