Boy, did we have a problem and manager Tommy Lasorda was screaming mad, and no one could blame him.
Baseball is a funny game, in the sense that it is so unpredictable. The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, of which I was a minor, minor part. A few weeks before winning the World Series, that same championship team displayed such futility that no one could have expected an eventual World Series winner.
The Astrodome Houston had no chance of a high rating on my rankings of major league stadiums. I am a believer that baseball should be played outside and the indoor Astrodome had that big empty warehouse feel to it. For most players, the Astrodome was our introduction to playing on turf and indoors. I only played a few games there, but it was cold and dreary, which also described our play there.
More importantly, I did nothing remarkable in the Houston Astrodome, even though I contributed to something remarkable. One of my top major league memories came from playing there and I recall every moment of it to this day, as if it were yesterday.
Astrodome Houston, We Have Frustration
The frustration began on the Saturday game of the week on September 26, 1981. Baseball games were not as available on TV back then, as they are now, so being the game of the week was huge. To our misfortune, we were facing Mr. No Hitter himself, Nolan Ryan, and he lived up to it that day. Yep, we were no hit in front of the whole world; the frustration was tempered some because it was Nolan Ryan and it was not as if he hadn’t done that to other teams, that being his fifth no hitter, with two more to follow.
If it is possible to have pride in one’s personal frustration, that would by my case. I was chosen to pinch hit in the fifth inning of the game and proceeded to strike out on three pitches. I was getting his fastball timed after eyeing his first pitch and just missing the second fastball with a hellacious cut, when I fouled it straight back. Unfortunately, I must have scared Nolan with that swing, as the next pitch was a very unfair curve ball that I missed by a couple of feet or so. Let the record note that I fouled a pitch off the greatest strikeout pitcher ever – very proud moment.
Astrodome Houston, We have Futility
The major problem though with our hitting frustration is that it did not end that day. The following day was going just as bad, we proceeded to go hitless for six more innings. Such futility brought on the rightful wrath of manager Tommy Lasorda. Our excuse that we were facing another Hall of Fame pitcher in Don Sutton did no good, especially as he was a former Dodger, which made the situation all the worse.
We got our first hit in over a game and a half when Ken Landreaux led off the 7th inning with a single. That he got picked off first base soon after did not lighten the mood, to say the least. To avoid it being a case of complete hitting futility, Steve Sax homered in the 9th inning, to avoid two consecutive Astrodome shutouts and to give us two hits for two days.
Getting back to my original point, baseball is an enigma; go figure, right when a team hits rock bottom, they rise and win the World Series. The famous line from former Houston Astro pitcher comes to mind, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.'”
A tip to the # 14 Rated stadium on my major league stadium rankings – unhittable curveball or greatest smile in baseball.