Houston voters rejected a referendum yesterday that would have authorized $217 million in bonds to turn the rusting and decaying Houston Astrodome into a convention center. Without the funds to renovate it, the Eighth Wonder of the World is likely headed for demolition.
And with its demolition — whenever that may be — a bit of baseball history will disappear as well. The Astrodome was the first indoor stadium in sports, opening in 1965. Mickey Mantle christened the place with its first home run. Its cavernous dimensions robbed others of many more home runs. Its scoreboard ushered in the jumbo-tron age. Its field bore witness to “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training” and the crowd chanting “Let Them Play!” and an epic playoff series between the Mets and Astros. The place was also home to the first rainout in indoor stadium history.
But history can only buy you so much time. Ask Tiger Stadium. Ask Yankee Stadium. As Old Comiskey Park. Ballparks have a shelf life and, absent either continuous or heroic renovation efforts while the place is still being used for baseball — see Fenway, Dodger Stadium and Wrigley — they will eventually fall into disrepair.
Even the futuristic ones.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.