Last Sunday, the National League All-Star roster was announced and center fielder Michael Bourn was chosen as the Astros representative to Anaheim on July 13. It is the first time since 2003 that the Astros will only send one player to the All-Star Game (hereby known as the ASG) and the 20th time in the franchise's 48 years that it has sent just one player.
What's that, you say? You're not familiar with the history of the Astros in the ASG? What a good excuse for a feature! First of all, you've got a little homework. Go over to Astros Daily and peruse their outstanding list of Houston's All-Stars. They have a breakdown of each player, what he did to get included in the festivities and what he did once he was there. They also have a chronological list of which players were selected in each season, including those that were picked but did not participate.
Now that you've done that, let's blaze through some facts about Houston's ASG history.
The first all-star was Dick Farrell in 1962. He was selected in '64 and '65 as the only player from the Colt .45's and then Astros. Hal Woodeshick was the lone selection in '63.
1966 saw two firsts, as it was the first time two Houston players were nominated for the ASG. Unfortunately, it was also the first time that an Astro didn't play in the game. Joe Morgan was replaced due to injury and Claude Raymond was never put into the game.
In 1967, Jimmy Wynn picked up the first hit by an Astro in ASG history. His pinch-hit single in the ninth inning barely beat Rusty Staub's single in the 11th for the honor. Mike Cuellar also was named to the ASG and it was the only time until 1979 that three or more Houston players made the team.
Joe Morgan scored the first run by an Astro in 1970. He went 1 for 2 in his only ASG at-bats as an Astro.
Only two players have been hit by a pitch in an ASG. Denis Menke accomplished the feat first, getting plunked in 1970 and Craig Biggio was fittingly plunked in his seventh ASG in 1998.
Nolan Ryan was the first Astros pitcher to record an at-bat in an ASG in 1985. He struck out in his only appearance against Toronto's Dave Stieb.
Cesar Cedeno hit the Astros first extra-base hit in an ASG when he homered in 1976. It was his fourth and final ASG appearance. Cedeno holds the record for being the youngest Astros all-star and for most hits. He went 3 for 9 in his four ASGs, with five strikeouts and two runs scored. He is tied with Lance Berkman for most ASG RBIs with three.
Craig Biggio broke Cedeno's record for most strikeouts when he whiffed three times in his final appearance in 1998. He also holds the record for most appearances by an Astro with seven. Berkman is in second with five appearances while Cedeno and Bagwell are third with four appearances apiece. Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner, Mike Scott were each selected three times.
Since moving to the Astrodome, Houston has never had more than two consecutive seasons with just one All-Star. The last tiem that happened was in 2002-03, when Lance Berkman and Billy Wagner were the sole selections, respectively.
More Biggio trivia: he's the only Astro to be named to more than two consecutive All-Star games. He went to five straight from 1994-1998. Not even Jeff Bagwell went to more than two consecutive contests, missing the ASG in 1995 and 1998.
What's left for Bourn to accomplish? No Astro have ever stolen a base in ASG competition. Since NL manager Charlie Manuel plans on using Bourn as his pinch-runner/defensive specialist, the speedster who leads the National League in stolen bases with 26 may get a chance.
If Bourn is held back for defensive purposes and does not enter the game, it will be the first time since 2000 that an Astro didn't participate in the game. Then, Shane Reynolds was selected but did not pitch in the game. Reynolds was shut down a few weeks after the contest on July 11 after developing an apparent injury at the end of June. Before that, it was 1993 when Daryl Kile was selected but did not pitch.
The last time a position player was the Astros lone selection and did not play in the ASG was 1978 when Terry Puhl was picked. So, Bourn has a couple more chances to make history next Tuesday. I won't bore you with more statistics, but I would like to point out Jerome Solomon's latest blog post, where he notes that Bourn will have one of the weakest batting lines of an Astros all-star ever. As I discussed some in this post, Bourn isn't going mainly for his bat. His defense and ability on the basepaths are two of his best assets. In that light, maybe his best position will be on the bench as a spectator. It helps that his former manager in Philadelphia is making the decisions on who gets into the game.
I'd like to ask you a couple parting questions: will you be disappointed if Bourn doesn't play? Do you even watch the ASG or do you just take a break from baseball for a few days? Does it matter to you if an Astro is selected, or would you rather those spots go to the best player regardless of team affiliation?