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Super 8:  Kentucky/Houston
Written June 19, 2012


This is part of a series of articles based on images from my 1970s home movies.  For more details, click here.

In late August of 1972, my parents and I saddled up the Oldsmobile in Ohio and hit the highways for a trip to the southwest.  I took movies at two points along the way:  the rural roads of central Kentucky, and an indoor baseball stadium in Texas.

Kentucky’s tobacco fields were in bloom.  That led my father to reminisce about his boyhood days in that state, where one of his chores had involved taking the leaves into the barn to dry.

But on this day, I talked him into turning off the Bluegrass Parkway and driving down some of the back roads.  You see, in two weeks Terry Rockhold and I were going to return to this region and compete in the Bluegrass National Rally.  That story is here.

I wanted to take some footage home to show Terry the types of terrain over which he would be driving.

Not all the roads were as smoothly paved as those on which we competed back in Ohio.

And as the navigator, I wanted to become familiar with some of the landmarks that would be indicating where to turn.

There weren’t many signs on these back roads.  Our registration materials indicated we would need to be on the lookout for other objects, including “iron bridges.”

Terry and I weren’t familiar with that term, but my father said he knew what an iron bridge was.

And he found one, too.

A few days later and a thousand miles away, we were in Houston, Texas.  This city was the home of the first indoor baseball stadium, the seven-year-old Astrodome.

“It was an amazing structure at its time,” Mark Miller, general manager of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, told the Associated Press recently.  “People were coming from all over the world to see the Astrodome, it was that significant.  People like Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, John Wayne. ...  It seems commonplace now, but for its time, being the first, it was just incredible.”

We wanted to see it too.  My parents and I bought tickets for the Philadelphia Phillies at Houston Astros game on Tuesday, August 29, 1972. 

We got a room at the Holiday Inn directly across the road.

The motel’s marquee welcomed “Leo.”  The Astros, trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 8½ games, had hired veteran Leo Durocher as their new manager a couple of days before.

Despite the sign’s odd urging to “breeze ’em,” the Astros were not going to catch the Big Red Machine in the remaining five weeks of the season.

While waiting for that night’s game, we took a van tour of the neighborhood, including houses like this.

Our driver took us to see some shops he said catered to the “carriage trade” — upper-class customers who buy high-priced goods and get special treatment.

My parents did some window shopping.

The pastries on display at Andre’s included a giant braided pretzel.

Could we have some mustard over here?

Back at the Holiday Inn, that's yours truly standing in the parking lot.

We didn’t dare walk across the busy highway to the stadium.  The hotel folks recommended we wait for a shuttle bus.

Since the visiting team in that night's game was from Philadelphia and we were obviously northerners, the hotel folks asked whether we were Phillies fans.  No, we confessed, we were from Ohio and we were actually fans of the Reds, which happened to be the team the Astros were chasing in the standings.

The double-deck bus arrived from the nearby Astroworld amusement park.

It was a short ride to the stadium.

I followed my parents through the gate.

And there we were, inside the dimly-lit giant room that Disney had called the world's eighth wonder.

Pierced by skylights, the dome soared above us.

The “gondola” in the center was supposedly high enough to avoid being hit by fly balls.

Down below, beside the batting cage, Durocher was the center of attention in his #2 uniform.

The new manager (far right) had told the press he was fascinated by the potential talent of one of the young players on his new team, outfielder Cesar Cedeno (near right), who he said was as great as was Willie Mays at the same stage in his career.

Bucky Brandon was the starting pitcher for the visiting Phillies.  He took a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning.

But then “the next Willie Mays” hit a home run!

The Astros led 1-0, and the hometown crowd celebrated.

The scoreboard’s celebration featured an animated cowboy.  You see, indoor fireworks hadn’t been invented yet.

The rootin’ tootin’ cowboy fired lots of ricocheting bullets from his pistols.  We recalled a decade earlier, when the Astros had been called the “Colt .45s” for their first three seasons.

And then our cowboy roped a fire-breathing steer while the scoreboard showed us Cedeno’s face in low resolution.

In the next inning, the Phils tied the game on Oscar Gamble’s pinch-hit single.  But the Astros won it on Lee May’s homer to lead off the bottom of the 9th.  Time of game:  2 hours 14 minutes.

The scoreboard sent us 8,704 paying customers home with an animation that appeared to depict a coyote howling at the moon.  Good night!



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