This Houston franchise was born in the year 1962 and belonged to the National League, in 2013 they are making the switch to the American League. They began as the Colt .45s, though after a few years changed the team name to the Astros when they moved from Colt Stadium to the Houston Astrodome. During the 1970’s they were mostly known for their flashy, trendy, colorful multi-striped uniforms and in the 1980’s became a team to reckon with. In 2005 they were the first team from Texas to be represented in the Fall Classic, though fell short against the Chicago White Sox.
In the Fall of 2013 Baseball Classics will welcome the Houston Colt .45s-Astros to the All-Time Greats set. There are many great and exciting players to choose from; here’s who makes the cut for the top 15 position players and 9 pitchers that will be added and their impact on the franchise.
J. R. Richard – He is arguably the best pitcher to represent this Baseball Classics All-Time Greats team. J.R. Richards through with smoke and fire racking up strikeouts on par with the best of any pitcher during his time.
All-Star | ERA 3.15 | Wins/Losses 107/71 | Strikeouts 1493
Larry Dierker – His rookie season was on the Houston Colt .45s and played for the franchise through 1976. Nothing flashy, yet can count on his consistency day in and out. Low hits, walks, and home runs allowed, dependable throughout most of his long career.
All-Star | ERA 3.31 | Wins/Losses139/123 | WHIP 1.217
Ken Forsch – Outstanding control pitcher, versatile starter or reliever with quality starts or relief appearances. For being a control pitcher in 1 season he hit almost as many batters as free throwing JR Richards did throughout his career (11/17)!
All-Star | ERA 3.37 | Wins/Losses/Saves 114/113/51 | HR/9 .7
Mike Scott – 1986 Cy Young award winner is another outstanding starting pitcher on the Houston staff. Scott was tough on the mound, added a 20 game win season in 1989 when he almost notched his 2nd Cy Young trophy.
All-Star/Cy Young | ERA 3.54 | Wins/Losses124/108 | WHIP 1.201
Joe Niekro – A 22 year career, half of it spent as a member of the Astros. He was the first pitcher to post back-to-back 20 game winning seasons for the Astros in 1979 and 1980. Added a knuckleball to his arsenal along with a good mix of other pitches.
All-Star | ERA 3.59 | Wins/Losses 221/204 | Faced over 15,000 batters in his career
Billy Wagner – A 16 season career, most of them spent starring with the Astros as their stopper. Wagner was tough to get a hit off of and averaged more than 1 strikeout per 9 innings. He’s the all-time saves leader for the franchise.
All-Star | ERA 2.31 | Saves 422 | SO/9 11.9
Dave Smith – Another outstanding closer for the Houston franchise, started only 1 game throughout his stellar career. Good luck hitting a home run off Smith, one of several areas he was stingy to batters with. From the 1987 through 1989 seasons he merely allowed 3 long balls.
All-Star | ERA 2.67 | Saves 216 | HR/9 0.4
Turk Farrell – Another staff member from the Colt .45s before moving on with the Astros he was a 3-time All-Star representing the franchise. He had a 14-year career mostly coming out of the bullpen, except with Houston he was typically a starting pitcher.
All-Star | ERA 3.45 | Wins/Saves 106/83 | WHIP 1.23
Joe Sambito – Very effective bullpen leader, second most saves in Houston history. Low walk combined with high strikeout ratio made him tough to be successful against. In 1979 he pitcher 40 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He featured a fastball and slider.
All-Star | ERA 3.03 | Saves 84 | WHIP 1.203
Alan Ashby – Great with the staff, Ashby caught 3 no-hitters and 107 shutouts during his career. A modest hitter, se was a fixture behind the plate for the majority of his career with Houston. Houston hasn’t had an all-star representative behind the plate yet.
AVG .245 | FLG .986 | Hits 1010
Brad Ausmus – Three-time Gold Glove winner and five-time season leader for catchers in fielding. He is one of only a handful of catchers in major league history to get 1,500 hits and steal at least 100 bases.
Gold Glove | AVG .251 | FLG .994 | Hits 1579
Jeff Bagwell – Should be easily headed to the Hall of Fame when he qualifies. A team leader had a long, steady career in the plate and field with big-time clutch hits and reliable glove.
MVP/ROY/Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .297 | OPS .948 | HR 449
Bob Watson – Terrific 19 year career, should have made the All-Star team more times than twice. Watson was credited scoring the 1,000,000th run in major league history on May 4, 1975 at 12:32 in the afternoon at Candlestick Park, San Francisco.
