Remembering Mets History (1965): Mets Wild First Visit To the New Astrodome

Tuesday April 27th 1965: In 1965 the Houston Astrodome opened up with great fanfare & was billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. 

It was the first of its kind, an indoor multi purpose stadium, air conditioned for the Houston heat & dry if it ever rained on game day. The futuristic park included female usherettes in space age suits & grounds crews dressed like astronauts.

It featured fake grass, an artificial
turf known as Astroturf, as well as Astrolite the world's first animated scoreboard. The dome is 710 feet high, with skylights in the roof panels & lighting around its brim above the upper decks.

This would be the first game the Mets ever played indoors. Mets manager; Casey Stengel brought his young ball club in to face a hot Astros team lead by skipper, Lum Harris.

Harris had the team on a five game win streak, without having lost yet in their new ball park. 16,837 fans came out to watch the Astros; Don Nottenbart take on the Mets Jack Fisher.

Starting Lineups

In the top of the 2nd, Charley Smith singled to right field & catcher Chris Cannizzaro doubled, but the slow footed Smith couldn't score. Next up short stop & future Mets coach, Roy McMillan singled up the middle bringing in both runners. 2-0 Mets.

Mets pitcher Jack Fisher pitched a hell of a game, holding the Astros down until the 8th inning when they collected a run on a fielders choice.

The game was 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th. Bob Aspromonte (a future 1971 Met) doubled knocking Fisher out of the game. Al Jackson came in got one batter out & Casey brought in Dennis Ribant to close it out. 

Ribant walked his first batter putting the winning run on base. Next up was Eddie Kasko, what happened next was typical of the early years of the Mets & an situation that could only happen in the Astrodome.

Kasko hits a high fly ball to left center field, hopefully ending the game, but no, Mets left fielder Joe Christopher looks up & looses the ball in the roof panel. The ball drops down in left centerfield, both runners score & the game is over, the Mets take an unbelievable, heart breaking 3-2 loss.

Casey Stengel was not happy, the Astros were on a six game win streak & had a 6-1 record at home. Accusations of trickery began to fly, Stengel even accused the Astros of blowing the at conditioning system out to the outfield when the Astros were up & in when the visitors were up. The New York media ran wild with the story.

Even MLB Commissioner Ford Frick was concerned enough to send an engineer to investigate the claim. In the end a report made clear that air conditioning has no effect on the flight or distance of batted balls.

Lindsey Nelson's Famous Gondola Broadcast: The next night, the Mets decided to spice things up for their television broadcast. They put Met broadcaster Lindsey Nelson 208 feet above second base, in a suspended gondola to broadcast the game. The gondola, similar to the basket of a hot air balloon, was designed as a photo deck for certain events at the dome. It took about 45 minutes to lower and raise the contraption, with Nelson & an engineer in the gondola.

As the game was about to begin, Mets manager Casey Stengel, never with a loss for words, turned to the umpiring crew and said, "What about my man up there?" 

"What man?" asked Tom Corman, the crew chief. 

"My man Lindsay up there," he said, pointing, "in that cage under the roof."

Everyone looked up, the Umpire Gorman scratched his head and decided that since any ball hitting the dome was in play that any ball hitting Lindsey Nelson should also be in play. 

Casey was pleased. "Well," he said, beaming, "my man is a ground rule. That's the first time my man was ever a ground rule."

The Mets lost this game 12-9 with a rookie Tug McGraw taking the loss. When Tug McGraw was once asked what he thought about Astroturf as opposed to grass he said "I don't know, I never smoked Astroturf".


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