The most anticipated Opening Days in Astros history

March 29th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If you’re into round numbers, then you’ll like this. Thursday will mark the 62nd Opening Day in the history of Major League Baseball in Houston, which began in … 1962. The franchise began as the Colt .45s and was rebranded as the Astros prior to moving into the Astrodome in 1965.

The Astros had only three playoff appearances from the franchise’s inception in 1962 through 1996 -- a span of 35 seasons that didn’t include one playoff series victory. In the 26 seasons since, the Astros have made the playoffs 13 times, including six consecutive trips to the ALCS, four AL pennants and two World Series. Simply put, the golden era of Astros baseball marches on.

The Astros will open the 2023 season against the White Sox on Thursday night before a sellout crowd, highlighted by the raising of their second championship banner.

Here are the nine previous most anticipated Opening Days in Astros history (in chronological order):

• 1962 -- The Colt .45s played their first game on April 10, 1962, at makeshift Colt Stadium and beat the Cubs, 11–2. Bob Aspromonte led off the game with a single for the first hit in franchise history and wound up scoring the first run. Bobby Shantz pitched a complete-game five-hitter (and was traded away a month later). “We were just excited about playing, starting with a new team. We were just trying to win a game,” starting center fielder Al Spangler said.

• 1965 -- Most people remember the first game of the Astrodome as an exhibition game against the Yankees on April 9, 1965, with Mickey Mantle hitting the first home run. President Lyndon Johnson was in owner Roy Hofheinz's box for the exhibition game. The first official game at the Eighth Wonder of the World came three days later, when the Astros were blanked by the Phillies, 2-0, in front of 42,652 fans.

• 1980 -- The Astros blew a big lead in the NL West in 1979 and signed future Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan prior to the 1980 season, making it Houston’s most anticipated season in more than a decade. J.R. Richard struck out 13 batters in nine innings and Terry Puhl and Jose Cruz homered in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers to start the year.

• 1987 -- The Astros were predicted to finish close to last in the NL West in 1986 but wound up winning 96 games and giving the Mets all they could handle in the NLCS. The anticipation of the 1987 season was high, so when the Astros beat the Dodgers, 4-3, in the season-opener in the Astrodome, expectations went through the roof. Mike Scott, the 1986 NL Cy Young winner, struck out eight batters in seven innings and Jose Cruz homered in the win.

• 2000 -- After playing 35 seasons at the Astrodome, the Astros moved downtown to Minute Maid Park, which was then known as Enron Field. The Astros played an exhibition against the Yankees on March 30, 2000, but the first official game came a week later when Houston beat the Phillies, 4-1, on April 7. Starter Octavio Dotel threw the first pitch.

• 2004 -- The signing of pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens prior to the 2004 season not only gave the Astros some World Series expectations, but it cast a New York-type spotlight on a Houston franchise that had yet to win a playoff series in its 40-year history. They joined an Astros team that already had major star power in Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent. Speaking of star power, Barry Bonds homered off Roy Oswalt in the Giants' 5-4 win on Opening Day.

• 2006 -- Coming off the franchise’s first World Series appearance, the Astros appeared poised to contend once again in 2006. The season-opener lived up to the hype, with Oswalt striking out eight batters in eight scoreless innings to outduel Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins at Minute Maid Park. The only run of the game came in the seventh inning when Biggio came home on a wild pitch.

• 2013 -- The Astros made their AL debut on March 31, 2013, in a Sunday night game at Minute Maid Park that was aired nationally on ESPN. Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt threw out the first pitch, and Grammy Award-winning singer Lyle Lovett, who is from the Houston area, performed the national anthem before a sellout crowd. The Astros even had new uniforms for the occasion. Veteran Rick Ankiel belted a three-run homer in the sixth inning to break the game open and send the Astros to an 8–2 win over the Rangers.

• 2018 -- For the first time in their history, the Astros began a season as the defending World Series champions. With a large crowd of Astros fans in attendance, George Springer led off the game with a homer at Globe Life Park in Arlington and Jake Marisnick added a homer to back six scoreless innings from Justin Verlander, who was traded to the Astros in August. The Astros beat the Rangers, 4-1.