Houston's Baseball History:
Early Amateur Years
Little is known of these first
venues without further research into what passed
for the Elysian Fields of Houston during the
early era of Houstons base ball passion.
We do know that a love for the game quickly
helps people find a vacant lot or field somewhere
and there were many of these in the area
near present day downtown Houston well into
the second half of the 19th century. We also
know from newspaper reports that teams from
Houston and Galveston traveled several miles
to the far east of downtown to play each other
on the hallowed land that we still protect as
the San Jacinto Battleground. As reported earlier,
the Houston Stonewalls defeated the Galveston
Robert E. Lees in that one by a whopping margin
More research is needed in this
1888-1906: Houston Base
March 6, 1888: When the
daunting Houston Babies took on the Cincinnati
Red Stockings in the first professional game
played in Houston by a team bearing our citys
identity, the 22-3 routing by the Reds of our
local charmers took place at a downtown site
known aptly as the Houston Base Ball Park.
Unfortunately, the newspaper
writers of that day made no reference to the
base ball parks precise location. They
simply presumed that their readers all knew
where the place was located. They werent
writing for readers from the 21st century
but unfortunately for us, they are pretty much
all we have to go on as a written record of
past events that werent otherwise covered
in books for posterity and the first
professional game of base ball played in Houston
never rated that high degree of written attention.
For the record, heres the
Houston Post box score from the first game played
at the Houston Base Ball Park:
Houstons 1st Professional
Date: March 6, 1888
Time: 3:30 PM
Place: Houston Base Ball Park
Earned Runs: Cincinnati 8, Houston
Bases on Balls: Cincinnati 4, Houston 2.
Strike Outs By: Flood 7, Serad 5.
Left On Base: Cincinnati 7, Houston 4.
2BH: McThee (2), Kappel, Serad, Dauthett, Horan.
Passed Balls: Lohbeck 6, Keenan 1.
Wild Pitches: Flood 3.
Stolen Bases: Howard, Dauthett, Craig (1 each),
Umpire: Kid Baldwin.
Time of Game: 1 Hour & 45 minutes.
Again, more research is needed
of the agate-type newspaper files on microfilm
of the late 1880s, 1890s, and first decade of
the 20th century.
From my readings, I have a hunch
that the Houston Base Ball Park was laid out
on the same site that later housed a more famous
home of Houston baseball a place called
West End Park.
We wont stop on hunches,
however. We must keep on looking until we find
the evidence that rests somewhere in those hard-to-read
files at the library. I have not performed a
search for and then a search of
old street and business directories from the
19th century, but I plan to do so.
More reasonably, we have a need
for a Larry Dierker Chapter Houston 19th Century
Baseball/Base Ball Research Committee. If you
have good eyes and the time to serve, please
get in touch with me by telephone (713-823-4864)
or e-mail, email@example.com Bill
1907-1927: West End Park
When Houston returned to
the Texas League in 1907, they moved into West
End Park at 601 Andrews Street off Smith in
downtown Houston. The old ballpark site is now
covered by the Allen Center, but no plaque exists
to mark its location as the first real baseball
stadium in Houston and the probable site of
its first 1888 professional game.
As a ballpark, West End Park
seated about 2,000 people in wooden stands.
For its time, it got the job done as a practical
home of the Houston Buffs.
The address of the ballpark has
been confirmed from old city directories, as
has the name, West End Park. The venue was never
known as West Side Park or West Side Grounds,
as is sometimes reported by those who confuse
those identities of old Chicago venues with
the place that was ours in Houston.
In spite of what some may think,
getting the right name down on historical places
does matter. The first real home of the Texas
Leas Leagues Houston Buffs was West End
1920-1928: East End Park
The first baseball park
(used by the Houston Monarch/Black Buffs) was
known as the East End Park located in the 3300
block of Cline St. within the fifth ward. The
time reference is early 1920 to 1928.
Frank J. Liuzza, son and nephew of the
two brothers who founded and owned the local
black baseball club, 10/17/2007.
1928-1942: Monarch Stadium
The second baseball park
was known as Monarch Stadium located on Gillespie
St. It was in use from late 1928-1942. It was
also located in the fifth ward. For your information
this land was purchased from Mr. & Mrs.
Clark Gable, yes it is the movie star. At this
stadium there was a concession stand, estimated
seating capacity of 1,500 fans, & a clubhouse.
The clubhouse was the first ballpark for minorities
to have showers and sanitary facilities. Also
the Liuzza brothers provided access to Monarch
stadium to Wheatley High School for their football
team and band practices. Admission was 10 cents.
