By Phil Hecken
As we continue with the “What’s Your Sig(nature)” series (you can see the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates here), today we take a look back at the Houston Astros. Unlike those two franchises, where the “signature” uniform could have arguably been one of several worn throughout a team’s history, the Astros pose no such possibilities. There is clearly ONE signature uniform worn by the Houston squad throughout their 50+ year tenure in the National (and now American) League.
To quickly review: a “signature” uniform is not necessarily a team’s best, it was not necessarily worn the longest, and the team didn’t necessarily attain its greatest success while wearing it. A signature uniform is, at its root — a uniform worn by a team such that an observer would be able to see the uniform and *instantly* (or at least as instantly as possible) identify that uniform as belonging to that team. For the Astros, that uniform set is the “rainbows” or “tequila sunrise” uniforms.
Throughout their history, the Astros (born the Houston Colt 45s as an expansion team in 1962, renamed the Astros when they moved into the Astrodome in 1965) have had some great, and some awful uniforms. They started out with some beauties, which they wore from 1965 through 1970. I would argue that these are the best uniforms (looks-wise) the team has ever worn. (You can click on most images below to enlarge):
This set, as simple and beautiful as it now seems, was actually groundbreaking in its own way back in 1965 — as it featured the “shooting star” graphic over the wordmark — something no team had really done to that point (this was only on the home unis). The roads were fairly plain — just a block “HOUSTON” across the chest. The prime elements were blue (cap, sleeves and stirrups). Just a beautiful looking uniform — one I like to put in the category of “getting it right the first time.”
They’d change up their uniform slightly in 1971, swapping the blue caps, sleeves and stirrups for orange ones, and the team would go from button-fronts to zipper fronts for this set. They’d wear it for only four years, from 1971 through 1974. If the first set was perfect, these were pretty damn close to perfect.
If the Astros had kept either of these sets, they would still look great today, and they basically became instant classics even back then (despite the fact that they were worn, between them, for a total of 10 years). And either or both would certainly qualify as a “signature” uniform were it not for the completely crazy, ground-breaking uniform that would follow. The “rainbow/tequila sunrise” uniform introduced in 1975. Although never worn, the prototype was even crazier than the uniform the team would wear from 1975 through 1979 (as a home and road) and through 1986 as a home/alternate. The prototype is below, followed by the “tequila sunrise” set. They would wear the t/s set with orange caps until 1982, switching to the blue cap in 1983:
Even during the 1970s, when baseball uniform design, aided by polyester and psychadelics, was going in crazy directions, this uniform was completely groundbreaking. No team had ever worn such a
garish beautiful array of colors, splashed across the chest and back of the jersey; but they didn’t stop there — they combined it with white shoes (they weren’t the first team to wear white shoes — we can thank Charlie Finley’s A’s for that) and a uniform “TV” number worn on the right thigh (they’d keep that element from 1975 through 1979. Never before, and really not since, has there been such a ‘forward’ design in baseball. While the look lasted for almost a full decade (actually more than that, if you count the years it was worn as an alternate), there is probably not a soul alive today who wouldn’t see that uniform and instantly recognize the team as the Astros. There aren’t enough superlatives (or space here) to fully discuss the uniform — but suffice it to say, if there was ever a uniform worn that was a “signature” look for a team, this was it.
As the calendar turned to 1980, the ‘stros would stop wearing the rainbow tops on the road, and eventually transitioned from wearing the colorful jersey altogether following the 1986 season. Their transitional uniform would feature modified rainbow racing stripes on the shoulders (worn from 1980-1993), and the road uniform was barely distinguishable from the home — it was white for the home, and a very light gray for the roads. A thick blue stripe would stretch from the armpit to the waist on the jersey, and be replicated down the pants leg; the sansabelt would be blue/white/blue:
While it never compared to it’s full rainbow-guts cousin, even this set was pretty “modern” — but after 1993, the Astros would go through two more uniform sets for the remainder of their tenure in the National League. Beginning in 1994, and lasting until 1999, the Astros went with a completely new uniform set, remarkable only in its unremarkableness — save for the “open” star-logo’ed cap (which was, and still is, probably the best element to come from the post-rainbow era):
The team returned to black cleats and button-fronts, matching the “retro” feel of teams in the 1990s, but with a new modern uniform and font face/wordmark. Navy blue caps, sleeves and socks, plus the addition of a bit of gold — this was mostly a forgettable uniform. Unfortunately, with the Astrodome set to be retired, the team planned to move into Minute Maid (nee Enron) Park, and with that came an entirely new set (many, in fact) of uniforms — including TWO home whites (a pinstriped and a plain) and several alternate tops. They’d go to “brick” red and black for their primary colors, and while these uniforms weren’t terrible, they certainly weren’t anything spectacular. They’d keep the open star logo for the caps, which was a good look, but the rest of their sets were pretty standard. The team would wear this set from 2000 through 2012, which marked the remainder of their tenure in the National League. In 2013, the team moved to the American league, and began to wear a faux-back set that was meant to span all eras of Houston Astros baseball, but is more evocative of the original “shooting star” uniforms the team first wore in 1965.
