1974 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

Durocher's third base coach, Preston Gomez, was promoted to manager. He was the first minority ever to skipper the Astros. Under his leadership, Houston returned to .500 at 81-81 and ended another year in fourth place.

There were three major changes to the team besides the managerial reigns. The Astros traded Reuss to Pittsburgh for catcher Milt May. He gave the righty-dominated Houston lineup a lefty to ponder while providing good defense and batting .289. Not known for his power, May paid a surprising dividend with a pinch-hit, game-winning grand slam against the Padres on May 22nd.

To take Reuss' spot, the Astros dealt Jim Wynn to Los Angeles for Claude Osteen. Wynn's spot in right field was taken by rookie Greg Gross, another lefthanded bat who led the club with a .314 average.

Despite Gross' lofty average, he did not make the All-Star team. Cesar Cedeno did as he paced the club with 26 homers, 102 RBIs and 57 stolen bases. Lee May was second in each category with 24 round-trippers and 85 RBIs.

Two things that remained a constant were righthanders Larry Dierker and Don Wilson. Dierker became the first pitcher to reach 100 wins as an Astro, defeating the Padres on April 9th. Later in the year, Wilson reached the 100-win plateau himself, topping his favorite nemesis, the Cincinnati Reds, on July 30th.

The 1974 season might be called "The Year of The Weird" as the unexpected happened often. It began on Opening Day as the Astros were beating San Diego. Padres owner Ray Kroc got on the public address system and apologized to the fans for his team's poor play. Doug Rader responded afterwards that the McDonald's magnate shouldn't treat ballplayers "like a bunch of short-order cooks". When the Astros returned to San Diego on June 28th, the Padres held "Short Order Cooks Night" and sat the chefs behind the Astros dugout to chew out Rader for his choice of words. Trailing 5-4, with two outs in the ninth, Rader was up at the plate with a chance to get in the last word but he flew out to left as John Grubb (appropriately) smothered the ball to end it.

Roger Metzger was injured when he collided with a pitcher during warm-ups before an April 29th home game against the Cubs. The team found out they didn't need him, bombing Chicago, 18-2. Lee May had five hits including a pair of two-run homers in the nine-run sixth inning. Gomez gave Lee the rest of the night off or he might have done more damage.

Bob Watson had it worse during perhaps the ugliest moment in team history. During the nightcap of a doubleheader in Cincinnati on May 12th, Watson slammed into the left field fence chasing a fly ball. His glasses shattered and he lay on the warning track face up with broken glass around his eyes. Riverfront Stadium "fans" pelted the prone outfielder with cups, beer, ice and insults. He would need twelve stitches.

Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia cracked the hardest-hit ball in the history of the Astrodome on June 10th and got a single for his feat. With the bases full against Osteen, Schmidt drilled a shot that appeared headed for the famous scoreboard. Suddenly, a loud clank was heard and the ball headed back to center field. It had hit a speaker that dangled from the ceiling and fell harmlessly to earth. None of the Phillies were sure what to do so they each advanced only one base before Cedeno threw the ball back in.

It must have been "Singles Night" on August 5th when the Astros dropped the Giants, 7-2. Houston had 18 singles, five of them by Gross, in a 19-hit performance. The lone extra-base hit? A double by pitcher Don Wilson.

Wilson was pulled by Gomez in the bottom of the eighth inning on September 4th, even though he was throwing a no-hitter. Thanks to two walks and an error, Wilson was trailing Cincinnati, 2-1, when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. Coincidences abound. The man who hit into the error was Pete Rose, the man who also hit into the fateful error during Ken Johnson's 1964 no-hitter. The manager, Gomez, had once taken pitcher Clay Kirby out of a game under similar circumstances while managing in San Diego. Gomez had said that if he ever again had to take out a pitcher who was losing while throwing a no-hitter, he'd do the same thing. Kirby was seated in the Reds dugout when Wilson was yanked. A no-hitter would have been Wilson's third, making him just the second man to ever reach that milestone. Mike Cosgrove gave up a meaningless single in the ninth. Houston lost the game and the no-hitter. Five months later, they lost Wilson who would die of carbon monoxide poisoning, along with his 5-year-old son Alexander, when he passed out in the garage of his Houston home with the car engine still running. He was 29 years old.

Dave Roberts tossed a one-hitter during the fastest game in team history. He outdueled Philadelphia's Steve Carlton on August 24th, 1-0, in one hour and 26 minutes. Metzger singled home Larry Milbourne with the game's only run.

