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Legendary Astrodome turns 50 years old

HOUSTON -- The Astrodome, the longtime home of the Astros known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," turned 50 years old Thursday, and the team celebrated the occasion at Minute Maid Park, with first-pitch honors handled by Dene Hofheinz -- the daughter of Astrodome visionary Judge Roy Hofheinz -- and former pitcher Larry Dierker.

The Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965, when a sellout crowed watched the Astros beat the Yankees, 2-1, in an exhibition game. The Astros were known as the Colt .45s in their first three seasons (1962-64), and they played at makeshift Colt Stadium, which was in the Astrodome parking lot.

Video: Hofheinz discusses the anniversary of the Astrodome

Judge Hofheinz and R.E. Bob Smith spearheaded the effort to bring Major League Baseball to Houston, and they were the franchise's first ownership tandem.

On April 17 and 18, the Astros will have a more extensive celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 season. There will be two giveaways: a Jimmy Wynn bobblehead (April 17) and a replica Astrodome (April 18). Additionally, both the Astros and the visiting Angels will wear their respective 1965 uniforms for the April 18 game.

Astrodome 50th anniversary

The Astrodome featured baseball played under a roof in air-conditioned comfort and cushioned seats, instead of the standard hard slabs of wood found in most stadiums at the time. Distinguished attendees for that first game included President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas native, and Texas Gov. John Connally, who threw out the first pitch. An estimated 250 writers from across the nation covered the first game.

Another of the Astrodome's signature features was its big scoreboard, which displayed cowboys shooting bullets that ricocheted across the screen, and a giant steer's head at each end with a Texas and U.S. flag on its horns.

The game itself was a pitchers' duel. Astros starter Dick "Turk" Farrell hurled the game's first pitch, and Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, who led off the game, recorded the Dome's first hit (single) and home run. Astros player-coach Nellie Fox won the game with a walk-off single in the 12th inning.

Video: NYY@HOU: Astros win in first Astrodome game

The first regular-season game at the Astrodome took place on April 12, 1965, when the Phillies beat the Astros, 2-0.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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