September 2011

Astros lineup 9/23 vs. Rockies. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

Shooting stars, rainbow sleeves, blue and gold: “Flashback Fridays” will feature slick jerseys from the past.

Jose Cruz, Craig Biggio

History and nostalgia will be front and center for the Houston Astros in 2012, so it’s only fitting that four of their most famous players from yesteryear were on hand Thursday to ring in the club’s 50th anniversary celebration.

A large gathering of Houston media watched and listened as Jimmy Wynn (1963-73), Larry Dierker (1964-76), Jose Cruz (1975-87) and Craig Biggio (1988-2007) shared their memories of their favorite moments during their tenure with the franchise.

Not surprisingly, the 2005 World Series was mentioned more than once. Biggio’s 3,000th hit in June of 2007 ranked high on many lists as well.

“We were the first Texas team to go to the World Series,” Biggio said. “That was something to be proud of. And the 3,000 hit night — it was a magical night.”

Popular television announcers Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies hosted the question and answer session with the Astros icons in the FiveSeven Grille, which was decorated with images of the 50th anniversary logo and the jerseys from the past. Deshaies also interviewed several key Astros figures who were sitting in the crowd, including president of baseball operations Tal Smith, Spanish broadcaster Rene Cardenas, former radio announcer Gene Elston and current radio announcer Milo Hamilton.

Larry Dierker, Jim Deshaies

In addition to Biggio’s 3,000th hit and the Astros’ World Series, Hamilton cited the 2003 club’s six-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium as a highlight of his career.

“It had never been done before and I don’t think it will ever happen again,” Hamilton said.

The Astros also outlined their plans for the big golden anniversary celebration in 2012, which we blogged about here earlier in the day. Judging from the response I’ve received, I’d say the one element that has fans excited about the 50th anniversary celebration in 2012 more than any other is the “Flashback Fridays” plan, where every Friday home game, the Astros will wear a throwback jersey that represents a certain era in the Houston franchise.

That includes the 1964 Houston Colt .45s jersey, which, to the best of the club’s knowledge, has never been worn since that season 47 years ago. Also on the docket are the shooting star jersey from the first season in the Astrodome in 1965, the rainbow jersey the teams wore from 1975-86, the rainbow sleeve from 1987-93, the blue and gold jersey from 1994-99 and the current pinstripe jersey the club wears today.


More snippits from Thursday’s presser:

Drayton McLane cited the Astros’ press conference in 1996 announcing that they had a new manager as one of his favorite moments. It wasn’t so much that the Astros had hired a new manager as much as it was who their new manager was — Larry Dierker.

“Everyone was surprised,” McLane said. Turning to Dierker, McLane said, “Larry, did it surprise you?”

“Well,” Dierker deadpanned. “I knew what was going on by then.”

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McLane recalled the night in ’96 that he and several members of his inner circle were waiting to hear if the stadium referendum had passed.

“We were up late at the Westin Hotel in the Galleria,” he said. “At 12 at night, we were losing. At 2:30 in the morning, we won.”
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Brownie asked Biggio how long he thinks his career would have lasted if Biggio had remained at catcher instead of moving to second base.

“How many years did I catch? Four?” Biggio asked rhetorically. “So, maybe five.”
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Cruz was asked about the signature Cruuuuuuuuuuuz moniker given to him by the late J. Fred Duckett, the Astros’ public address announcer back in the day.

“The first time I heard it, I thought they were booing me,” Cruz said. “I was playing well. I thought, ‘What are they doing?'”
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Dierker credited the success the Astros had during his run as skipper from 1997-01 more to the makeup of the team than to his managerial maneuvering.

“We had such great talent on those teams,” Dierker said. “It didn’t matter what moves I made. We were going to win with that talent.”

Dierker offered a bit of advice to today’s Astros fans.

“Don’t judge a manager on his win-loss record. Judge a manager on what he gets out of the talent he has. Is Joe Girardi the best manager in the game? He’s the manager of the Yankees. Anyone can manage the Yankees and win.”

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Deshaies: “What was it like to work in Colt Stadium back in the day?”

Cardenas: “It was hot.”

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More from Cardenas: “I remember when Larry Dierker came to the ball club — he was a wonderful player and a wonderful person. I looked at this kid from California and said, ‘how did the Dodgers not sign him?’ We were lucky to have him.”
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Video corner:

Dierker, on past rebuilding projects and the Astros’ current reloading plan

Biggio, on spending his entire career with the Astros and who was influential on him in the early years
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And finally…the Astros will be previewing their 50th anniversary celebration this weekend with three promotional giveaway items bearing the special logo.

