The new Houston team was named the "Colt .45s" after a "Name The Team" contest was held. The colors selected were navy blue and orange. The first team was a collection of cast-offs stocked primarily through an expansion draft held after the 1961 season. The Colts made their choices alternately with the New York Mets, the other expansion franchise that put the National League at ten teams. Harry Craft was named to be Houston's first manager.
The Colts' first big league game was April 10th at Colt Stadium. It was Judge Hofheinz' 50th birthday. Bobby Shantz pitched a complete game as Houston bombed the Chicago Cubs, 11-2. Bob Aspromonte got the first hit and scored the first run. Roman Mejias was the offensive star with two home runs. The Colts blanked the Cubs the next two days, sweeping the first three games in franchise history. They were tied for first place! But then they took their first road trip and found that life in the National League was not nearly so easy.
For decades, Houston was a farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals and many of their star players had come through Texas on their way to the majors. The first game against the Redbirds on April 24th meant a little extra. Don Taussig homered for the game-winner in a 4-3 victory. Hal Woodeshick was the winning pitcher.
The Colt .45s captured their first doubleheader sweep on June 2nd, dumping the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field by scores of 10-6 and 10-3. Catcher Hal Smith, a World Series hero in Pittsburgh two years before, led the Colts to victory. Outfielder Carl Warwick, acquired from St. Louis in a trade for Shantz, delivered six hits in the twinbill. Ironically, Forbes Field became the worst place for Houston success during the decade.
The weather was always a factor at Colt Stadium but one night a thick fog rolled in to cut short a 7-3 victory over Cincinnati. It was a blessing for Craft who got to the hospital in time for the birth of his first daughter.
Richard "Turk" Farrell was the team's best pitcher that first year - and he lost 20 games! Known around the league for his late night binges and frequent pranks, his lighthearted manner kept the team loose during those early years. Turk was named to represent Houston in both All-Star Games held that season. Farrell and Bob Bruce each won ten games to lead the ballclub.
Mejias was the Colts' best hitter, pacing the team in batting average (.286), home runs (24), runs batted in (76) and stolen bases (12). He was traded to Boston after the season.
The Colts finished in eighth place with a 64-96 record, ahead of both the Cubs and the Mets. They still got a taste of pennant pressure as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants played them in crucial late-season games. Houston was the victim when swift Dodger Maury Wills became the first player to steal 100 bases in a season. The Dodgers and Giants ended in a tie with San Francisco winning a playoff to reach the World Series. The Colt .45s, on the other hand, felt glad to have been better than two teams in their first year of existence and wished the improvement would continue into the next year.
Trades and Transactions
1961 - signed Ron Davis(OF) as free agent
1961 - signed Aaron Pointer(OF) as free agent
Jan 1961 - signed Carroll Sembera(P) as free agent
Jun 1961 - signed Don Arlich(P) as free agent
Jun 1961 - signed Dave Giusti(P) as free agent
Jun 9 1961 - traded Barney Schultz(P) to Chi-N for J.C. Hartman(IF) and Wayne Connally(IF)
Sep 10 1961 - signed Glenn Vaughan(IF) as free agent
Sep 11 1961 - signed Rusty Staub(OF) as free agent
Oct 1961 - paid cash to Det-A for Hal Woodeshick(P)
Oct 10 1961 - Expansion Draft
Regular phase: $75,000 per player
- drafted Eddie Bressoud(IF) from SF-N
- drafted Bob Aspromonte(IF) from LA-N
- drafted Bob Lillis(IF) from StL-N
- drafted Dick Drott(P) from Chi-N
- drafted Al Heist(OF) from Chi-N
- drafted Roman Mejias(OF) from Pit-N
- drafted George Williams(IF) from Phi-N
- drafted Jesse Hickman(P) from Phi-N
- drafted Merritt Ranew(C) from Mil-N
- drafted Don Taussig(OF) from StL-N
- drafted Bobby Shantz(P) from Pit-N
- drafted Norm Larker(IF) from LA-N
- drafted Sam Jones(P) from SF-N
- drafted Paul Roof(P) from Mil-N
- drafted Ken Johnson(P) from Cin-N
- drafted Dick Gernert(IF) from Cin-N
- drafted Ed Olivares(IF) from StL-N
- drafted Jim Umbricht(P) from Pit-N
- drafted Jim Golden(P) from LA-N
Premium phase: $125,000 per player
- drafted Joe Amalfitano(IF) from SF-N
- drafted Dick Farrell(P) from LA-N
- drafted Hal Smith(C) from Pit-N
- drafted Al Spangler(OF) from Mil-N
Oct 13 1961 - paid cash to StL-N for Al Cicotte(P)By Astro Daily
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- Bob Aspromonte, Bob Bruce, Bobby Shantz, Carl Warwick, Colt Stadium, Don Taussig, Hal Smith, Hal Woodeshick, Harry Craft, Houston Astros, Houston Colt .45's, Maury Wills, Roman Mejias, Turk Farrell