The team began its existence as the Houston
Monarchs and at some period later they became
the Houston Black Buffalos. In l939 James J.
Liuzza traveled to Canada with the Houston Black
Buffalos. Pat Johnson Ford Company loaned them
cars for the trip. Upon their return the cars
were displayed in the window advertising their
intercontinental trip to Canada and were for
sale. Frank J. Liuzza, 10/17//2007.
1928-1961: Buffalo / Buff
Buffalo Stadium opened as the
home of the same season Texas League Champion
Houston Buffaloes. Even with a name change to
Busch Stadium in 1953, this shiny new concrete
and steel, 11,000 seat ballpark that opened
in 1928 would remain the home of the Houston
Buffs through the 1961 season. Cardinals General
Manager Branch Rickey and Baseball Commissioner
Kenesaw Mountain Landis both attended that first
opening game of April 11, 1928 as the Houston
Buffaloes took a Texas League season opener
from the Waco Cubs, 7-5.
Commissioner Landis described
Buff Stadium as the finest new minor league
ballpark in America upon the occasion of his
1928 visit to Houston. Located about four miles
east of downtown, the new park was easily reachable
by street car and, irony of ironies, the present
site of Minute Maid Park at Union Station was
one of the main places that the fans of 1928
caught the street car to go to the ballgames
at Buff Stadium.
Buff Stadium was located on the
same grounds that until recently housed the
Finger Furniture Company on the Gulf Freeway
at Cullen Boulevard. April 11, 1928 also marked
the birth of the electronic sports media era
in Houston when Bruce Layer of station KPRC
broadcast the first Buffs baseball game over
the AM radio airwaves of Houston.
In 1951, Buff Stadium acquired some notoriety
when a depressed fan worked his way on camera
and committed suicide by pistol on television.
Finger Furniture memorialized
Buff Stadium after its 1963 demolition by building
into their then new furniture store location
a museum to honor, first baseball, and then
all Houston sports. The exact location of home
plate was marked as the anchor point of the
1962-1964: Colt Stadium
Colt Stadium was always the working
model for the word temporary. Built
as an interim venue for two million dollars
in 1961-62, the ballpark held 32,601 fans when
it opened on April 10, 1962. By the time it
closed in 1964, seating capacity had increased
to 33,010, but that was of little matter. The
place wasnt built to last as either a
permanent home to the new Houston National League
club or as any great monument to ballpark architecture.
Colt Stadium was built so that
Houston fans could watch the nearby ongoing
and massive construction of the worlds
first multi-purpose domed and air conditioned
stadium. Fans could see it all unfolding across
the same steaming parking lot from their uncovered
seats at Colt Stadium, located some one thousand
feet or so away.
Some of us early fans who came
to Colt Stadium in 1962 had another name for
it, one that fell just short of hell.
With temperatures soaring over 100 degrees and
searing sunrays baking directly down upon you
for day games, and organized eating squad mosquitoes
controlling the skies at night, we called it
the griddle. It didnt matter
how few clothes you wore for day games, you
always left there three hours later feeling
and smelling just like a stinking pancake. It
didnt matter either how much you wore
in the evening, the insect vampires still found
their way to your bloodstream.
I was there for the Saturday day game that led
to Sunday Night Baseball in the way we described
earlier. Fifteen fans were taken to the hospital
that afternoon with heat stroke or other sun
A house is not a home without a roof and air
conditioning in Houston, Texas and Colt
Stadium had neither.
After the Dome opened in 1965,
Colt Stadium was given several years to simply
stand and rot away on its own. When they finally
took it down in the 1970s, the grandstands were
sold and moved to Gomez Palacio in Mexico where
they may still be in use as home to a Mexican
League baseball team.
I dont recall anyone ever
pausing a second to observe, recall, or memorialize
the departure of Houstons first big
league ballpark. The Astros did attempt
to commemorate the place by leaving home plate
in tact in its original spot. They placed a
plaque there to tell people that they were passing
over the part of the parking lot that once served
as the ground for Colt Stadium.
The memorial was short-lived when some fan,
sometime or another, simply dug up the plate
and plaque and either took them home or sold
them to a collector. Thats my guess, but
nobody knows for sure what happened to them.
1965-1999: The Astrodome
When Houstons major
league club moved indoors in 1965, the theme
of our efforts moved radically, if only partially
away from the wild west of the Colt .45s. By
the late-in-the-day time that Roy Hofheinz came
up with the Astros/Astrodome space theme as
an effective new marketing plan that would also
extricate the club from copyright infringement
problems with the Colt .45 Gun Company, people
were ready to accept just about anything The
Judge told them about this awesome new
adventure in cool, indoor baseball.
