Culture / Sporting Life

Roy Hofheinz’s Family Now Optimistic About Astrodome’s New Future — Honoring the Astros Past and Looking to Tomorrow

A Hall of Fame Day to Remember Includes Legends and Plenty of Nods to The Eighth Wonder of the World

BY // 08.08.21

Some of the best moments of the Astros Hall of Fame induction day come in the way the new Hall of Famers stick up for each other. Roy Oswalt pushes for Astros save leader Billy Wagner to get into Cooperstown. “No doubt. He should be in,” Oswalt argues.

Roy Hofheinz’s grandson Dinn Mann speaks glowingly of Bob Watson, the former general manager and Astros hitting force — the first Black GM to win a World Series. Mann calls Watson “a really wonderful executive who opened the doors for others. Not just in Houston. But even up in big, bad New York.”

This star-studded 2020 class (COVID delayed induction a year) — Oswalt, Wagner, Watson, Hofheinz, Lance Berkman and Cesar Cedeno — is about honoring the Astros’ often underrated past. But Hofheinz’s family is also looking to the future of The Eighth Wonder of the World he envisioned and brought to life. Dinn Mann and his elegant mom Dene Hofheinz Anton have long yearned to see the Astrodome not only saved, but celebrated. Now, they also see real hope of that happening.

Wearing a T-shirt with his distinctive grandfather’s face on it (trademark black glasses and dark suit included) and an open Astros rainbow cardigan, Dinn Mann talks like a man who sees real progress on an issue that’s vexed the city for more than a decade.

“You know I’m really excited about the fact that now it’s not a bunch of pie in the sky,” Mann tells PaperCity in a one-on-one interview. “There’s some really good discussion behind the scenes of how to do this in a way that’s a productive use of the energized nucleus of that entire complex.

“And I believe that the momentum is there with some incredible people who have the same capability that they had back in the day with my grandfather to get the right support and to recognize that everyone should be involved. And to not make it a point of controversy, but to make it a point of excitement.”

The Astrodome has sat vacant, largely empty and completely unused since 2009. But Mann sees a new future coming for the original indoor stadium that changed so much for Houston — and sports in general.

“I’m optimistic about the things I’m getting behind as it relates to that,” he tells me. “So I think people should be encouraged. Even the folks who are just tired of it being the way it has been.”

The Judge and the Legacy of the Astrodome

Roy Hofheinz is the only one of the six new Astros Hall of Famers who never swung a bat or threw a pitch in the Big Leagues. But the extent of his influence is breathtaking. Hofheinz was also every bit as driven as Oswalt, the workhorse ace; Wagner, the best closer in Astros’ history; Cedeno, a dazzling five-tool star; Berkman, a hitting machine; and Watson, who won as a player and an executive.

“He was a person at a very young age who was dealing with a situation where he was helping out his mom after losing his dad,” Dinn Mann says of his grandfather. “His dad was killed in a head-on collision and he was on his day off, delivering laundry for a family that needed a suit.

“(Roy) was 15 years old.”

“Only child,” Dene Hofheinz Anton adds.

“And he goes on to pass the bar at age 19, becomes a legislator at 21,” Dinn continues. “Be this mover and shaker who’s scheduling dances and events and really wanting to be this magnetic individual. He was just so driven.

“And he was so in love with this city.”

Hofheinz’s Astrodome vision thrust Houston onto the international map — and the then space-age stadium set the stage for so much to come for what’s turned into the nation’s fourth largest — and most diverse — city.

Judge Roy Hofheinz contemplates his Astrodome Empire RGD0006-1086-8xScan
Judge Roy Hofheinz contemplates his Astrodome Empire (Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, RGD0006-1086)

On a day in Houston 56 years after the Astrodome first opened, the Astros celebrate their stars of the past while a star of the present (and future) does his thing. After the on-field Hall of Fame induction pregame, the Astros snap a mini three game losing streak, beating the hapless Minnesota Twins 4-0. Yordan Alvarez hits the 50th home run of his young career (184 games long so far), becoming the fastest Astro to ever reach that mark.

In fact, Alvarez does it a whopping 47 games faster than the previous record holder, newly minted Astro Hall of Famer Lance Berkman.

“Yordan is a force,” Astros manager Dusty Baker says. “And he’s only going to get better. That’s what we see.

“The sky’s the limit for him. He has a very high ceiling.”

It’s almost fitting that Alvarez is the one who stars on Hall of Fame day. With stars of yesterday like Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner and Cesar Cedeno in the distinctive orange jackets of this first class (and only three years old) Houston Astros Hall of Fame, it’s easy to imagine a 24-year-old superstar-to-be joining them someday.

The 70-year-old Cedeno — who was signed at age 17 — can relate to such a meteoric rise.

“I’m glad people still remember a little cocky young fellow that played center field for the Houston Astros,” Cedeno laughs.

Astros Hall of Fame
Lance McCullers Jr.,Roy Oswalt, Cesar Cedeno (center in orange jacket) and his sons, Jose Alutvue, Billy Wagner and Ryan Pressly enjoyed a Hall of Fame moment at Minute Maid. (@astros)

But even on this day that’s all about special people in Astros history, the Astrodome keeps coming up. The late Bob Watson’s wife Carol remembers when he first became the club’s GM and they walked across an empty Astrodome parking lot long after the stadium had cleared out one game night. Watson got a mischievous glint in his eye as they progressed.

“He said, ‘You know what? I have the keys to every door in The Eighth Wonder of the World,’ ” Carol Watson says with a smile.

Roy Hofheinz’s visionary wonderland has that type of effect on people. Now, his family sounds more confident than ever that it will get the type of rebirth that honors its immense legacy.

That’s something to celebrate on a Hall of Fame worthy day, too.

For more on Roy Hofheinz and the Astrodome, check out Catherine Anspon’s PaperCity exclusive on the lavish private penthouse that Hofheinz kept, one that is remarkably still largely intact today.

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