There has been a strange uproar over the Astros' possible move to the American League. There's been whining over start times, bitching about Bud Selig and much, much discussion about the designated hitter not being real baseball. And while people are upset, it needs to be noted that the Astros aren't the first such team to switch leagues or conferences.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, the fifth-oldest team in NFL history, switched to the newly formed AFC to help ease the merger with the AFL and to provide for an even number of teams in each conference. After the Steelers agreed to switch, the Colts and Browns also agreed. When the Texans joined the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks moved from the AFC to the NFC. The Houston Rockets moved from the NBA's Eastern Conference to the Western Conference when the Dallas Mavericks joined the NBA. And yes, the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the National League.
Now since I'm not actually convinced that everybody actually understands the history of the designated hitter, or of the Houston Astros pre-Minute Maid Park, I've devised a little quiz. Have fun.
1. Many people think of the DH as a modern-day creation. But the concept actually dates back to 1906 and was the idea of what Hall-of-Fame manager and owner? And which league actually considered adopting it in 1929?
2. For you traditionalist types, answer this: What was the height of the mound in 1968? What is it now? And why did they change it?
3. How many non-DH leagues are there in amateur and professional (non-independent league) baseball?
4. After what season were the Astros sold to William Collins? Where was he going to move the team? Who was the then Astros owner? And what commissioner vetoed the move, pending a Houston referendum on a new stadium?
5. The Colt-45s/Astros were not Houston's original major league franchise. In 1959, Houston was announced as one of the founding members of the Continental League, which was going to be the third major league. Who was the owner of this franchise, and who was the league president?
6. Who is the only pitcher to toss multiple no-hitters while in an Astros uniform?
7. Who is the only person to manage a team to a World Series win to have played for the Astros?
8. What former Astro did Nolan Ryan nail for his 3,000th strikeout? And who was the victim of Ryan's record-setting 3,509th strikeout?
9. The top four starters of the Astros' 1986 NL West winning rotation were acquired through either free agency or by trade. Name the four starters, and tell how they were acquired.
10. In 1992, despite the recommendations of the Astros scouting staff, the Astros drafted Phil Nevin with the number one pick. What Hall-of-Famer-to-be did the scouting staff recommend?
11. This Houston Astro player was the first player to hit for the cycle in both leagues. He's also known for scoring MLB's one-millionth run. Plus, name the Astro who knocked him in for the one-millionth run.
12. Who hit the first regular-season home run in the Astrodome?
13. Who pitched the last no-hitter at the Astrodome?
14. This former Astros pitcher is the last non-position player to start as Designated Hitter.
15. The Astros played a key role in what scandalous nonfiction account of life in major league baseball?
16. Name the five Astros to have homered into the upper-deck seats of the Astrodome?
17. There is a huge uproar over the Astros having to play late night games on the West Coast should they move to the AL West. How many games did the Philadelphia Phillies play in the Mountain Time Zone and Pacific time zone this past season? How many did the Astros play in the Mountain and Pacific time zones this season? How many did they play in 1980?
18. Who taught Mike Scott to throw the split-finger fastball?
19. Who did the Astros sign as a free agent to replace Nolan Ryan in the starting rotation in 1989?
20. Who is the Astros' all-time leader in stolen bases?
ANSWERS after the jump: 1 a) Connie Mack b) National League
2 a) 15 inches b) 10 inches c) a move to get more offense into the game.
3. Two, the National League and the Central League in Japan. The use of the DH is optional in AA and AAA minor league baseball when two NL teams are playing each other.
4. a) 1995 b) Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia c) Drayton McLane d) Bud Selig
5. a) Craig F. Cullinan Jr. b) Branch Rickey. None of the eight teams of the Continental League ever played an actual game, but the league was used as leverage to get the American and National Leagues to expand. The eight cities of the league were New York, Houston, Denver, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Toronto, Buffalo, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Only Buffalo has yet to get a MLB team.
6. Don Wilson
7. Bruce Bochy
8. a) Cesar Geronimo b) Brad Mills
9. a) Nolan Ryan - signed as a free agent from the California Angels following the 1979 season b) Mike Scott - acquired from the New York Mets for Danny Heep c) Jim Deshaies -- acquired from the New York Yankees for Joe Niekro d) Bob Knepper -- acquired from the San Francisco Giants for Enos Cabell
10. Derek Jeter
11. Bob Watson hit for the cycle with the Astros, then later did it for the Boston Red Sox. He scored the one-millionth run against the San Francisco Giants in 1975, just a split-second in front of Cincinnati's Dave Concepcion. Watson scored on Milt May's three-run home run.
12. Richie Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies
13. Darryl Kile, against the New York Mets in 1993.
14. Billy Martin started pitcher Rick Rhoden as his DH, batting seventh, for a Yankees game in 1988 pitched by John Candeleria. Rhoden went 0-1 with one RBI. Rhoden was 2-6 with a 4.28 ERA as a member of the 1989 Astros starting rotation.
15. Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Bouton was traded from the Seattle Pilots to the Astros toward the end of the 1969 season that was chronicled by Bouton.
16. Jimmy Wynn, Doug Rader, Eric Anthony, Mike Simms and Carl Everett
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17. a) 20 b) 21 c) 28
18. Roger Craig
19. Jim Clancy
20. Cesar Cedeno