The Houston Astros Baseball Rushmore is the thirteenth in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
What defines a franchise?
Before the Astros brought major league baseball to Houston, the Space City was represented primarily by the Buffaloes in Texas League play. The minor league club went by other names prior to 1896, perhaps most enjoyably “Babies.” Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented Houston in professional baseball. They played with Houston written proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
For cities that fielded two teams in the shameful era of segregated ball, this series will consider both sides as part of the same club. Today, to a degree, major league clubs take a similar approach. The Washington Nationals, for instance, include Washington Homestead Grays players in their Ring of Honor, and most teams tip their caps to their city’s Negro League predecessors by donning their uniforms for Negro Leagues heritage games.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
- 1888 in the minors; 1962 in the majors
- Astros (1965-present)
- Colt .45s (1962-1964)
- Buffs (1959-1961)
- Buffaloes (1896-1958)
- Eagles (1949-1950)
- Wanderers (1904)
- Magnolias (1895)
- Mud Cats (1890-1892)
- Babies (1888-1889)
World Series title (1)
American League pennants (3)
National League pennant (1)
Dixie Series titles (4)
Texas League pennants (16)
South Texas League pennant (1)
- Minute Maid Park
Houston Astros Baseball Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Houston Astros (and Buffaloes) history.
- Houston Years: 1991-2005
- Houston Stats: 79.9 WAR, .297/.408/.540, 449 HR, 488 2B, 4,213 TB, 54 Rfield
For 15 years, Houston enjoyed one of the finest first base performances in baseball history. The Bostonian set a two-year record for runs scored, won a Most Valuable Player Award, was Rookie of the Year, and was named to four all-star teams.
His stats tell the story of how he made that possible. Across positions, Bagwell ranks in the top 40 all-time in multiple offensive categories, including on-base percentage, home runs, and wins above replacement. His fielding wasn’t too spotty either, finishing in the top ten in fielding percentage in six seasons and earning the 1994 Gold Glove Award.
- Houston Years: 1988-2007
- Houston Stats: 65.5 WAR, .281/.363/.433, 3,060 H, 668 2B, 414 SB, 4,711 TB
Ouch, Ouch, Ouch. Repeat 282 more times. Craig Biggio ranks second all-time for hits by pitch. He led the majors in five different seasons in this abusive category. But that is not all at which this catcher turned outfielder turned second basemen excelled. The New Yorker led his league in doubles three times on his way to 668 career two-baggers. He ranks in the top 100 in career wins above replacement, too. Biggio’s fielding earned him a spot in the top ten among second basemen in eight separate campaigns and 56th all-time.
- Houston Years: 1980-1988
- Houston Stats: 25.4 WAR, 1,866 K, 3.13 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 2.87 FIP
The Texan fireballer set the modern, old-school, and just overall tone for a dominant strikeout pitcher. With 5,714 Ks, Nolan Ryan leads all major league baseball. He holds a nearly 1,000-count lead over his closest competitor. In 20 of his 27 campaigns, Ryan finished in the top ten in strikeouts per nine innings. When at his best, Ryan was perhaps the best.
- Houston Years: 1963-1973
- Houston Stats: 41.5 WAR, .255/.362/.445, 1,291 H, 223 HR, 2,252 TB
The Toy Cannon has to be one of the best nicknames in the history of the game. Perhaps taking warranted offense at first, Jim Wynn gradually embraced the moniker. Maybe Wynn became more comfortable as his career became more established; no longer feeling the need to prove himself in quite the same way, Wynn could feel at ease with a childlike nickname while playing the child’s game.
The oft-injured Ohioan is best known for his power, hitting notable home runs out of his hometown Cincinnati’s ballpark and slugging his way onto the National League’s four-bagger leaderboard despite playing in the cavernous Astrodome. Wynn was the essence of the early years of Houston big league ball, and he is a fitting addition to this Baseball Rushmore.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images