All-Star | AVG .295 | OPS .811 | RBI 989
Craig Biggio – Gritty Biggio was fearsome with his style of play and hustle parlayed into a perennial All-Star. His leadership in the clubhouse and in the lineup carried the team into the playoffs and first ever World Series. He’s another member of the Astros that should be headed to the Hall of Fame along with Jeff Bagwell when their time comes.
Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .281 | Hits 3060 | Runs 1844
Bill Doran – Very popular member of the Houston Astros and hard-nosed player that hustled. He reached base consistently with walks and just good enough batting average. Doran is a good glove man at second base.
AVG .266 | FLD .983 | OPS .728
Ken Caminiti – Very good hitter for the Astros with a tainted career due to admitted steroid usage including throughout his MVP season. A great talent who eventually lost his career and life to drugs.
MVP/Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .272 | OPS .794 | HR 239
Doug Rader – Perennial Gold Glover at third base, Radar saved many hits targeted to left field for hits. Radar was just an average hitter, but a main stay for years manning the hot corner as their starter. He did have a pretty decent pop in his bat.
Gold Glove | AVG .251 | FLD .956 | HR 155
Craig Reynolds – Reliable Reynolds was the only shortstop selected to the All-Star teams representing the AL and NL in consecutive seasons. Interesting stat that he had more triples than stolen bases 65/58.
All-Star | AVG .256 | 3B 65 | FLD .966
Dickie Thon – The long time steady shortstop for the Astros had a career on the rise until April 1984 when stung in the face with a fastball from Mike Torrez. Thon eventually recovered, but couldn’t quite turn the corner to stardom since, yet had a very admirable career. Ironically was only hit by a pitch 9 times during his 15 year career.
All-Star | AVG .264 | SB 167 | FLD .965
Lance Berkman – 6-time All-Star Berkman is currently only second to Bagwell in career batting average and home runs. He has a high on-base percentage for a player with average speed, a testament to his great eye at the plate. Had to play outfield since Bagwell held down the fort at first base, he wasn’t known for his fielding, yet later in his career when moved back to first base fielding his position very well.
All-Star | AVG .296 | OPS .953 | HR 360 | RBI 1200
Cesar Cedeno – Superb with both his bat and glove, to date Cedeno is the best a 5-tool player to ever play for the Houston franchise. Though he never reached the anticipated level of superstardom, Cedeno had an impressive career throughout and could do it all.
Gold Glove | All-Star | AVG .285 | HR 199 | SB 550 | OPS .790
Jose Cruz – 2-time all-star, Cruz was quick and an extra base threat at the plate. He was a gamer, played in 3 different post seasons for the Astros and a beloved member of the organization. Batted .300 or greater 6 seasons not including his first MLB season when he batted .353 in 17 at bats.
All-Star | AVG .284 | Hits 2251 | 3B 94 | SB 317 | OPS .774
Terry Puhl – Played 14 of his 15 MLB seasons with the Astros. He’s an outstanding fielder and consistent performer at the plate. Fit in well with the style of play for the Astros during his tenor, just enough speed, great defense, and reliable hitter.
All-Star | AVG .280 | Hits 1361 | OPS .737
Jimmy Wynn – The “Toy Cannon” nickname states it all; a power-packed hammer at the plate was always a threat to go deep. This 7-time All-Star, a member of the Colt .45s during his rookie season, logged 11 seasons with the franchise. Average hitter who had high strikeouts though matched with high walk totals.
All-Star | AVG .250 | HR 291 | OPS .802
Notable Franchise Names That Missed The Cut.
Joe Morgan would have taken a prominent spot, though Morgan’s glory years were with Cincy. Roger Metzger all field, but too light a hitter to surpass the all around play of Thon and Reynolds. Glenn Davis, decent career, yet not close to the same league of Bagwell and Watson. Carlos Lee, actually had better stats and played just as long for the Chicago White Sox. Bob Knepper was a close call, but just didn’t quite have enough to beat out the pitchers on our list. Mike Hampton kind of fell apart after leaving the Astros, his career ERA wound up ballooning over 4.00.
Here’s the starting lineup I recommend generally starting for the All-Time Great Houston Colt .45s-Astros:
- 2B – Craig Biggio
- OF – Jose Cruz
- OF – Cesar Cedeno
- 1B – Jeff Bagwell
- OF – Lance Berkman
- 3B – Ken Caminiti
- C – Alan Ashby
- SS – Dickie Thon
- P – J. R. Richard
We look forward to adding them to the Baseball Classics All-Time Greats later this year. Do you agree with our top 24 selection for the All-Time Houston Colt .45s-Astros? Who do you think is the best Houston player to ever play, J. R. Richards or one of their great position players like Jeff Bagwell? What’s your favorite memory of this franchise? Let us know in the comments below!