Friday: Commemorative Cap

Saturday: Fleece Blanket

Sunday: T-shirt

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Astros lineup 9/22 vs. Rockies. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

Astros reveal 50th anniversary logo and celebration plans for 2012

 


The Astros revealed their 50th anniversary logo during a media luncheon on Thursday, and over the course of 2012, this design will be the most identifiable symbol of the club’s celebration of its golden anniversary as a Major League franchise.

The party starts next year, but the Astros are kicking off the celebration this weekend with several commemorative 50th Anniversary promotional items to preview what’s to come.

On Friday, the first 10,000 fans will receive a 50th Anniversary Cap, presented by Conn’s. The first 10,000 fans on Saturday will receive a 50th Anniversary Blanket from AT&T, and a 50th Anniversary T-shirt will be presented
to the first 10,000 fans on Sunday, courtesy of BullShirts.

Here’s what’s in store for 2012:

Opening Weekend

The golden anniversary celebration will kick off in 2012 during the club’s Opening Day Weekend from April 6-8. The three-game weekend series vs. the Colorado Rockies will include 50th Anniversary promotional items and pregame ceremonies.

Game-Used Logo Items

During all Astros home games in 2012, the official lineup cards, base jewels and official game baseballs will each feature the 50th Anniversary logo.

Get Geared Up

Official 50th Anniversary merchandise, including a cap, polo shirt and T-shirt, will be on sale at the Astros Team Store beginning in December 2011.

50th Anniversary DVD

The Astros, along with Major League Baseball Productions and A&E Entertainment, are producing a documentary program on the 50 seasons of Astros baseball with a DVD scheduled for release next Spring. The film will highlight great moments in Astros history, including never-before-seen footage of historic milestones, and exclusive interviews with players that were key to the franchise’s success.

Flashback Fridays

During Friday home games in 2012, the Astros will wear a throw-back jersey that represents a certain era in the Houston franchise. Each month will highlight a new jersey from a different era. ‘Flashback Fridays’ will also include special ticket pricing, as well as pregame ceremonies, in-game entertainment and specially-themed Friday Night Fireworks, presented by Marathon Oil Corporation.

Alumni First Pitch

In a tribute to all players in franchise history, the Astros will be inviting various former Astros and Colt 45s players to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to select home games throughout the 2012 season.

Astros All-Time 25-Man Roster

In 2012, fans and a panel of experts will vote each month on an all-decade roster that will include a roster from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. From each decade’s roster, an Astros All-Time 25-man roster will be determined by online fan voting at astros.com.

Legends Weekend

The Astros All-Time 25-man roster will be revealed the final home weekend of the 2012 season as part of Legends Weekend from Sept. 22-24, 2012. Members of the Astros All-Time 25-man roster will be invited to Houston to take part in a pregame ceremony and other honorary activities. Specific details on the events will be announced at a later date.

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Bud’s shoulder, Social Media night details and yet another Princess Leia mention.

Bud Norris hasn’t officially been scratched from his final start of the season but look for that to happen in the very near future. Norris has pitched 186 innings this season, the most he’s thrown since he broke into the big leagues a couple of years ago, by a large margin. He’s had a fine season, with a 3.77 ERA that is much more indicative of the quality of his year than his 6-11 record.

Norris left his start against the Reds in the third inning on Tuesday because of shoulder soreness. Most likely, he’s simply fatigued. Time to shut it down and start thinking about next year. Especially when your team is not in contention, which the Astros obviously are not.
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That probably means Studly Budly will have plenty of time to hang with us in the Budweiser Patio Saturday Night during Social Media Night. A couple of reminders:

The tour starts at 3 p.m. from Union Station. You can pick your tickets up at Will Call (if you have not already received them in the mail). If you have already done the tour in the past and want to skip it, we’ll be taking the non-tour participants straight down to batting practice (to be viewed from the seats directly behind the Astros’ dugout).

The program with Norris and J.D. Martinez will begin sharply at 4:55 and will conclude at 5:10. You must be following me on Twitter to win prizes. We will be fully equipped with Wi-Fi if you do not have a hand-held device and instead want to bring your laptop.

Dinner will be the Fajita Nachos, which was decided on by the fan vote over Twitter. It narrowly edged out the Steak Dog. If you wish to have a vegetarian meal — which will likely be a veggie wrap — please tweet me or email me (afooter@astros.com) as soon as you can.
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It’s not often you can have two reasons to talk about Princess Leia in a single road trip, but that’s just another reason why the end of this 2011 season has been a special, special time for all of us.

First, we sent cat calls in the direction of Carlos Corporan, who was dressed as the saucy and sultry Princess during the Rookie Road Trip last weekend in Chicago. And now, we are proud to announce that Monday, Sept. 26 is going to be Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park.

Star Wars costumed characters will be on hand for the night and one lucky fan will win a copy of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray.  Other prizes include Star Wars PEZ® candy dispensers and LEGOS® Star Wars® Character Encyclopedia from DK Publishing.

