I left Pineville, Louisiana on a bus for Houston, Texas about noon on September 19, 1969. The ultimate destination was the Astrodome, to see the visiting Cincinnati Reds play the Houston Astros on a rainy Friday night in Houston.
I arrived in Houston later that afternoon and took a taxi to the Astroworld Hotel, then checked in and waited for time to leave for the Astrodome. The hotel was within walking distance of the Astrodome. Was not prepared for it to be pouring down, on the walk so got drenched on the way to the Astrodome.
Only 12,205 Fans Attended Game
Only 12, 205 fans attended the game, but that was a large crowd, compared to the 3,675, that had shown up the night before, for a game with the San Francisco Giants. I can remember fans opening umbrellas inside the Astrodome at one point, when the Astrodome roof began to leak.
The 2012 Astros have an average attendance of over 22,000 a game, showing how much attendance has risen in the last 43 years.
All four of the umpires that night, Lee Weyer, Ken Burkhart, Harry Wendelstedt and Ed Sudol have passed on, since that game was played 43 years ago.
Three Hall of Famers played in that game in Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan, who was still playing for the Astros at the time of this game. Pete Rose would have been the fourth Hall of Fame, but Bud Selig has made a point of keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame, so he may never have a plaque at Cooperstown.
Harry Walker Astros Manager 1968-1972
Dave Bristol Reds Manager 1966-1969
Harry Walker was in his first full season as manager for the Astros in 1969. He managed the Astros till 1972, but never had a winning record in five seasons.
Dave Bristol was managing the Reds for his fourth season when this game was played. The Reds never finished higher than third with Bristol at the helm, but had taken a seventh place team in 1965 to third place in 1969. However, in 1970 Sparky Anderson took the Reds to the World Series but lost the Orioles four games to one.
Jim Ray started the game for the Astros with Jim Merritt starting for the Reds. Both of them pitched well with Ray allowing two runs in six innings, while Merritt gave up one run in six and-a-third innings.
Jim Bouton pitched two scoreless innings, in relief for the Astros and one of his four strikeouts set a team record for most strikeouts in a season, if I remember correctly.
May Hits Two-Run Homer
It was a 0-0 game going into the top of the sixth inning, with the Reds batting. Lee May hits a two – run monster home run hit far and high into the night sky, which gave the Reds a 2-0 lead.
The Astros came back to score a run on a Doug Rader sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, that scored Jim Wynn making the score 2-1 in favor of the Reds. It was the bottom of the ninth before the Astros sent Keith Lampard to the plate to pinch-hit for Fred Gladding. Lampard hits a walk off home run that wins the game by a 3-2 score. The crowd went crazy and I can’t recall seeing a more dramatic home run, in the ten major league games I have seen.
Lampard’s memories of that night:
Lampard made a splash with three hits in his first four big-league at-bats. In the fourth, on September 19 at the Astrodome, the rookie ended the game with a two-run pinch-hit homer off Cincinnati’s sidearm reliever, Wayne Granger. As one would expect, even more than 40 years later, Keith still clearly recalled his only home run in the majors. “It was what they call today a ‘walk-off.’ I was surprised to be chosen by manager Harry Walker to pinch hit. I remember watching Rose and Tolan running towards the right field wall after hitting the second pitch off Granger in the Dome. Great thrill — almost ran over Jimmy Wynn rounding the bases.” It had to be a real shot, since the “Eighth Wonder of the World” had 390-foot power alleys and 16-foot fences then.
Lampard had hit 21 home runs and had driven in 94 runs for Oklahoma City in 1969, before being called up to the majors. He was one of 42 players to be born in the United Kingdom and one of fifteen players to hit a home run in the majors. Only five players from the United Kingdom have played in majors since 1970, when he ended his major league career.
Another interesting note about Lampard is that he was drafted, in the 2nd round of the first amateur draft. He was the 22nd overall pick, while Johnny Bench was the 36th overall pick.
It was an exciting night for Keith Lampard and it was an exciting night for me, having never witnessed a walk off homer before.