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Given that they share a locale with a NASA launch site, it should come as no surprise that the Houston Astros franchise has never been afraid of exploring new frontiers. Whether it was introducing baseball's first indoor stadium, signing the game's first million dollar man, or their truly bold day-glo uniforms of the '70s, the Astros don't shy away from being different than the other teams in Major League Baseball.
An expansion franchise established in 1962, Houston spent the first three years of their existence as the Colt .45s. Prior to the start of the '65 season, the Astrodome was built to serve as a new home for the team. To coincide with the modern coliseum, they were rechristened the Astros in honor of the city's connection to the space program. "The Eighth Wonder of the World" was notable for several reasons. It was a dome, which had never been done before. The team played on a newfangled surface called Astroturf, which the organization invented to accommodate the indoor facility. They were also proud owners of some of the most advanced scoreboard celebration graphics in all of baseball. In a never-ending quest to celebrate dingers harder than everyone else, the Astros' current home, Minute Maid Park, has a train that whirls around the concourse of the stadium when an Astro hits a homer.
Despite all the bells and whistles of a top-flight organization, it wasn't until 1980 that H-Town booked its first trip to the postseason. Led by all-world pitcher and Texas native Nolan Ryan, the team scrapped its way to 93 wins that year and beat the Dodgers in a one-game playoff before being knocked out in the National League Championship Series. Houston would return to the playoffs in 1986, but it wasn't until the 1990s that the team would really come into its own.
While championship success would continue to elude Houston, fans could take solace in the All-Star play of first baseman Jeff Bagwell and catcher-turned-second baseman Craig Biggio. Bagwell became the first Astro player to win both Rookie of the Year and NL MVP over the course of his career, while Biggio entered the record books as the first player in Major League Baseball history to be named to All-Star teams in consecutive years as catcher one year and then second base the next. Between 1997 and 2001, "The Killer B's" led Houston to four National League Central titles and a World Series appearance in 2005.
The Astrodome is no longer standing, but Houston has simply moved its proud history down the street. Just like before, their scoreboard celebrations are still without compare. Their team colors are still blue and orange, but now it's a more muted tone, one that's indicative of a team that means business. Really, the only change is that the team has switched allegiances and now plays in the American League. Beyond that, the Astros haven't missed a beat. Diehards continue to flock downtown to cheer on their starting nine.