41 years ago, Astrodome was 'rained out'

Pirates-Astros game called due to flooding in Houston

41 years ago, Astrodome was 'rained out'

HOUSTON -- The soft seats and air-conditioned comfort of the Astrodome made watching baseball a pleasant experience in the summer heat in Houston. That was what Judge Roy Hofheinz envisioned when he brought the Astrodome to life in 1965.

The heat and the mosquitoes no longer were an issue for Houston baseball fans, but not even the Astrodome's roof could keep a game from getting "rained out" on June 15, 1976. An afternoon thunderstorm dropped 10-15 inches of rain on Houston on a day the Astros were scheduled to play the Pirates in the Astrodome.

The players were arriving when the streets around the Astrodome began to fill with water, and soon stadium employees and fans were having difficulty navigating the flooding streets. The Astrodome, which sits 45 feet below sea level, soon became surrounded by water.

When the umpires, who were staying at the nearby Shamrock Hilton, couldn't make their way to the ballpark, the Astrodome had its first and only rainout -- or rain in.

"It was one of those things," former Astros slugger Bob Watson recalled. "It was a typical summer afternoon with a 10-percent chance of rain or something like that. No big deal. It was 90 degrees, and the humidity was at 100 [percent].

"We went in and started taking batting practice, and it got cloudy, and they turned the lights on in the Dome, and then some leaks started popping up. One was around first base, one was around second base and center field and whatever."

The loading dock where Astros players parked their cars began filling up with water, forcing the players to move their vehicles. Water was rushing in through the large ramp in center field. Watson and his teammates couldn't believe it.

"You have to be kidding me!" he said.

The water never made it to the field, but everyone in the building was trapped. So they made the best of it. Concession workers set up tables behind second base, and dinner was served. Players, coaches, stadium workers and fans shared the meals on the field that had been prepared to be served in the suites on the ninth level.

"They put all this good food out there, and both teams and the fans sat and had a good dinner while it was flooding outside," Watson said.

Once the water subsided, the players made their way home. Astros infielder Enos Cabell gave some of his teammates a ride in his pink Cadillac, heading down the Gulf Freeway.

"The water was up to the hood of the car," he said. "We didn't have big trucks at the time."

Watson gave some of his teammates a ride home in his Chevy Blazer, and a few of them stayed overnight at his house in southwest Houston.

"It was a strange day to say the least," Watson said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.