Tom Griffin, a hard-luck pitcher since his dazzling rookie season in 1969, led the team with 14 victories. Dierker and Wilson each won eleven. Despite being competitive, the Astros knew a rebuilding movement would soon be underway. Judge Hofheinz would soon be forced to sell the team to a partnership led by Ford Motor Credit Co. It was fitting for a team in need of an overhaul.

4th place, NL West

C Milt May 754.289
1B Lee May 2485.268
2B Tommy Helms 550.279
3B Doug Rader 1778.257
SS Roger Metzger 030.253
LF Bob Watson 1167.298
CF Cesar Cedeno 26102.269
RF Greg Gross 036.314
C Cliff Johnson 1029.228
IF Larry Milbourne 09.279
C Johnny Edwards 110.222
OF Wilbur Howard 25.216
Key PitchersWLERA
SP Larry Dierker 11102.90
SP Tom Griffin 14103.54
SP Dave Roberts 10123.40
SP Don Wilson 11133.08
SP Claude Osteen 993.71
CL Ken Forsch 872.79
RP Mike Cosgrove 733.50
RP Fred Scherman 254.11
RP J.R. Richard 234.18

Rader: Grilled in San Diego.
(c) Houston Astros

Metzger and Helms: Solid around second.
(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)
1974 All-Star Game - 5th inning - Joe Morgan and Cesar Cedeno face Luis Tiant; also a replay of Cedeno's defensive gem. (2:02, Gowdy, Garagiola, Kubek - NBC)
1974 All-Star Game - 7th inning - In his 2nd at-bat, Cesar Cedeno faces Catfish Hunter. (1:54, Gowdy, Kubek, Garagiola - NBC)

Apr 22, 1974 Cesar Cedeno socks another home run against the Braves. (0:56, Elston - Astros)
May 8, 1974 Doug Rader turns the Pirates around in the 12th inning. (0:37, Elston - Astros)
May 22, 1974 Milt May dooms the Padres with a grand slam. (0:52, Elston - Astros)
Jun 10,1974 Mike Schmidt hits a speaker above center field. (0:33, Elston - Astros)
Jul 28, 1974 Roger Metzger makes one of his many defensive gems. (0:33, Elston - Astros)
Jul 30, 1974 Don Wilson claims the 100th win of his career. (0:53, Elston, Menke - Astros)
Aug 24, 1974 Dave A. Roberts ends the fastest game in team history. (0:35, Saam - Phillies)
Aug 28, 1974 Cliff Johnson sets a record with a pinch-hit homer. (0:40, Elston, Menke - Astros)

Trades and Transactions

Nov 3 1973 - traded Cecil Upshaw(P) to Cle-A for Jerry Johnson(P)

Dec 3 1973 - traded Jim Ray(P) and Gary Sutherland(IF) to Det-A for Fred Scherman(P) and cash

Dec 3 1973 - Winter Major League Draft
- drafted Larry Milbourne(IF) from StL-N

Dec 6 1973 - traded Jim Wynn(OF) to LA-N for Claude Osteen(P) and Dave Culpepper(P)

Dec 9 1973 - traded Jay Schlueter(OF) to StL-N for Mike Nagy(P)

Jan 9 1974 - Supplemental Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Joe Cannon(OF)

Feb 18 1974 - traded Pat Darcy(P) and cash to Cin-N for Denis Menke(IF)

Mar 14 1974 - signed Alex Taveras(IF) as free agent

Mar 28 1974 - paid cash to Cal-A for Ollie Brown(OF)

Mar 30 1974 - traded Larry Yount(P) and Don Stratton to Mil-A for Wilbur Howard(OF)

Apr 9 1974 - released Juan Pizarro(P)

May 11 1974 - paid cash to StL-N for Jay Schlueter(OF)

Jun 1974 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Kevin Drake(OF) (#15 pick overall)
- 3. drafted Alan Knicely(C)

Jun 24 1974 - sent Ollie Brown(OF) to Phi-N for waivers

Aug 15 1974 - traded Claude Osteen(P) to StL-N for Dan Larson(P) and Ron Selak. Hou received Larson on Oct 14.

Oct 22 1974 - released Jerry Johnson(P)

Oct 24 1974 - paid cash to StL-N for Jose Cruz(OF)

Oct 29 1974 - traded Bob Gallagher(OF) to NY-N for Ken Boswell(IF)