1971 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

Maybe the balls were wound too tight in 1970. The next year, Houston's home run production was cut almost in half while the pitchers perked up with a team ERA of 3.13. It made no difference in the standings as Houston finished tied for fourth with the same 79-83 mark as the year before.

What was different were the uniforms. The team looked like a photo negative of themselves. What was navy blue was now orange and what was orange was now blue. Larry Dierker had them looking sharp on Opening Day with a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Before the season, the Cubs practically gave the Astros shortstop Roger Metzger. It might have been fallout from the Joe Pepitone trade. The slender Texan cracked the starting lineup as Denis Menke moved to first base.

Metzger began the first triple play in franchise history on July 16th against the Mets. He fielded a grounder by Cleon Jones, stepped on second base for the first out and threw to Menke for the second out. When Ken Boswell made a belated dash to third, Menke threw across the diamond to Doug Rader who tagged Boswell for the third out.

Jim Wynn survived a domestic stabbing incident in the off-season but hit only .203 with seven home runs. Menke hit only one homer all season. Joe Morgan led the team with 13 homers and 40 steals. Bob Watson, relocated to the outfield, led the club in batting average (.288) and was second in RBIs (67).

Cesar Cedeno led the Astros with 81 RBIs and led the league with 40 doubles but he, too, suffered something of a sophomore jinx, batting just .264 with 102 strikeouts. He was also featured in the quirkiest play of the year. With the bases full against the Dodgers on September 2nd, Cesar blooped a pitch from Claude Osteen into shallow right field. The right fielder and second baseman collided trying to catch the ball as it rolled leisurely away. The Astros looked like a relay team as they circled the bases. It was a 170' grand slam homer.

If Cedeno carried the potential of future stardom on offense, James Rodney Richard held the same potential as a pitcher. The 6'-8" giant made his big league premiere on September 5th against, ironically, the Giants. J. R. struck out 15 of them to tie the debut record Brooklyn's Karl Spooner set in 1954. Richard won, 5-3, to cap a doubleheader sweep.

Larry Dierker won 12 games before the All-Star break but was then sidelined with an elbow injury. Don Wilson took his spot on the All-Star team, pitched two scoreless innings in Detroit, then completed a 16-win campaign.

The natives were growing restless for a winning team. The Astros would pull off one of the most controversial trades in their history during the off-season. It was a major shakeup that made the ballclub look foolish and yet also made them winners.

4th place, NL West

C Johnny Edwards 123.233
1B Denis Menke 143.246
2B Joe Morgan 1356.256
3B Doug Rader 1256.244
SS Roger Metzger 026.235
LF Bob Watson 967.288
CF Cesar Cedeno 1081.264
RF Jim Wynn 745.203
OF Jesus Alou 240.279
C Jack Hiatt 116.276
IF John Mayberry 714.182
OF Rich Chiles 215.227
Key PitchersWLERA
SP Don Wilson 16102.45
SP Jack Billingham 10163.39
SP Ken Forsch 882.53
SP Larry Dierker 1262.72
SP Wade Blasingame 9114.60
CL Fred Gladding 452.10
RP Jim Ray 1042.12
RP George Culver 582.64
RP Denny Lemaster 023.45

Cedeno: All the tools.
(c) Houston Astros

Wilson: All-Star season
(c) Houston Astros

From The AstrosDaily Media Library

1970 to 1974: Frustrating Times - From "Houston Astros: A Silver Odyssey" - Winning baseball comes to Houston but not postseason baseball. (1:18 - MLB video)
1971 All-Star Game - 7th inning - Don Wilson faces Amos Otis, Cookie Rojas, and Don Buford. (2:52, Gowdy - NBC)
1971 All-Star Game - 8th inning - Don Wilson faces Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline, and Harmon Killebrew. (5:07, Gowdy, Kubek - NBC)

Apr 7, 1971 Roger Metzger gets his first big league hit. (0:21, Passe - Astros)
Jul 16, 1971 Astros turn their first triple play in franchise history. (1:10, Kiner - Mets)
Jul 23, 1971 Jim Wynn launches a home run in New York off Nolan Ryan. (0:54, Kiner - Mets)
Jul 23, 1971 Don Wilson retires Bob Aspromonte to finish a three-hitter. (1:18, Nelson - Mets)
Aug 4, 1971 Ken Forsch blanks Los Angeles for his first career shutout. (0:43, Elston - Astros)
Sep 29, 1971 Bob Watson knocks the Dodgers out of the pennant race. (0:31, Scully - Dodgers)

Trades and Transactions

Dec 1 1970 - paid cash to Chi-N for Jack Hiatt(C)

Dec 3 1970 - sent Don Bryant(P) to Bos-A for cash

Jan 13 1971 - Supplemental Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Doug Konieczny(P) in secondary phase

Jun 1971 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Neil Rasmussen(IF) (#12 pick overall)
- 2. drafted Art Gardner(OF)
- 3. drafted Paul Siebert(P)

Oct 14 1971 - sent Denny Lemaster(P) to Mtl-N for cash

Oct 27 1971 - signed Al Javier(OF) as free agent