Like it or not, wherever your favorite team plays is an integral part of the game experience. From unique dimensions, playing surfaces and the elements, these things can all add or detract from the overall experience. With the birth of so many new venues over the last 25 years, the fan experience has been dramatically improved. For the most part the previous generation of stadiums lacked ingenuity or any sort of bling and at the bare minimum left something to be desired for the fans. The only fun part of them was the nicknames that were bestowed to several of them such as concrete doughnut and my personal favorite…..the Toilet. There was one stadium that stood out among all of these circular disappointments and stood above all the rest, The Houston Astrodome. Its amenities were well ahead of the times and served the fans of Houston well for several decades. Now there is a book that celebrates the creation of the iconic stadium and shows all the work that went into building the eighth wonder of the world.
I have always looked at the Astrodome as a baseball stadium. Never giving much thought to the other uses for this multi-purpose marvel. First, this book takes a look at the political wrangling that it took for the city of Houston to procure a Major League team as well as some of the promises it was required to make as part of that deal. It shows the tireless efforts of several key figures in Houston and the many failed previous efforts of the town. It paints a vivid picture of how much time and effort goes in to just getting a promise of a team.
The book also goes into great detail about the political obstacles the new stadium faced in Houston as well as all the engineering hurdles that had to be cleared to create something of this magnitude. It goes into great depth to explain how the stadium was physically built to withstand the elements and how it has been able to withstand the test of time. The authors also show the readers all of the unique attributes that were built into the stadium and you can see how forward thinking those involved with its construction truly were.
The book also addresses the many uses the Astrodome had. From concerts, rodeos, football and countless other uses, it really lent itself to being a jack of all trades. Like all stadiums of this era, it was a living, breathing and evolving building and changed with the needs of the times. Finally, it does take a harsh look at the aging of the dome and how it fell victim of the current times. In the end, the once grand palace of baseball became just another decrepit old stadium. A stadium that no one is sure what to do with and probably at some point, like all the one time greats, will meet its demise.
The book is very comprehensive and shows those not living in Texas what the Astrodome was truly about. It also gives a nice glimpse at Texas politics and how that works as well as the way the people of Houston have helped change their self image with the help of the dome.
While this is not a baseball only book, it still has a large chunk of Colt 45’s/Astros information. If you have interest in old stadiums this book covers it from its beginnings to its possible near end. It has lots of information readers will find informative and entertaining, If like me, you were never lucky enough to visit the Astrodome, this book will surely make you wish you had.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
When you think of the Houston Astros in the 1970’s, one of the first names that comes to mind is J.R.Richard. Being a tall and lanky pitcher with a blazing fastball, he combined both of these attributes to scare the crap out of hitters throughout the National League. In an era in Houston before Nolan Ryan, Richard was the ace on the staff of the young up and coming group. With the signing of Nolan Ryan the Astros became a force to be reckoned within the league and the sky was the limit for everyone. Then one day the glass ceiling shattered and for one player life would never be the same.
I was really looking forward to this one. I was always a fan of J.R.’s growing up and remember him in the Astros uniforms of the late 70’s. I remember hearing of his stroke and trying to follow his comeback as best a fan who lived in Philadelphia in 1980 could. The translation of that last sentence means I could not follow it very well. So between the story line and Lew Freedman working on this book I expected a winner. I am happy to say I was not disappointed.
The book follows a back and forth format. Each chapter starts with an overview of what that chapter is going to cover, presumably in the words of Freeman. Then it shifts to Richard sharing his story. It is a good format that works very well for this book, instead of trying to make it all seem like J.R. doing all of the storytelling.
The book covers a great deal of topics in Richard’s life. It talks about his poor upbringing, his trek through the minors and then finally arriving in Houston to stay. The biggest part of this book is of course, talking about his unfortunate stroke and the devastating after effects it has had on his entire life. He shows you how his career was never able to be revived, how marriages failed, business dealings went bad and all the things that eventually led to him living on the streets of Houston.
One would think after all of this J.R. Richard would be extremely bitter, but I found just the opposite in this story. He has been lucky enough to find God and get his life back on track. He has through his faith been able to understand his past, and accept it for who it has helped him become. It really is a remarkable story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles in one’s life. He shows great character and is a better man than I ever could because of his outlook of his own life. If it was me that had to struggle through all of this, I don’t ever think I could have kept the positive outlook he was able to maintain.
There has not been a lot of things published on J.R. in the past, so this book really helps fans understand what truly went on in J.R. Richard’s life. All baseball fans should check this out it really is both an enjoyable and remarkable story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Happy Reading and Merry Christmas to all, may Santa be nice to your library this year.