Fifty years ago Thursday, the Houston Astrodome hosted its first event, with the Houston Astros facing the New York Yankees in an exhibition game. Mickey Mantle, leading off for New York, had the first hit.
There have been some remembrances today of the Astrodome upon its golden anniversary of operation, with HardballTalk among those recalling the now-dormant dome, which still stands near Reliant Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans. ESPN’s Keith Olbermann also remembered the dome, although not so fondly.
The Houston Texans never played in the Astrodome, but the Houston Oilers did from 1968 through 1996, winning three-of-five playoff games in the stadium. The dome was also host to a most unique event — a welcome-home pep rally for the Oilers after their loss to Pittsburgh in the 1978 AFC title game.
There was also the time Earl Campbell powered through the Rams, his ripped jersey flapping. There were scores of Warren Moon TD passes in the dome. However, the Astrodome also played host to the Oilers’ 1993 divisional-round loss to Kansas City — the franchise’s final-ever playoff appearance in Houston. The Oilers never did make a Super Bowl, nor did they ever host a conference title game.
The Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1996. The Astros, meanwhile, would play in the dome through the 1999 season before getting a new stadium. The Texans, an NFL expansion team, opened play in 2002 in their own new digs, too.
Nevertheless, we pause to remember the Astrodome today. NFL fans of a certain age likely recall different little things about the dome. Maybe it’s the bike racks lining the field, the AstroTurf, those timeless and fresh Oilers uniforms, Bum Phillips’ Stetson. Perhaps it’s the “Luv Ya Blue” signs in the stands, Apex One jackets on the sidelines or Moon to Webster Slaughter or Drew Hill or Curtis Duncan or Ernest Givins.
Maybe it’s all of the above.