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60's synthetic grass
Oct 19, 2018

Artificial Grass Originated in the 60's

Artificial grass/turf gained substantial attention in the 1960's when it was used in the newly constructed Astrodome in Houston, Texas.

David Chaney – the Dean of the North Carolina State University College of Textiles – headed the team of Research Triangle Park researchers who created the first notable artificial turf. That accomplishment led Sports Illustrated to declare Chaney as the man "responsible for indoor major league baseball and millions of welcome mats."

Artificial grass first came to prominence in 1966, when AstroTurf was installed in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The state-of-the-art indoor stadium had attempted to use natural grass during its initial season in 1965, but this failed miserably and the field conditions were grossly inadequate during the second half of the season, with the dead grass painted green. Due to a limited supply of the new artificial grass, only the infield was installed before the Houston Astros' home opener in April 1966, the outfield was installed in early summer during an extended Astros road trip and first used after the All-Star Break in July.

The use of artificial turf and similar surfaces became widespread in the U.S. and Canada in the early 1970s, installed in both indoor and outdoor stadiums used for baseball and American football. Maintaining a grass playing surface indoors, while technically possible, is prohibitively expensive. Teams who chose to play on artificial surfaces outdoors did so because of the reduced maintenance cost, especially in colder climates with urban multi-purpose "cookie cutter" stadiums such as Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium and Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.

Artificial turf was first used in Major League Baseball in the Houston Astrodome in 1966, replacing the grass field used when the stadium opened a year earlier.

Even though the grass was specifically bred for indoor use, the dome's semi-transparent Lucite ceiling panels, which had been painted white to cut down on glare which bothered the players, did not pass enough sunlight to support the grass. For most of the 1965 season, the Astros played on green-painted dirt and dead grass.

The solution was to install a new type of fake grass on the field, ChemGrass, which became known as AstroTurf. Because the supply of AstroTurf was still low, only a limited amount was available for the first home game. There wasn't enough for the entire outfield, but there was enough to cover the traditional grass portion of the infield. The outfield remained painted dirt until after the All-Star Break. The team was sent on an extended road trip before the break, and on 16 July 1966, the installation of the outfield portion of AstroTurf was completed. Groundskeepers dressed as astronauts kept the turf clean with vacuum cleaners between innings.

Artificial grass was later installed in other new "cookie-cutter" stadiums such as Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, and Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. Early AstroTurf baseball fields used the traditional all-dirt path, but in the early 1970s, teams began using the "base cutout" layout on the diamond, with the only dirt being on the pitcher's mound, batter's circle, and in a "sliding box" around each base. With this layout, a painted arc would indicate where the edge of the outfield grass would normally be, to assist fielders in positioning themselves properly.

The biggest difference in play on artificial grass was that the ball bounced higher than on real grass, and also traveled faster, causing infielders to play farther back than they would normally, so that they would have sufficient time to react. The ball also had a truer bounce than on grass, so that on long throws fielders could deliberately bounce the ball in front of the player they were throwing to, with the certainty that it would travel in a straight line and not be deflected to the right or left.


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