Monday, March 08, 2010

I miss the Houston Astros

I really do… I wish the Astros were still around.

But alas the Astros are no more and probably never coming back.

Now wait a second Sully, you might be saying. The Houston Astros are still here! Yeah they had a disappointing season last year, but they have a new manager in Brad Mills and play in a winnable division.

Heck, the Astros are celebrating their 45th anniversary! They aren’t going away.

Yes, there is a team called the Houston Astros still playing… but they aren’t THE ASTROS!

You can miss something that hasn’t really gone away.

I miss Harrison Ford. I know he’s still alive and making movies, but I miss the cool “Han Solo/Indiana Jones/John Book/Rick Deckard/Dr. Richard Kimble” star who I haven’t seen in over a decade.

The Astros used to be one of the truly unique teams in baseball… and I would argue that their unique identity is long long gone.

They were an antidote to baseball tradition.

Teams like the Yankees/Red Sox/Cubs and Tigers were teams of the past. They embraced tradition when I was growing up. They played in traditional ballparks, wore the same uniforms that they had in the 1930s and had deep roots in their fan base.

The Astros looked to the future.

Once they changed their name from Colt .45s to the Astros, they turned their back on the wild west and became the outer space team.

Their logo was other worldly.

Their stadium looked like a UFO (or maybe the ship from Lost in Space.)

Even the grass they played on was other worldly.

(It’s not called Reds-turf or Pirate-turf.)

And of course there were the uniforms… the bad ass orange uniforms.

I personally loved them, but even if you hated them, there was no mistaking who was playing.

You would never turn on the game of the week and think “Which team with bright orange uniforms are playing?”

Besides the aesthetics there was a certain style to Astros baseball. They were not a slugging team. Save for the occasional Bob Watson or Glenn Davis, they lacked a masher and survived with line drive hitters like Jose Cruz.

But they were a pitching team.

Growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s who was more intimidating than J. R. Richard or Nolan Ryan on the mound?

They were a futuristic, other worldly, innovative bad ass pitching franchise.

And they were super cool.

And now what the hell are they?

Do they have cool futuristic uniforms anymore?

No, they have generic looking uniforms... with both script AND pinstripes.

Come on, Stros!

Pick either pinstripes or script.

Both pinstripes and cursive script looks silly.

And the Orange motif is gone! Their alternate uniform is RED!

Oh that's original.

They play in the same division as the Reds and Cardinals... way to pick a color that sticks out.

And they have moved out of their old dome into a new stadium which seems designed to create a phony aura of tradition about it.

The quirks are so forced and fraudulent that it is appropriate that the place was originally called Enron Field!

When baseball fields have quirks and irregularities, it should be because the park is adapting to its neighborhood.

The Green Monster is in left field at Fenway because Lansdowne Street is right behind the wall.

The houses on Waveland existed in Chicago before Wrigley Field was built.

Even in the new ballparks, the strange angles and features are there because of geography, whether it be the boats in McCovey Cove or the warehouse beyond Camden Yards.

But the quirks of the former Enron Field are all forced.

Is the slope in center field (AKA Tal's Hill) and the flagpole in play necessary?

Is there any reason for an old fashioned train carrying oranges to come across the left field wall?

Do the left field "Crawford Boxes" jut out for any particular reason?

Not really, and they have turned Houston into a hitter's haven and no longer a place for great pitchers!

And doesn't the free floating Citgo sign over the left field wall seem like an attempt to create a "Fenway" type atmosphere?

I find all of this forced traditionalism by the Astros to be sad. It is as if they are screaming "Look at us! We're an old school team too!"

No you are not! The Astros had an identity and I think it made them a truly unique team.

And I miss that team.

And I don't think I am alone.

This weekend, my wife, parents and other members of our family went to Knott's Berry Farm for my twin sons' 5th birthday. In the parking lot, I saw a guy with a Houston Astros hat. I asked him if he was a fan and he said "Big time."

We talked a little about the 2010 prospects for the team (which we both felt were grim.) At the end of our chat I asked "Do you wish they went back to the orange uniforms?"

He responded "You bet. Those were the REAL Astros uniforms!"

I bet he misses the Astros too.

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  1. Just like the Padres yellow and brown...[sigh]

  2. Great post. I always thought the Astros were a cool team for the many reasons that you point out.

    The dome, the logo, the uniforms all combined to make them very unique. You've done a great job summing up how they have become very ordinary and lost that identity that made them stand out.

  3. Hurray! All this time, I thought I was the only one who liked (and preferred) those old bright neon radiation soaked uni's in Houston. Now they just feel like that friend who's trying very hard to be someone else...which is always very annoying.

  4. Anonymous12:32 PM

    MM park is located at the old union station in Houston. Hence, the train.

  5. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Great post. I am a lifelong Astros fan. I loved Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan and Bill Doran and Kevin Bass. I loved the dome and the unis and especially the caps. I agree that MMP is too quirky for its own good. However, as stated above, there's a reason for the train. Also, Crawford Street isn't too far behind the wall in left, so left field was going to be cramped either way.

    But alas. Long live the Rainbow Guts!

  6. Anon,

    Fine... it is located at the train station. How about a real train going by instead of an old fashion train carrying oranges?

  7. I liked the old Astro uniforms too. They were as 70s as you could get. Alas, I don't know how they would work now.

    The early 70s Astros were a team of softball mashers (Bob Watson, Jimmy Wynn, Doug Rader and Lee May) combined with one good all-around athlete (Cesar Cedeno) and some above average pitching (Don Wilson, Larry Dierker, Ken Forsch, Jerry Reuss). Then they morphed into the pitching studs that we remember from 1978-1981 with JR, Nolan Ryan, Joe Niekro, Don Sutton, and a bunch of punch/judy hitters like Rafael Landestoy, Terry Puhl, Craig Reynolds and Enos Cabell. Little balance, please!!!!

  8. Mad Dog10:31 AM

    If they had a brain in their heads, the Astros organization would have them play in the starburst unis a couple of times a year.

    They'd sell a ton of those. Plus, there'd be far fewer pedestrian fatalities in the city of Houston.

  9. They DO play in the rainbows every now and then, on "throwback" dates.

  10. Anonymous3:19 PM

    Get over it. Times change and the Astros have changed with them. GO ASTROS!!!

  11. Anonymous7:30 PM

    The Stros are my team. A born Houstonian the Astros run through my veins. As an infant I was brought to Colt Stadium. From my youth until manhood I cheered in the 8th Wonder of the World. Sadly I said goodbye to the Dome and move to the glorious Ballpark at Union Station, now known as Minute Maid Park. In the thick and in the thin I stay loyal to the Star. Yet in my mind our team colors are orange never the brick red. I like MMP but I must admit that you are right. We have become the average team image without a unique identity. Sadly some local kids here do not even know the reason why they are called the Astros, but this is the same crowd who do not know who their Senators and Congressman are or who the US fought in WWII.

    John LaGroue
    Edmond, OK

    John LaGroue
    Edmond, OK

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