The new set, while retro-looking, features a new cap logo that is reminiscent of the “H-Star” of the early days, and includes a headspoon on both home and roads. It basically brings the set full-circle, but nothing will ever replicate the infamous tequila sunrise of the 1970s. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the alternate jersey (once relegated to BP status, but nevertheless worn in games that count) does have the tequila sunrise pattern (the old one simply had the rainbow colors — but the new alternate, introduced this year, actually replicates the original tequila sunrise pattern), but it’s relegated to the side panel. If you’re going to go full retro…you gotta go full rainbow!
And there you have it — has there ever been another team for whom one single uniform completely encapsulated a team’s “look” moreso than the rainbow jersey of the Houston Astros? Not only did it completely define the team, it has spawned an entire generation of copy-cat uniforms worn at many levels (pro and college, plus some high school and amateur teams). One can never look at another ‘tequila sunrise’ uniform and not immediately think Houston Astros. Hell…we’re not even immune here!
A Fun One From Jerry Reuss
UW favorite and former Major League Pitcher Jerry Reuss sent the following to Paul & me yesterday. Check it out!
Wouldn’t happen with today’s baggy uniforms
Paul and Phil,
This link takes you to my Flickr page where I posted a 1988 image of Dave LaPoint giving a hot foot to Coach Dyar Miller. Normally, I don’t post images from the clubhouse but this one was too good not to share.
While processing the image, I thought about the degree of difficulty of the process with today’s baggy uniforms and excessively long pants. It was a different time and place.
Happy Opening Day @ Citi Field!ðŸ‘
Thanks, Jerry — that’s a great picture!
UW’s Friday Flashback
In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN looked at the Royals wearing their gold-trimmed championship uniforms for two games earlier this week, which took a look at the history of World Series champs wearing gold to open the season, and included looks at three teams (1906 NY Giants, 1921 Cleveland Indians and 1927 St. Louis Cardinals) who were a bit ‘bolder’ in proclaiming to the nation they were, indeed, defending World Series champions.
Great read, so be sure to check it out if you didn’t catch it on Friday!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: This isn’t entirely uniform-related, but check out the history of the Tigers’ Opening Day throughout the years (from Jeffrey Sak). … And if that isn’t enough classic Tigers for you, check out these historic Detroit Tigers photos which date back to 1899 (from Alex Dewitt). … New at Comerica Park this year: A brick backstop behind home plate. … Has the “Crying Jordan” meme jumped the shark? It’s now been applied to the Cardinals (h/t James Gilbert). … Oooohhh, check out the cover of this beautiful 1958 Chicago White Sox yearbook (h/t Sports Paper). … I’m not sure if this applies to every pitcher there, but yesterday’s uniforms for the Minnesota Gophers baseball team where chosen by their pitcher (from Andrew). … This new McDonald’s ad in Yankee Stadium leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth, no? … The Kansas City Royals are partnering with KSHB and other local sponsors to outfit youth league baseball players (thanks, Paul). … The new Savannah Bananas mascot is a giant banana with a six pack. Here’s another look. … Oops: Someone forgot to put the Detroit “D” on James McCann’s helmet (via various tweeters). … Did you ever wonder what the Mets will look like if they wear their 1986 throwbacks pajama-style? Wonder no more (h/t Robert Hayes). … Bryce Harper debuted a signature cleat and new walk-up song (from Tommy Turner). … Check out some great stirrups being worn by both High Point Christian and Greensboro Day School (NC), submitted by Jake Keys. … Last evening the Toronto Blue Jays opened their 40th season at home using baseballs stamped with a special logo, which matches their jersey patch (via Mark Coale). … History was made yesterday as it was the first time number 85 has ever been worn by a New York Yankee (from Jorge Cruz via Paul). If you’re wondering, that’s Luis Cessa. … In yesterday’s game against the Yanks, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrara wore last year’s jersey. You can tell by the old style gusset and old maker’s mark (nice spot by Gregg Girard). … Check out this tremendous collection of Opening Day ticket stubs (assembled by Russ Havens). … Alan Baca tweets, “Love the ‘electric green/yellow’ the @Rockies are sporting on gloves, shoes, shirts, etc.”. … Now, here is a cap we can all get behind, right? … We’ve seen the Indians in their new red stirrups with blue stripes, and yesterday we got a look at Danny Salazar sporting blue rups with red stripes (from RFV). … So how does one Arizona Diamondback blog feel about the new uniforms?: “Shut up, they’re fine, they’re uniforms of a team that you’re gonna be watching a lot so you’re gonna get used to it. The rest of Baseball Christendom will too, eventually.” … So, it was pretty cold yesterday in Chicago for the White Sox. …. WHOA — the Braves’ Tyler Flowers tried out a new state-of-the-art mask/helmet last night — It’s got shox (h/t Clint Richardson). … Rockies Season-ticket holders Cheryl and George McLaughlin made their own Trevor Story jerseys before Colorado’s home opener (h/t Dan Pfeifer).
