This evening, the Mets start their last series ever in Houston with the Astros being a member of the National League. Next season, the Astros will begin play as a member of the American League. The last team to switch leagues was the Milwaukee Brewers who moved to the National League from the American in 1998.
Now this does not mean the Mets will never face Houston again. The Mets do have a three game series at Citi Field at the end of August. And unless the truly bizarre takes place and the Mets face Houston sometime during the post season, the next time the Mets play the Astros would be in an interleague series, perhaps two or more years down the road.
It is unclear as to how the schedule will be constructed next season when both leagues will include 15 teams each. The odd number of teams in each league insures two things. One) each of the six MLB divisions will include five teams and two) there will be an interleague series going on every day.
It is likely that the first season of the semi realigned leagues will focus interleague play on regional competition. In other words, the NL East clubs will likely play the AL East clubs, the NL central vs. AL central and the NL west vs. AL west. That means for the first time since 1962, the Mets will not play Houston during the regular season.
There is a long history between these two National League expansion clubs, the Mets and Astros. They both came into the league in 1962. This year, both clubs are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Originally the Astros were known as the Colt 45s and played in a temporary outdoor facility in the oppressive heat and humidity of Houston where the mosquitoes were as big as birds. Across the parking lot, construction was underway of the first domed sports stadium in the world, the Astrodome.
In 1965 when the dome opened, a year later than Shea Stadium and designed by the same architectural group, the Colt 45s officially changed their name to “Astros”, short for Astronauts. That made sense considering that Houston was home to the Johnson Space Center, mission control for the Apollo Program and the moon landings that would begin just four years later. “Houston, the Eagle has landed”.
While the Astros were the better expansion team from the outset, it would be the Mets who would first win a World Series in 1969. The Astros have never won a World Series and until 2005, were never even in one. The Astros finally made it to the Fall Classic in ’05 then were promptly swept by the Chicago White Sox who had not won a World Series since 1917. By contrast, the Mets have competed in four World Series winning two of them.
The greatest of all Mets/Astros rivalries goes back to 1986. That year, both the 1962 expansion teams battled for the NL Pennant in the NLCS, one of the all time classics. The Mets of course won game six and the pennant in unbelievable fashion. The game went 16 innings with the Mets finally prevailing 7-6 with the Astros having the tying and winning runs on base.
Over time however, the Astros have gotten the better part of the Mets during the regular season with a lifetime record of 304-256. In 1969, when the Lovable Losing Mets became the Miracle Mets, the Astros won 10 of 12 contests against the Amazins. Currently the Astros are in rebuild mode while the Mets are making strides to reach prominence once again.
Both the Mets and Astros were intended to be members of the Continental League that was started by Bill Shea after the Dodgers and Giants left New York after the 1957 season. The baseball owners finally gave in to Shea’s threat and allowed for the 1962 National League expansion, a year after the American League expanded putting teams in Washington and Los Angeles.
Moving the Astros to the American League was mandatory for baseball to approve the sale of the team to businessman Jim Crane. Baseball needed a team to move from the 16 team NL to the AL. Since Houston was for sale, it made the most sense to move them. Plus the Astros will be placed into the AL West creating an instant rivalry with the Texas Rangers who they will play 18 times per season. Plus there was no way baseball would have ever considered the Dodgers, another team in search of an owner at the time, to switch leagues.
The move of the Astros where both leagues will have three five team divisions continues the trend of making the Major Leagues one big super league. It started in 1997 when interleague play began and took another step in 2000 when the National League and American League office including their presidents was removed in favor of one MLB Office overseen by the commissioner.
Hopefully, SNY will do its part at looking back at the rivalry that has existed with these two clubs that came into the National League as babies 50 years ago.