1977 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey

One of the reasons the Astros sent Dierker to St. Louis was because they did not have a reliable catcher since Johnny Edwards' last good year in 1972. Brought aboard was Joe Ferguson, a tough guy who could hit. He had logged time in the outfield, unable to replace the starting catchers in Los Angeles and St. Louis. At the plate, he delivered 16 homers and 61 RBIs. Behind the plate, Ferguson was something of a liability. He didn't have the arm to throw out base stealers and he didn't show much skill at handling pitchers.

In fact, the Astros had a power resurgence as six players finished in double figures for home runs, led by Bob Watson's 22. The last one came on the last day of the season against the Dodgers and set a new club record for RBIs with 110. On June 24th against San Francisco, Watson also became the second player in team history to hit for the cycle. He drove in five runs on the night.

Jose Cruz also had a big year at the plate, batting .299 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. Enos Cabell bulked up with a .282 average, 16 home runs and 68 runs driven in. Cesar Cedeno banged 14 homers and drove in 71 runs. The trio became the first National Leaguers where three men on one club each swiped 40 or more bases since 1911. Cedeno stole a club-record 61, Cruz 44 and Cabell 42.

The third spot in the outfield fell into the hands of a 20-year-old Canadian, Terry Puhl. When an injury required a callup, Puhl was chosen over touted prospect Joe Cannon so that Cannon could continue to play every day. Puhl got his first big league hit in his debut against the Dodgers on July 13th. Watson would drive him in moments later for the 3-2 game-winner. Puhl never stopped hitting and soon won an everyday job in the outfield.

The middle of the infield had a rough year. A host of second basemen and shortstops were tried - none with great success. The best was a balding 30-year-old journeyman who was close to giving up on baseball before he finally got a chance in Houston. His name was Art Howe. The versatile Howe was willing to play anywhere just to get in the game. He hit .264 with 58 RBIs while sharing time at second, short and third.

The Astros had never had a dominant lefthander in their pitching rotation and wouldn't until the end of the century. They thought they might have one in Floyd Bannister. After finishing at the bottom in 1975, the Astros had the top pick in the 1976 June draft. They chose Bannister, a southpaw from Arizona State, and brought him up to Houston the following year. He was 8-9 with a 4.03 ERA and was inconsistent.

Another pitcher who was given a shot as a starter was Mark Lemongello. Despite the cheery name, Lemongello was best known for his fits of anger in the clubhouse, particularly when he lost. His tirades were legendary, once going so far as to chew his pitching shoulder in self-abuse. Cruelly, the Astros would trade him to the expansion Toronto Blue Jays after a pair of 9-14 seasons.

J.R. Richard again led the hurlers with 18 wins. Joe Niekro and Joaquin Andujar both had winning marks. But the pitching staff still offered more questions than answers and the club ended at 81-81, third place in the division.

81-81
3rd place, NL West

Key BattersHRRBIAVG
C Joe Ferguson 1661.257
1B Bob Watson 22110.281
2B Art Howe 858.264
3B Enos Cabell 1668.282
SS Roger Metzger 016.186
LF Terry Puhl 010.301
CF Cesar Cedeno 1471.279
RF Jose Cruz 1787.299
IF Julio Gonzalez 127.245
OF Wilbur Howard 213.257
C Ed Herrmann 117.291
OF Cliff Johnson 1023.299
Key PitchersWLERA
SP J.R. Richard 18122.97
SP Mark Lemongello 9143.48
SP Joe Niekro 1383.04
SP Joaquin Andujar 1183.69
SP Floyd Bannister 894.04
CL Ken Forsch 582.72
RP Joe Sambito 552.33
RP Gene Pentz 523.83
RP Bo McLaughlin 474.25


Watson: Tops Wynn's RBI mark.
(c) Houston Astros

Puhl: makes a big splash as a rookie
(c) Houston Astros


From The AstrosDaily Media Library

Video:
1975 to 1978: A Change in Leadership - From "Houston Astros: A Silver Odyssey" - New men in charge and some shrewd personnel moves bring the budget-minded Astros back to contention. (2:07 - MLB video)

Audio:
Apr 11, 1977 Joe Niekro closes out a triumph over the Reds. (0:39, Brennaman - Reds)
Jun 12, 1977 Cesar Cedeno breaks out of a slump against Tom Seaver. (1:00, Murphy - Mets)
Jun 20, 1977 J.R. Richard swats a home run versus Montreal. (0:33, Elston - Astros)
Jul 7, 1977 Pitcher Mark Lemongello finally gets his first hit. (0:26, Elston - Astros)
Jul 13, 1977 Jose Cruz ties the Dodgers with a home run. (0:51, Doggett - Dodgers)
Jul 13, 1977 Terry Puhl gets his first hit in his first game. (0:21, Elston - Astros)
Jul 13, 1977 In his first game, Terry Puhl scores the winning run thanks to Bob Watson. (1:00, Doggett - Dodgers)


Trades and Transactions

Nov 23 1976 - traded Larry Dierker(P) and Jerry DaVanon(IF) to StL-N for Joe Ferguson(C) and Bob Detherage

Nov 29 1976 - signed Jim Fuller(OF) from Bal-A as free agent

Dec 8 1976 - traded Greg Gross(OF) to Chi-N for Julio Gonzalez(IF)

Jan 12 1977 - traded Skip Jutze(C) to Sea-A for Alan Griffin and cash

Jan 25 1977 - traded Paul Siebert(P) to SD-N for Mike Allen (ml)

Mar 26 1977 - traded Rob Andrews(IF) and Art Gardner(OF) to SF-N for Willie Crawford(OF) and Rob Sperring(IF). SF received Gardner on Nov 28

Mar 30 1977 - traded Larry Milbourne(IF) to Sea-A for Roy Thomas(IF)

Apr 9 1977 - signed Jim O'Bradovich(IF) from Min-A as free agent

May 2 1977 - signed Bert Pena as free agent

Jun 7 1977 - Summer Free Agent Draft
- 1. drafted Ricky Adams(IF) (#14 pick overall)
- 5. drafted Scott Loucks(OF)
- 14. drafted Billy Smith(P)

Jun 15 1977 - traded Willie Crawford(OF) to Oak-A for Denny Walling(IF) and cash

Jun 15 1977 - traded Cliff Johnson(C) for Dave Bergman(IF), Randy Niemann(P), and Mike Fischlin(IF). Houston received Bergman on Nov 23

Sep 5 1977 - traded Alex Taveras(IF) and Bob Detherage to LA-N for Danny Walton(OF). LA received Detherage on Sep 16.

Oct 13 1977 - traded Al Javier to Chi-N for Keith Drumright(IF)

Oct 27 1977 - granted free agency to Ken Boswell(IF).