By Jim “Pappy” Moore
The Houston Colt .45s major league baseball team began its existence in the spring of 1962. Being a 12 year-old boy and a huge sports fan, I made it my business to follow that brand new team. The spring of 1962 was the second semester of my seventh grade in Lufkin Junior High School in Lufkin, Texas. We were up the road about a hundred miles from Houston.
My grade school buddy Dale Duren was a Yankee fan. His dad, Elmer Duren, was a Yankee fan. Elmer had been in the U.S. Navy in the late 1930s and into the 1940s. He was on board a ship which was bombed on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. The name of that ship? The U.S.S. Dale, a destroyer. It was one of the lucky ships which made it out of the harbor during the attack.
Because there were no Texas teams in those years, Elmer became a Yankees fan while in the Navy. The Yankees were dominant in those years and their fans let you hear about it. In our home Daddy would watch The Game of the Week, with Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese as former players who did the television play by play. Black and white TV. Every week it seemed like the Yankees were on TV. It got old for us Texas boys who didn’t take kindly to Yankees in 1962.
Dale and I had an ongoing discussion the summer of 1961 when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle – both Yankees – were battling to see if either of them could break Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs. I had Maris. He had Mantle. Maris won by one home run. We collected Baseball Cards, like any decent 12 year-old boy in those days.
When the Colt .45s began their play in the spring of 1962, Dale and I were both in Mrs. Wooten’s seventh grade class. She was stern, firm, and fair. Some called her “rootin’, tootin’ Wooten” but we always kind of liked her.
In that first season the Colt .45s would have Bob Aspromonte, who played third base, and Bob Lillis, who played infield. There were outfielders Carl Warwick and Al Spangler. Hal Woodeshick was one of our pitchers, along with Dave Giusti and Turk Farrell.
I sent off for and got six 5” by 8” black and white photos of several of those players, which photos I taped to a large board and hung up in my bedroom. I listened to the game every night by crawling up on our roof so I could catch the radio signal out of Houston. I used my Dad’s transistor radio. It had an ear piece. The games were called by Gene Elston and Loel Passe. I would sit up there on the roof looking south toward Houston and write down each inning of each game, using a flashlight to light up my pad of paper. I kept track of at-bats, hits, homers, runs, and scores. I knew every player even though I never saw a single game, never saw any highlights of any of them, only what I would read in the Houston paper the next day. I would compare my notes with the box scores in that Houston paper.
Sometimes reception would be good and I could sit in my bedroom and listen on the transistor radio to the games. That made it much easier. No mosquitoes, for one thing. I could sit at a desk and make my notes.
After the first season the Colt .45s would acquire in a trade Pete Runnels. The new Colt .45 was a former batting champion. His mother lived in Lufkin about a block from where Dale and I had attended grade school. As grade schoolers we would ride past her house on our bikes on the way to Winston Park and say “that’s where Pete Runnels’ mama lives” to anyone who would listen.
It was in those years when I was past grade school but not old enough to drive a car that listening to the fledgling Colt .45s would become my favorite nightly business. I would get my driver’s license when I was 14 and all that listening to the Colt .45s at night became much less important than driving up and down Timberland Drive and honking at girls. Cruising Timberland we called it. Circling Read’s Drive-In at one end and turning around at Dairy Queen at the other. Back and forth. Doing nothing but listening to rock and roll music and trying to get lucky.
The Colt .45s would soon become the Houston Astros. They’d move into the Astrodome, and a whole new era of baseball would begin, but I would always have my fond memories as a boy and his first major league baseball team.
To this day I’m still a huge Astros fan and enjoy watching every game on AT&T SportsNet and listening to Blummer and Kalas call it. Level Up Astros! Still have lunch with Dale Duren every few months and talk about baseball, too.
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.