Fifty-six seasons later, and the Astros are no longer a trivia question.• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gearThey are World Series champions, a 5-1 victory against the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night the finishing touch on a journey more known for
Fifty-six seasons later, and the Astros are no longer a trivia question.
• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear
They are World Series champions, a 5-1 victory against the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night the finishing touch on a journey more known for oddities than success since their inception in the original National League expansion along with the Mets in 1962.
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When Jose Altuve fielded a ground ball off the bat of Corey Seager and threw to first base for the final out in Wednesday's game, the Astros left the Rangers as the only original expansion team yet to claim a World Series title.
The Angels celebrated in 2002, a seven-game World Series success against the Giants. The Mets, who came into existence with the Astros in the expansion of the NL from eight teams to 10 teams in 1962, were World Series champions in '69 and '86. That leaves Texas, which originally joined the American League as the expansion Senators in 1961, along with the Angles. The Rangers have advanced to the World Series twice, but they lost to the Giants in 2010 and the Cardinals in '11.
The Astros have come a long way from the franchise that was originally known as the Houston Colt .45s, had its player wearing boots and cowboy hats on road trips in the early days, and brought indoor stadiums and AstroTurf to the big leagues after the opening of the Astrodome in 1965.
It is the only franchise to have a pitcher be credited with appearing in a game despite never facing a hitter. Larry Yount, who is the older brother of Hall of Fame shortstop Robin Yount, came on in the ninth inning of a Sept. 15, 1971, game. He warmed up and then walked off the mound because of tightness in his elbow in his only Major League game.
Four years later, with a 40-69 career Minor League record and having never returned to the big leagues, Larry retired.
• Astros' title 56 seasons in the making
The Astros' history includes the only player to have at least two at-bats and retire with a 1.000 batting average. John Paciorek, older brother of former big league outfielder Tom Paciorek, suffered what was described as a sciatic nerve injury during his pro debut in 1963. John, however, was still among seven players Houston called up at the end of that year to start in the season finale. He went 3-for-3 and never made it back to the big leagues before retiring in '69.
While their expansion cousin Mets won the World Series in 1969 and '86, the Astros didn't make their postseason debut until '80, when they were eliminated by the Phillies in five games in the NL Championsip Series. Houston advanced to the World Series for the first time in 2005 only to be swept by the Chicago White Sox.
It was 2011 before the Astros suffered the first 100-loss season in franchise history, which turned out to be the start of a three-year stretch of 100-loss seasons, capped off by a franchise-record 111 defeats in '13.
Five years later, though, the Astros are World Series champions, their seven-game World Series victory against the Dodgers coming at the end of a season in which they won 101 games -- one shy of the franchise record set in 1998 -- and then knocked off the Red Sox in four games in the AL Division Series and the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS.
Their quest for credibility on the national stage may well have begun in 2015, when Houston not only claimed an AL Wild Card spot, but Craig Biggio became the first player inducted to the Hall of Fame as an Astro, only to be joined in Cooperstown this past July by his former teammate Jeff Bagwell.
• Houston announces Friday parade for champs
And then, on Wednesday night, the Astros claimed their first World Series championship, with Game 7 ending in a seemingly fitting fashion with a ground ball to Altuve.
Altuve is 18 games shy of appearing in 1,000 career contests with Houston, something that has been done by only 19 of the 846 players who have appeared in a game in franchise history. And the .316 career hitter is the only player in franchise history with at least 3,000 plate appearances to hit .300 or better.
With Altuve's contagious smile, he has become the face of a franchise -- one that after 56 years has become a World Series champion for the first time.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.