Hofheinzs introduction of
the new Harris County Domed Stadium
as the Astrodome the eighth wonder
of the world has always reminded me of
that almost-blood-kin scene from the movie,
King Kong, when adventurer/entrepreneur
Carl Denham introduces Kong for the first time
on the stage of a New York theatre.
Ladies and gentlemen, Denham cries
aloud, I give you Kong the eighth
wonder of the world! Judge Hofheinz could
have played the part in a King Kong remake.
He was Carl Denham from the inside out.
Things didnt go quite as
badly for Judge Hofheinz and the Astrodome as
they did for Carl Denham and King Kong, but
the new first-of-its-kind ballpark did present
some now well-known but then unexpected problems
whose solutions altered the game, and all sports,
You know the route were
taking here: Because of the roof glare, outfielders
were losing sight of high fly balls in the roof
girders. They painted the ceiling tiles to get
rid of the glare, but that move blocked the
daylight and killed the grass. They then painted
the grass green to get through the 1965 season.
After which, Hofheinz found that Monsanto Chemical
had produced an artificial turf for welcome
mats and small patio lawns that could be produced
in larger sections to cover the playing field
of the Astrodome.
Prior to the 1966 season, the
Monsanto ersatz grass fabric was installed in
zipped together sections to cover the infield
of the Dome. Later in the year, they also replaced
the dead grass in the outfield with the same
material that they now called Astroturf.
Houstons iconic writer Mickey
Herskowitz offered the best observation on this
process one day as he arrived in time to watch
the new infield being zipped together.
Now Houston has the only
infield in the big leagues that contains its
own, built-in, infield fly, Herskowitz
mused. He also described the exterior of the
Astrodome as looking like a giant deodorant
stick that had been buried upright in the ground.
The Astrodome not only wholly
changed the way all sports teams thought about
their own future venue needs. It also was directly
responsible for creating a demand for new turf
options to natural grass. Carry it further
and the Astrodome influence was seen in the
creation of all those tasteless cookie-cutter,
multi-purpose stadia that we have since torn
down in favor of retro parks that ooze character
and serve baseball alone.
Ironically, the Astrodome still
stands, rotting away without an affordable,
supportable purpose, but with a place in history
that will never be erased. So far, no political
body has had the guts or heart to make the other
call of putting her out of her 2009 misery by
way of the wrecking ball. When we consider the
millions we are spending in public money, just
to do nothing but maintain the old structure
in its present form, we may also be looking
at the most expensive case of public procrastination
in local history.
2000-Present: Enron Field/Minute
When the new downtown ballpark
first opened in 2000 as Enron Field at Union
Station, it seated a capacity of 42,000 fans
in the comfort of a retro-designed, sliding
roof structure that offered both the attractions
of air conditioning or open skies, when the
weather was milder. The sliding roof, of course,
made it possible to again cover the field with
the finest kinds of natural grass available.
As everyone also now knows, the
Enron corporate scandal brought an end to that
identity on the ballpark. The park was then
known briefly as Astros Park before a new naming
rights contract was drafted between the Astros
and the orange juice company that supplied us
with a new venue name of Minute Maid Park.
In 2005, its 6th total season
of existence, Minute Maid Park did something
that the Astrodome couldnt do in thirty-five
years as home of the Houston Astros. It hosted
a World Series.
We didnt win, but we got
there. And maybe well get back there again
soon with an even greater appreciation for our
long local baseball history.
The great thing about SABR is
the opportunity we have to be around others
who care about the long history of the game.
To many of us, Minute Maid Park
could be a symbol of what we aim to experience
through the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR. Architecturally
and programmatically, MMP connects us to baseballs
past, present, and future, almost without even
In addition, we enjoy an excellent
relationship as SABR with the Astros. We hold
an annual presentation meeting at the ballpark
each season on a game day that is always special.
Last year we were blessed with a presentation
by Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, just one of the
great former ballplayers who live in the Houston
area. What a magic carpet ride that day turned
out to be. Mr. Irvin must have dropped fifty
years off his age in that single hour talk alone.
You know something else? A lot
of America doesnt know how long and deep
our local baseball history really is
and how broad our bedrock baseball community
truly extends. The fact that the annual Houston
Winter Baseball Dinner every January annually
attracts from 1,100 to 1,500 people speaks volumes.
Another great thing about SABR
is that we never run out of topics to discuss
or explore. And, of course, the greatest thing
about SABR is that its always about baseball
and our individually unique opportunity
here to live the baseball life in any way, and
to whatever extent, we choose to live it.
Who could ask for anything