When you tell the history of any sport played on a field, it’s pretty hard not to mention AstroTurf. AstroTurf has been the stage on which some of the greatest moments in sports history have played out. Over the past fifty plus years, there have been some incredible moments in sports and great innovations in synthetic turf as well. AstroTurf has witnessed many of those moments and led the way in most of the innovations. Everyone has great sport memories that they love to share and we are no different. We have compiled a list of a few that that are very special to us and we hope it brings back fond memories to you also.
When the Houston Astros took the field against the Los Angeles Dodgers on the new synthetic field in the Astrodome on April 8th 1966, a new era of playing surfaces had begun and AstroTurf became the first name in turf. The popularity of this new playing surface quickly caught the attention of almost every athletic facility manager in the country and artificial turf soon became a mainstay in sports.
The Rise of an Iconic Brand
The first outdoor installation of AstroTurf was at Indiana State’s Memorial Stadium. From there, the popularity of this new alternative to natural grass spread quickly through Major League Baseball, the NFL and College Football. With so many installations spreading throughout the country, AstroTurf was bound to be at the center of sports history. The iconic playing surface has witnessed championships, record breaking achievements, bowl games, Olympic Games, playoff games and even concerts. It is a privilege to witness even one historic sporting event, but AstroTurf has been center stage for thousands of them. There are too many to list but we have put together a few highlights of some moments AstroTurf has taken part.
In 1969, the Chicago White Sox installed AstroTurf at Comiskey Park making it the first outdoor MLB stadium to do so. Shortly thereafter, AstroTurf spread throughout the league and across all fields of sports. When the 1970 World Series opened at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, the Reds and Orioles were there and so was AstroTurf. Many more high stakes MLB games on our turf would follow.
The 1970s and 80s saw the rise of the innovative playing surface and in 1980 the Royals and Cardinals met in the World Series and every one of their games was played on AstroTurf. Following that, the 1985, 1987 and 1993 World Series were all played entirely on AstroTurf. We also made appearances in the 1980, 1985, and 1991 series.
When baseball greats came together to play in the MLB All-Star game, they did so on AstroTurf in 1968, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1982, 1986, 1989 and 1996. During this era, AstroTurf was the green canvas on which so much of baseball history was painted.
AstroTurf has seen much team success but we also want to recognize great individual achievements as well, such as Nolan Ryan’s first and fifth no-hitter and you guessed it, we were there when it happened in Kansas City and in Houston. We were also at Riverfront in 1974 when Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth with 714 homeruns. In 1985, we were there as Pete Rose became the all-time hits leader in professional baseball as he stroked one to the AstroTurf in left field.
AstroTurf Becomes Part of Football History
Literally, hundreds of thousands of plays were made in MLB on AstroTurf and in the NFL it was no different. Such teams as the Cardinals, Bears, Bengals, 49ers, Eagles, and of course the Oilers were early adapters to artificial turf and popular venues such as the Silverdome and Superdome called on AstroTurf to provide their surface too.
AstroTurf was there for the biggest event in all of sports, the Super Bowl, multiple times. We were at Rice Stadium in Houston in 1974 as the Dolphins defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. When the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, the world was watching and AstroTurf was there. In 1981 the Raiders defeated the Eagles to win Super Bowl XV and right there under the feet of the champions was AstroTurf. We followed that by being the field of choice for the Super Bowl in 1986, 1990, 1992, 1997 and 2002.
We were there for the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” and also in 1985 as probably the greatest defense in NFL history ran roughshod over the rest of the league on the way to a Chicago Bears world championship. We were there for one of the greatest running back performances in NFL history as Earl Campbell ran wild on Monday Night Football to the tune of 199 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Our NFL history is rich with the Pro Bowl playing on our turf in 1974 and 1976 but more recently, NFL superstars came together to play on a premium AstroTurf system at the 2017 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
In an age of multipurpose stadiums, AstroTurf was a Godsend to groundskeepers working fruitlessly trying to keep up a natural grass field. With the development of artificial turf, professional baseball could be played on the turf on Saturday and then it could be converted for the NFL to roll in on Sunday. Superstars from two major sports were achieving greatness on our fields during the same weekend and we were there to see it all happen.
But the pros weren’t the only ones performing on AstroTurf. It was for everyone. Colleges far and wide were seeing the benefits of AstroTurf and installations were going in from the University of Washington to West Virginia University – from the University of Alabama to the University of Nebraska and many more in between. And on one of those fields, Andre Ware was setting records for the most passing yards in a quarter with 340 and most passing yards in a half with 517 yards. On one of those fields, Archie Griffin was punishing defenses as he earned two Heisman trophies. On our turf we viewed what many consider the greatest college game of all time in 1971 when Nebraska defeated Oklahoma 35-31 on their way to another title. It was an AstroTurf goal line that Penn State couldn’t cross against Alabama in 1979 in what was one of the greatest goal line stands in history to decide the National Championship. As we said before, too many great plays and players to mention. Too many Heisman trophy winners, too many game winning catches and too many goal line stands than we can name. Not to brag too much, but wouldn’t you want to tell your friends about seeing such things? We were there.
College bowl games, the Olympics, international tournaments, concerts, championship games and pretty much anything played on a field that you can name, and we have played a part. From that first pitch in the Astrodome on April 8th, 1966 to the largest crowd ever to see a college football game in person, The Battle at Bristol, AstroTurf was there and will continue to be there in the future to witness great moments in sports.
The Best is Yet to Come
We have an amazing past to look back on and we enjoy telling you about it but the fact is, great moments are happening every day on AstroTurf at every level, and in multiple sports. Today, on an AstroTurf field at the LA City Parks, some kid is imitating his favorite professional soccer player and dominating the game. At some High School a running back is setting his sights on Journey Brown’s rushing record of 722 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game that he achieved on our field in 2015. On some Division I Baseball AstroTurf diamond a college player is hitting for the cycle. On some Division I, II or III Field Hockey AstroTurf field, a team is driving towards an NCAA championship.
We are still in the middle of writing our story and we look forward to adding many more chapters while providing great turf for great moments that occur on it. Truth is, our history is updated daily and will continue to be as long as athletes are striving for greatness and we can provide them with a premium playing surface to help them achieve it.
Watching history being made is great, but being at the center of it is amazing.
By: Gary Jones