For the first time in 16 years, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers both made it to the Major League Baseball playoffs this autumn. Both teams ultimately came up a little bit short in their bids to reach the World Series: The Rangers’ blew a 2-0 series lead to Toronto and lost in five, while the Astros, who snuck into the post-season with a single-game win over the New York Yankees, blew a late lead against Kansas City and also fell in five games.
It was a crazy stretch of baseball for fans located between the Red and Rio Grande, where football – from Cowboy Stadium to Kyle Field to every tiny football factory across the entire state on Friday nights.
But although the pigskin will continue to reign supreme for the foreseeable future, baseball has had a long and fascinating played the Texas way. Here’s a look back at the history Abner Doubleday’s invention in the Lone Star State.
While Doubleday allegedly invented the game in 1839, its first appearance in Texas wasn’t until 1861 with the formation of the Houston Base Ball Club, which never actually played a game because of the outbreak of the Civil War.
However, baseball was all the rage less than a decade later when the Galveston Daily Telegraph reported a story about the first game being played by a Houston team – with the unlikely name of the Stonewalls, who took on the Galveston Robert E. Lees on San Jacinto Day, 1868.
By 1884, an amateur league had formed in Texas, with representatives from Houston, Galveston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Waco. The first pro team came about 1888 in the form of the Houston Buffaloes, who took their name from nearby waterway Buffalo Bayou.
Unlike previous incarnations of baseball in Texas, the Buffaloes, or Buffs as they became known, had amazing staying power despite a rough start that saw the team fold a couple of times only to be reborn.
In 1914, fans from all parts of Houston got the thrill of a lifetime when the New York Yankees came to town on a barnstorming tour and battled the Buffs. The biggest moment in club history came however in 1921, when the St. Louis Cardinals bought a majority share of the team, making the Buffs the first minor league team affiliated with a major league squad.
With the Cardinals’ resources, the Buffs became a must-season attraction and a winner. In 1931, the team won 108 times in 159 tries behind the arm of future Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean, who led the team with a 26-10 record and a minuscule 1.57 ERA.
Dean’s gaudy numbers were no fluke. Three years later he went 30-7 with seven shutouts for the Cardinals.
The Buffs were the biggest game in Texas until the late 1950s, when the American Association expanded to both Dallas and Fort Worth. Dallas’ squad was unaffiliated while Fort Worth’s was owned by the Chicago Cubs. Dallas was known as the Rangers, but when it was rumored the club would disband the following year, Clint Murchison, who had just purchased an NFL expansion squad, planned on taking the name for his new gridiron squad.
Instead, the Dallas and Fort Worth squads combined and kept the name, and Murchison had to settle for calling his team the Cowboys instead. Over the next few years, the Rangers were affiliated with the Angels, Twins, Phillies, and A’s, struggling to carve out a niche as an important cog in another team’s minor-league wheel.
In 1959, the Buffs split ways with the Cardinals to become a Triple A affiliate for the Chicago Cubs, but a year later Houston got its biggest baseball news in four decades: a real Major League team.
With the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers having proven baseball west of the Mississippi River was economically viable a few years before, the National League granted Houston an expansion squad in 1960, which would begin play in 1962.
The Buffs were bought out by the Houston Colt .45s for just shy of $400,000 for territorial rights, and moved to Oklahoma City, where they became the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
The Colt .45s played three years outside in Houston’s brutal heat before making the move into the building quite simply known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
From 1965 to 1999, the Astrodome, the first indoor sports stadium in the world, played home to the Houston Astros.
Both the Astros and the Dome itself were so popular that it only took seven more years for Dallas to get a Major League team of its own. The Washington Senators had started up in 1961 only to move to Arlington in 1972, under the wildly popular Rangers’ moniker.
And the rest, as they say, is baseball history.