HOUSTON — When the "Snake" joined the Houston Oilers in 1980, he was past his prime. But 12 years earlier, a young Ken Stabler caught the attention of another Houston team, though not as a quarterback.
Stabler, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was once drafted by the Houston Astros as a left-handed pitcher.
The date was January 27, 1968. It was three days before that year’s pro football draft.
"I will just wait and see how things go in the football draft before deciding what to do," Stabler said at that time, according to the Associated Press.
He was 22, Alabama's star quarterback and was nicknamed Snake for his running ability.
But baseball teams kept calling. Stabler had been drafted twice before, by the New York Yankees and New York Mets, even though he hardly pitched since high school.
In the NFL-AFL draft, Stabler was chosen by the Oakland Raiders in the second round. He, of course, chose football and the rest is history.
How close was he to joining the Astros?
Not very, recalls Tal Smith, who oversaw the Houston Astros' farm system in 1968 as director of player personnel.
"I can't really say we had the great intention of signing him, but you've got nothing to lose," Smith recently told KHOU 11's Jason Bristol. "A scout submitted his name and he was the only other guy on the list so we drafted him."
Stabler was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. He died of colon cancer on July 8, 2015, at the age of 69.
That's the tale behind the Snake once being drafted by the Astros, another strange but true Houston sports story.
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