As hard as it is to believe, it’s now been 35 years since the classicBilly Jean King/Bobby Riggs
matchup in the Astrodome. So, in honor of that, I thought I would take a look at ten other great sporting events that also took place inside the Eighth Wonder of the World.
10. September 26, 1981: With the Houston Astros battling for a playoff spot, Nolan Ryan made major league baseball history by pitching his fifth no-hitter, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 on national television. Ryan, with a career seven no-hitters, is still the only man in baseball history to throw more than four.
9. March 27, 1971: The Astrodome hosted the Final Four, which saw UCLA defeat Villanova. This was the first NCAA Final Four played under a dome, and playing under a dome has now become a rather common occurrence.
8. June 3 and June 4, 1989: The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in two epic extra-inning contests. The Astros won 5-4 on Saturday, June 3, winning the game in the 22nd inning, then, just hours later, played a 13-inning Sunday day game, defeating the Dodgers 7-6.
: This isn’t really a sporting event, but…after losing aheartbreaking game
for the AFC Championship earlier in the day to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Oilers returned to Houston and were greeted by thousands upon thousands of Houstonians crammed into the Astrodome to welcome back the team. And while I can’t find the link to the correct quote, I firmly recall Oilers coach Bum Phillips pledging to kick that son-of-a-bitch door that was Pittsburgh down the next season. They didn’t, however.
6. October 21, 1989: The University of Houston Cougars defeated the SMU Mustangs 95-21. The Cougars were coached by Jack Pardee who was running the run-and-shoot offense. Andre Ware was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. SMU was coming off a probation that had made it not able to play college football for an entire season.
5. October 10-12, 1980: The Houston Astros made the playoffs for the first time in their history, and they were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros won Game Three 1-0 on October 10 with Rafael Landestoy scoring a Denny Walling sac fly in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Astros lost Game Four 5-3 in ten innings on October 11, helped to the loss in part by a controversial non-call on what should have been a triple play; then, holding a 5-2 lead going into the eighth inning of Game Five on October 12, the Astros fell apart, losing 8-7 in 10 innings, allowing the Phillies to advance to the World Series.
4. October 15, 1986: Game Six of the 1986 NLCS may be one of the greatest games in baseball history. Needing the win to get to Game Seven and ace Mike Scott, Bob Knepper shut out the New York Mets for eight innings, taking a 3-0 lead into the ninth. He gave up two runs, and closer Dave Smith came in with one out to try to end it. He failed, allowing the Mets to tie the game before ending the inning. The Mets scored once in the 14th, but the Astros tied it back up on a dramatic Billy Hatcher home run. Then the Mets went up 7-4 in the 16th inning, yet the Astros refused to die, scoring twice and putting the winning runs on base before Kevin Bass struck out to end the game and the series.
3. September 25, 1986: What better way to clinch a division title than by tossing a no-hitter? Which is what Mike Scott did, pitching a magnificent game against the San Francisco Giants to clinch the NL West title and insure the Astros a spot in the 1986 playoffs.
2. November 20, 1978: It’s acknowledged as one of the greatest football games in Monday Night Football history, with the Miami Dolphins visiting the Astrodome and the Houston Oilers. The Oilers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, then held on to defeat the Dolphins 35-30. Earl Campbell, in his first prime time appearance, rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns.
1. January 20, 1968: It’s what is known as The Game of the Century. The University of Houston Cougars took on NCAA basketball behemoth UCLA Bruins in the Astrodome. This was the first major college basketball game played inside a dome. It featured two of the greatest basketball coaches (Guy V. Lewis and John Wooden) and basketball players (Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes) ever and it made a college basketball a major TV sport. Oh, and the Cougars won the game, all the much better.
-- John Royal