1972 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

The Astros sent Joe Morgan, Denis Menke, pitcher Jack Billingham and outfielders Cesar Geronimo and Ed Armbrister to Cincinnati in return for first baseman Lee May, second baseman Tommy Helms and utilityman Jimmy Stewart. Morgan would develop into a two-time Most Valuable Player with the Reds as Cincinnati won three National League titles and two World's Championships. The Astros solved their problem at first base. It is often viewed as the worst trade in team history, although many feel Morgan would have never produced as well if he had stayed in Houston.

Certainly, May was no slouch. A power-hitter who fielded his position well, May was a two-time All-Star with the Reds and became one again in 1972. Lee hit his "taters" with regular frequency. He whacked 29 in his first season in Houston, hitting .284 and driving in 98.

May anchored a lineup that was turning into a powerhouse. Jim Wynn, Doug Rader and Cesar Cedeno gave the Astros four players with 20 or more homers while Bob Watson added 16. All five drove in 80 or more runs.

Cedeno did even more, leading the club with a .320 batting average, stealing 55 bases and making great plays in the field. He made the first of four All-Star game appearances that season. Cesar became the first Astro to hit for the cycle on August 2nd, leading a 10-1 thrashing in Cincinnati.

Rader was also flashing leather at third base while coming through with clutch hits despite a .237 batting average. As a club, Houston led the league with 708 runs.

The explosiveness of Houston's new offense was never more apparent than when they entered the ninth inning in San Francisco on April 23rd, trailing 7-3. The Astros exploded for ten runs as May clubbed a three-run homer and Cedeno got two hits in the inning to give him five for the day. The "Orange Crushers" won, 13-7.

Even shortstop Roger Metzger caught on, taking Bob Gibson deep for his first major league homer on May 10th. May banged out four hits, including another tater, to key a six-run rally that shocked St. Louis, 10-7. The Astros moved into first place in the Western Division.

The pitchers had moments to shine as well. Lefthanders Dave Roberts and Jerry Reuss were acquired to give Houston four accomplished starters. Larry Dierker and Don Wilson each won 15 games. Jim Ray won ten and saved eight pitching in relief. When Dierker tossed a one-hitter at the New York Mets on June 19th, he and Reuss tied a major league record with back-to-back one-hit efforts.

The Astros were playing the first winning season in their history but were losing ground to red-hot Cincinnati. Management made one last move, firing Harry Walker as manager and naming fiery Leo Durocher to replace him. Durocher had skippered the 1951 New York Giants to a miracle late-season finish, but his best days had left him. The Astros finished 16-15 under "Leo The Lip", a distant second place to the Reds. Still, the 84-69 strike-shortened record was the best to date and second place was the best finish in their history. They didn't know it then, but it would be the closest they'd come to claiming a title for several more seasons.

2nd place, NL West

C Johnny Edwards 540.268
1B Lee May 2998.284
2B Tommy Helms 560.259
3B Doug Rader 2290.237
SS Roger Metzger 238.222
LF Bob Watson 1686.312
CF Cesar Cedeno 2282.320
RF Jim Wynn 2490.273
C Larry Howard 213.223
OF Norm Miller 413.243
IF Jimmy Stewart 09.219
OF Jesus Alou 011.312
Key PitchersWLERA
SP Don Wilson 15102.68
SP Larry Dierker 1583.40
SP Jerry Reuss 9134.17
SP Dave Roberts 1274.50
SP Ken Forsch 683.91
CL Fred Gladding 562.77
RP George Culver 623.05
RP Jim Ray 1094.28
RP Tom Griffin 543.24

May: Anchored the lineup.
(c) Houston Astros

Cedeno: a new superstar had arrived
(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)
1972 All-Star Game - 2nd inning - Lee May singles off Jim Palmer then makes a dazzling defensive play the next inning. (0:41, Nelson - MLB Films)
1972 All-Star Game - 6th inning - Cesar Cedeno singles against Gaylord Perry before Atlanta's Hank Aaron goes deep for the home fans. (1:01, Nelson - MLB Films)

Apr 21, 1972 Cesar Cedeno robs a home run from Willie Mays. (0:48, Simmons - Giants)
Apr 22, 1972 Dave A. Roberts hurls a shutout for his first win as an Astro. (0:50, Simmons - Giants)
Apr 24, 1972 Johnny Edwards ends a thriller against the Cubs. (0:46, Elston - Astros)
May 23, 1972 Pitcher Tom Griffin tags a homer in San Diego. (0:42, Elston,Passe - Astros)
Jun 2, 1972 Larry Dierker chalks up his 1,000th strikeout in Montreal. (0:41, Passe - Astros)
Jun 18, 1972 Jerry Reuss' no-hit bid is broken up in the ninth inning. (1:06, Elston - Astros)
Jun 19, 1972 Larry Dierker blanks the Mets to achieve a two-day milestone. (0:39, Elston - Astros)
Jun 26, 1972 Doug Rader launches his first home run of the night. (0:18, Elston- Astros)
Jun 26, 1972 Astros tie a club record in the same game. (1:00, Passe - Astros)
Jul 3, 1972 Doug Rader commits larceny with his glove. (0:28, Passe - Astros)
Jul 4, 1972 Cesar Cedeno takes a hit away from Willie Stargell. (0:38, Elston - Astros)
Jul 4, 1972 Larry Dierker reaches a pitching milestone. (0:37, Elston - Astros)
Jul 18, 1972 Cesar Cedeno whacks an inside-the-park homer. (0:29, Passe - Astros)
Aug 2, 1972 Cesar Cedeno becomes the first Astro to hit for the cycle. (Elston - Astros)
Aug 25, 1972 Jim Wynn swats his 200th career homer. (0:12, Elston- Astros)

Trades and Transactions

Nov 3 1971 - traded Marty Martinez(IF) to StL-N for Bob Stinson(C)
Nov 29 1971 - traded Jack Billingham(P), Denis Menke(IF), Joe Morgan(IF), Ed Armbrister(OF) and Cesar Geronimo(OF) to Cin-N for Lee May(IF), Tommy Helms(IF) and Jimmy Stewart(IF)

Nov 29 1971 - Winter Major League Draft
- 1. drafted Bob Fenwick(IF) from SF-N
Dec 2 1971 - traded John Mayberry(IF) and Dave Grangaard to KC-A for Lance Clemons(P) and Jim York(P)

Dec 3 1971 - traded Bill Greif(P), Derrel Thomas(IF), and Mark Schaeffer(P) to SD-N for Dave A. Roberts(P)

Apr 9 1972 - signed Ramon de los Santos(P) as free agent

Apr 15 1972 - traded Lance Clemons(P) and Scipio Spinks(P) to StL-N for Jerry Reuss(P)

May 2 1972 - signed Rick Williams(P) as non-drafted free agent

May 25 1972 - signed Joe Gibbon(P) as a free agent

Jun 6 1972 - sent Wade Blasingame(P) to NY-A for cash

Jun 6 1972 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Steve Englishby(OF) (#9 pick overall)
- 14. drafted Jim Crawford(P)

Jun 13 1972 - paid cash to Mon-N for Gary Sutherland(IF)

Jul 21 1972 - released Joe Gibbon(P)

Jul 29 1972 - sent Jack Hiatt(C) to Cal-A for cash