Houston 101

Astros Hall of Fame Highlights Our Shared History

The Astros Hall of Fame will be a reminder that Houston indeed has quite a history of its own.
The Astros Hall of Fame will be a reminder that Houston indeed has quite a history of its own. Photo by Marco Torres
The Astros announced last week their intention to build a team Hall of Fame inside Minute Maid Park. When completed, it will be a long overdue nod to the tremendous history of Houston's professional baseball franchise. More generally, it's another acknowledgement of the long and fascinating history of the city that has supported them.

Houston has a storied history. We have, after all, been around quite a long time. From the moment the Allen Brothers swindled all those poor fools into buying marshland instead of beautiful green, lush mountains alongside flowing crystal clear rivers rivers (well, it is lush and there is some water, so...), we've been adding to that collective history, but not always holding onto it.

Houston remains a place with no real civic protection of historical structures. We are far more likely to tear down a cool old building and replace it with a gleaming new one than put a plaque on it and restore it to its former glory. We might put a plaque on the grounds outside the new building though, if we're lucky.

Much of that inventive and progressive spirit has propelled us forward. It pushed us to create the artificial heart and NASA and the ship channel. In many ways, we are who we are because of that desire to tear down the old. And, in some cases, the old wasn't that great anyway.

But that short memory tends to lead to a certain level of forgetfulness, like baseball in Houston has been a thing since the late 1800s. Read that again. The Houston Buffaloes were around back before the turn of the last century. The Astros didn't come around until the 1960s, first as the Colt .45s and then the 'Stros, but even that is now well over 50 years ago.

It feels like we think of ourselves as a young sports town. We compare ourselves to New York or Chicago or Boston, but those aren't really fair comparisons. First, teams like the Rockets and Astros may have surpassed the half century mark (we won't go deep into football and bring up the Oilers right now) but they don't compare to those around since the nineteen-teens. And, second, even though we've been around a while, we haven't been all that good most of the time and that certainly makes it feel a lot longer than it has been.

Over the last 20 years or so, there has been a palpable change in the attitude of Houstonians. Some of that is owed to the energy of millennials, who seem to have embraced their city like no generation before them. We also have reached a point 30 years removed from the oil bust that forced us to reevaluate the type of city we wanted to be: a blue-collar refinery town or a big business mecca. Change takes time and Houston seems to have finally grown into its own.

Sure, an Astros Hall of Fame may just be an extension of that overall excitement, nevermind a reminder on the heels of the first championship in Houston baseball history that we have arrived in sports in the same way we seem to have arrived as a culinary destination, place to live and hip city to visit. But, it's yet another step toward anchoring ourselves to our continually growing roots as a community.

If you have never gone, visit the Julia Ideson Building across from the downtown library. Go into the Texas room and dig up some Houston history. If you want to be blown away, ask to visit the Houston photo archive, downstairs, with its millions of historical photos from our shared past. These are things worth remembering. We didn't just suddenly become cool. We've always been cool. We just didn't know it and the Astros Hall of Fame is yet another memorial to the fact that we didn't need to arrive because we've always been here.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke