History of the Houston Astros
The Houston Astros, established in 1962 as the Colt .45s, have never won a World Series but they have played in postseason games eight times since 1980. Their last postseason games were in 2005 when they won the National League Wild Card spot and their only National League pennant.
The Colt .45s, along with the New York Mets, joined the National League in 1962 as an expansion team. They had a poor first year, but they started their second year with some good young talent, including Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub. However, the new players did not help the team enough and the Colt .45s finished with a 66-96 record and one spot from the bottom of the National League.
In 1965, the Colt .45s had two changes. Their name was changed to the Houston Astros and they started playing in major league baseball's first domed stadium, the Astrodome. Even a new name and a new stadium with artificial turf did not, however, help the team and the new Astros finished the 1965 season once again in ninth place and the 1966 season in eighth place. The next two years were even worse as the Astros played their way to the very bottom of the National League. Then, in 1969, the Astros improved and they had their first season with a .500 or better win percentage, finishing in the middle of the National League.
The Astros played better ball in the 1970s, finishing five years with a win percentage of .500 or better but they couldn't advance past third place in the National League West division. In 1972, under the leadership of Leo Durocher, the Astros had a good season, finishing third in the National League West division. They had an 84-69 record but they dropped the following year to fourth place with an 82-80 record. The next few years of the 1970s were inconsistent ones for the Astros as they fell to sixth place in their division in 1975, moved back up to third place for two years, dropped to fifth place in 1978 but bounced back to end the decade in second place with a .549 win percentage and an 89-73 record.
The 1980s brought a change to the Astros' fortunes and they won their first National League West division title in 1980, finishing the season with a .571 win percentage and a 93-70 record. They lost, however, the National League Championship series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Players on the Astros at that time included pitching great Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, who returned to the team in 1980 after a successful stint with the Cincinnati Reds' "Big Red Machine," and knuckleball pitcher Joe Niekro. The rest of the 1980s, like the 1970s, saw an inconsistent team that went up and down in the standings. By 1982, the Astros were back in fifth place in the National League West division, with a 77-85 record. They started moving upward again the following year and they made it to first place in 1986, with a 96-66 record and their second National League West division title. They lost the National League Championship series that year to the New York Mets in a tense, 16-inning game.
The Astros had a losing season in 1987 and, although they had winning seasons, it took more than ten years for them to again enter postseason play. Changes were made to the team in the 1990s, starting with the sale of the Astros in 1993 to Drayton McLane. By the mid-1990s, the Astros, managed by Larry Dierker, were a team capable of winning. Their main competition in the National League, however, was the all-powerful, winning Atlanta Braves team. With the breakup of the leagues into three divisions in 1994, the Astros become serious contenders in the Central division, finishing in second place in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Then, in 1997, the Astros started a three-year winning streak, winning the Central division title all three years. In 1998, they had their best ever record, winning 102 games for a .630 win percentage. Even though the Astros won the Central division titles, they lost the three National League division series to the San Diego Padres in 1998 and to the Atlanta Braves in 1997 and 1999.
Although the Astros fell to fourth place in the National League Central division in 2000, they bounced back in 2001 to win their fourth and last Central division title. They played well for the next two years, finishing with a .519 win percentage and 84-78 record in 2002 and a .537 win percentage and 87-75 record in 2003. However, both seasons resulted in second place positions in the division. Even though the Astros had acquired pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, they could not finish higher than second place in 2004, 2005 and 2006. However, they were able to secure the National League Wild Card spot in both 2004 and 2005. They lost the National League Championship series in 2004 to the St. Louis Cardinals but in 2005, the Astros finally won their first National League pennant, defeating the Atlanta Braves in the National League division series and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship series. They then went on to their first World Series, but they lost to the Chicago White Sox.
In the last several years, the Houston Astros have struggled. They lost both Pettitte and Clemens to free agency and although they have some good pitchers, like Wandy Rodriguez, they have not been able to finish higher than third place in the National League Central division. This year, the Astros were moved to the strong American League West division and the challenge for them to succeed is even greater.