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Grass Substitute Called AstoTurf Made Its First Appearance at Astrodome in 1966

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, on April 18, 1966, baseball history took a significant turn as the Astros faced off against the Dodgers in their home opener at the Astrodome in Houston. This game marked the first Major League contest played on artificial turf, which initially covered only the infield. Despite the Dodgers emerging victorious with a 6-3 win, this groundbreaking event paved the way for a revolution in ballpark surfaces. Over the next half-century, artificial turf experienced both a rise and a fall in popularity within Major League Baseball. Tug McGraw of the Mets, whose biography is titled “Screwball,” was asked if he preferred grass or AstroTurf: “I don’t know, I’ve never smoked AstroTurf.”

The Astrodome’s adoption of artificial turf, initially known as “ChemGrass” before being rebranded as AstroTurf, set the stage for a trend that quickly spread to other ballparks. Chicago’s Comiskey Park followed suit in 1969, becoming the first American League stadium to partially transition to turf. However, this experiment was short-lived, with the White Sox reverting to natural grass after the 1975 season.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, artificial-turf fields proliferated across MLB, with stadiums in cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Kansas City embracing the synthetic surface. These multipurpose stadiums facilitated a style of play characterized by speed, defense, and a small-ball approach. However, the introduction of artificial turf also brought challenges, including uncomfortable playing conditions during hot weather.

Despite its initial popularity, the era of artificial turf gradually waned, with teams opting to return to natural grass surfaces. By 1990, only two MLB stadiums, Tropicana Field and Toronto’s Rogers Centre, continued to use artificial turf. However, even these venues eventually transitioned to natural grass, signaling the near-extinction of turf fields in professional baseball.

Despite its decline, artificial turf remains a significant part of baseball history, hosting numerous memorable moments over the years. From milestone hits to unforgettable games, the synthetic surface witnessed its fair share of iconic events. While its legacy lives on in the annals of baseball history, the ban on artificial turf in New York State underscores a broader shift towards sustainability and environmental consciousness in sports.


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One thought on “Grass Substitute Called AstoTurf Made Its First Appearance at Astrodome in 1966

  1. The reason it was invented was because the original domed stadium had a grass field and a glass ceiling. The sun and sun glare were affecting the players so they decided to paint the dome. Thus, the natural grass started to die.

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