The Dodgers will be opening up a 3 game series starting Friday evening at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros. It will mark the first time these two clubs will match up against each other since 2012. From 1962-2012, the Houston franchise was a member of the National League and from 1969-1993 the Astros we’re part of the NL West. During that period, these two clubs won a combined 9 division titles among each other. These two clubs had some epic battles in the early 80s, notably 1980 and 1981.The Dodgers are coming off a rough spell in Oakland while the Astros have surprised the so-called as they head toward the stretch run in a 3 way battle for the AL West with the Angels and Rangers.
I’ve had the chance to visit Minute Maid Park twice, in 2005 on a stopover in Houston and in 2008 to see The Blue. Located in Downtown Houston, MMP is a nice cozy bandbox. MMP would be the second retractable roofed stadium I would visit behind Chase Field. After a couple of stays in Houston and several visits to Phoenix, my stance on indoor baseball has softened somewhat, if not entirely. We Dodger fans really are spoiled with such great weather.
The Juice Box, the moniker that’s commonly used, opened in 2000 as Enron Field. Not long after the infamous Enron scandal we’re they able to change the name of the yard and rid themselves of the aftertaste Enron left behind. I had the impression that MMP was indeed a bandbox, especially for right handed hitters. Should the yard be open to the open skies, it is possible for one to hit one toward Crawford Street behind the left field stands, dubbed the Crawford Boxes.
Above the Crawford Boxes are sliding glass door panels that glide the roof open. Atop the wall is the MMP’s signature feature, the replica locomotive…
Some of you reading this may be saying to yourselves isn’t that hill in centerfield MMP’s signature feature ?
You could make an argument that Tal’s Hill is MMP’s signature feature. Located in center field in the field of play along with the flagpole, the hill was a nod to the hill in Cincinatti’s old Crosley Field. Former Dodger and current Padre bench coach Dave Roberts was the first outfielder to make a running catch up the hill. For you Dodgers fans who may be in H-Town this weekend, this will be your last chance to see Tal’s Hill as it will be removed after this season to make way for improved seating as well as food and drink options ( No doubt to cater to the party-goers ).
Trivial Notes on H-Town,
You may notice that professional sports teams in Houston, the Astros, Rockets and even the WNBA’s Comets, all are names with a reference to the space shuttle program, where at one time Houston was a major hub. If you’re in H-Town and have some time, you may want to check out Space Center Houston. Below is a slideshow of pics I took during my visit in 2008 and i’m sure much has changed since, especially with the space shuttle program being over.
Extra Innings… 1981
The Dodgers and Astros met in an intra-division Best of 5 playoff to determine the NL West Champion. Jerry Reuss would out-duel Hall of Fame fireballer Nolan Ryan, sending the Dodgers to the NLCS against the NL East Champion Montreal Expos. It would be the only time the Dodgers and Astros would meet in post-season play. It could happen again this year, of course with much bigger stakes…