NFL/Football News: The Cleveland Gladiators (an arena football team) have revealed their new uniforms) (from Space Pants). Jim Vilk, would you wear that? … Apparently the newest fan gear from the NFL is tank tops. … “Kind of a cool thing that I have,” writes Peter Fredrickson. “This is a 49ers drink glass my Mom brought back with us from visiting my Aunt in San Leandro back in 1977. I still use use it.” … “I’m sure you’ve already seen this, but I thought it went right along with your crusade against douchebaggery,” says Lindsay Resnick. “However, I’m not sure who’s side to take. They both seem a little douchey.” … Nice: Check out this set of CFL Checkers (and the amazing detail). From B.Q. G. … The Kansas City Chiefs have basically been wearing the same uniforms since coming to the city in 1963. So, are they untouchable? … “The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL wore a Grey Cup Champions crest on their arms in 1971 commemorating their championship from the previous year,” writes Miles Filbert. “The French translation is on top. The only other time I know of when a pro sports team has worn a crest similar to that is the Ottawa Senators in 1922-23.”
College Football News: Hey, what’s this tremendous photo? It’s from an article on spring football practice (and a game!) in the 1930’s at Clemson. …
Speaking of Clemson, the team put up a video reveal of their new unis (from Steven Miller) — well it was there, but fortunately I grabbed some screen shots.
Hockey News: You know how Wayne Gretzky was famous for always tucking in one side of his jersey while playing? Well, that even extends to Thursday night’s Rexall Place farewell ceremony: Gretzky even tucks his jersey when wearing dress pants! (from Liáµ±schitÉ€ ®). … Inconsistent yellows for the Nashville Predators? asks John Muir, who adds, “The ‘Saturday Gold’ helmets look brighter and yellower than the uniforms. Material? Lighting? New glasses?” … Zach seems to think this tweet indicates the Penguins will be wearing their third jerseys for home playoff games. Here’s more on that (from Bryan Justman). … Why is the Wisconsin logo is on the ice at the Frozen Four? Here’s why (thanks, Paul). … “I had the pleasure of attending the final game at Rexall Place this week. Everyone in attendance received this rather nice program,” writes B.Q. G. “The ‘ticket’ inside is a nice metallic reproduction of the banner that was in the rafters, & lowered at the closing ceremony. The certificate is an exact bookend piece to the one given out on opening night, 1974. The actual program is book-bound, on all high gloss paper, with some nice reproductions from opening night included. Thought it was a pretty nice package.” … The Wichita_Thunder wore these last night. Superman on 1 side. Batman on the other (from J. Tasca).
NBA News: Tom O’Grady, the NBA’s former creative director, unearthed a treasure: mock-ups of all the proposed uniforms, court designs, logos, shooting shirts, and warmup jackets — most of which have never been made public — the New Jersey Nets conjured when they nearly changed their name to Swamp Dragons two decades ago. … The Los Angeles Lakers are selling this limited edition Kobe Bryant 18 karat gold fitted cap for $38,248.08. SMH.
Soccer News: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is holding the 2016 Kirk Urso Memorial Match today, and for those who can’t make it to the match, there’s an online auction being held in conjunction (from James Gilbert). … Yesterday, Belgium (in light blue) and England (in white) paired up in a very difficult to discern uni match-up (from TheLupineOne).
Grab Bag: Check out this bizarre roman toga themed kit for UK rugby league team Leigh Centurions (from The Boot Room via Paul). … Why is the U.S. Map on the Masters’ Logo so wrong? (from Paul). … Organizers have unveiled four candidates for the logo of the 2020 Olympics (h/t Adam Vitcavage).
And that’s all for today, kids. Thanks to Jerry Reuss for the great hot foot shot, and everyone who submitted for the ticker by tweet or email. Back tomorrow with what should be a very tasty treat (you’ll see what I mean), but until that time…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Perhaps a state senator from Seattle can go about removing all references to Bill Cosby from my collection of 1980s’ People magazines.”
— Walter Helfer