On March 21, 1966, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Houston Astros in the first ever MLB game played on an artificial surface. Created by Monsanto, the product was initially named “ChemGrass,” but rebranded to AstroTurf upon being installed at the Astrodome.
A state-of-the-art project when it opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium, the building featured “Lucite” skylights that allowed sunlight to enter and help grow the natural grass playing field.
However, outfielders struggled to cope with the translucent panels during afternoon games as they were blinded by the sunlight. Thirty percent of the panels were coated with paint to address the problem, but that created another issue as the natural grass began dying.
So the AstroTurf was installed after the 1965 season, but when the Dodgers and Astros played the following March, only the infield and and foul line areas featured the new surface due to a shortage in stock. The entire AstroDome playing field was covered in turf by July 1966.
During its history, the AstroTurf was replaced on several occasions before the Astros moved to a grass surface at Enron Field in 2000 — of course it now is known as Minute Maid Park.
The original turf at the Astrodome was first replaced in 1978 and used as a giveaway item for fans. It was upgraded again in 1988 and eventually made available for purchase in 2013.
Coincidentally, the Dodgers also were involved in the first and last regular-season games played on AstroTurf. They earned a 3-2 victory over the Astros on April 12, 1966, then defeated them 9-4 on Oct. 3, 1999.
The Tampa Bay Rays (Tropicana Field), Texas Rangers (Globe Life Field) and Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre) are the only MLB teams that currently play in a stadium with a turf field. The Arizona Diamondbacks are among the teams that utilize a synthetic grass blend.
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