The night will celebrate the recent release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray, a nine-disc collection in high definition with 6.1 DTS Surround Sound with more than 40 hours of special features and never-before-seen content.  The collection includes deleted, extended and alternate scenes, new documentaries, audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, prop and costume turnarounds and more.

Tickets start at $10 and are available online at http://www.astros.com/starwars and groups of 20 or more can contact Joe Schiavi at 713-259-8314.  For each Star Wars ticket package sold, the Houston Astros will make a donation to Stand Up To Cancer, a movement created to raise funds to accelerate groundbreaking cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives.

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Congrats to our own Bill “Brownie” Brown, who was recently announced as the newest inductee to the Astros’ Wall of Honor, as voted on by his Houston media peers.

Brownie will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Monday (Sept. 26) on the field. An induction plaque will be presented to him, and another plaque will be installed at the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor display in the press box.

More importantly, Brownie also celebrated a birthday on Tuesday. I say “more importantly” not because birthdays mean more than Walls of Honor, but because Brownie’s birthday involved cake, and his Wall of Honor announcement did not.

So here’s a big staff-wide thank you to Brownie for having a birthday and giving us a reason to get all sugared up before a nearly four-hour game.

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We’ve been inundated with rain during this road trip, which has resulted in not only multiple rain delays, but also many cancelled batting practices. This makes for a very boring few hours leading up to game time. On Wednesday, I killed 10 minutes by checking out the brand new Johnny Bench statue located near the Reds Hall of Fame at Great American Ball Park. (I killed another 30 minutes at the Smokehouse in right field. Wowzers. Chicken wings to die for.)

This statue, like all at the Reds’ ballpark, was very well done. It looks very much like the real Johnny Bench, right down to his unusually large hands.

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Astros lineup 9/21 at Cincinnati. First pitch 11:35 a.m. CT

Astros lineup 9/20 at Reds. First pitch 6:10 p.m. CT

Astros to unveil anniversary logo and plans for 2012. Celebrating 50 years of baseball in Houston.

The Astros are unveiling their new 50th anniversary logo and plans for the big celebration on Thursday, and they’re utilizing the help of several stars from yesteryear to ring in what is sure to be a year-long soiree.

The press conference will be hosted by two of my favorite people – Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies — and attended by some of your favorite players: Craig Biggio, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn and Jose Cruuuuuz. The group and the team will reveal the logo that you’ll see everywhere next year.

You’ll also see it on several promotional items the Astros are giving away this weekend when they begin their final homestand of 2011.

The logo is really sharp. It represents all of the eras of Astros baseball and includes the color schemes from the past that are still so popular among fans today. It’s one of those designs that even if you just see it for a split-second out of the corner of your eye, you know it’s the Astros.

The club is in full planning mode for 2012 and while we’ll be able to say more after Thursday’s big reveal, here’s one thing I can tell you for sure: Minute Maid Park will be teeming with former players, from every era and every decade, throughout next season. Should be a fun year.

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Thanks to all of you who will be part of our final Social Media Night this Saturday (Sept. 24) in the Budweiser Patio. We’re currently voting on what we serve for dinner, so take a look at the choices and send along your vote before the end of the game on Tuesday. You can tweet me your vote, or you can simply post on this blog in the comments section.

Vote A, B or C:

A. Texas Tom Turkey Sandwich: Roasted Turkey Breast, Pepper Jack Cheese, Spicy Chipotle Aioli, Lettuce, Corn Salsa on a Jalapeno-Cheddar Kaiser with a hand cut fries and a pickle.

B. Fajita Nachos – Crisp Tortilla Chips, Queso Blanco, Jalapenos, Avocado, Sour Cream, Pico De Gallo

C. Foot Long Angus Steak Dog – served with Fresh Cut Fries. There will be an expanded topping bar to be put on the upper tier for guests to dress their own hot dogs.

(For our vegetarian guests, we will also have veggie wraps available.)

As a reminder, Social Media Night includes a ballpark tour, batting practice viewing, dinner, dessert, a t-shirt and an opportunity to win autographed prizes through our Twitter Trivia contest, attended by both outfielder J.D. Martinez and Bud Norris. We’ll also be raffling off (for free) a one-inning visit to the TV booth to watch Brownie and J.D. work their magic.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.

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The season is over on Sept. 28, but several Astros players are sticking around a bit longer to help raise money for a charity near and dear to the Astros.

Mark Melancon, Norris and Brian Bogusevic will be participating in a Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament on Friday, Sept. 30 at DelFrisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. All proceeds will benefit the Astros Wives Gala and Houston Area Women’s Center.

Buy-in for the game is $250. You will also have the opportunity to purchase more chips if you desire, the night of the event. A complimentary wine reception will be held at 6 p.m. and the game will begin promptly at 7.

In addition to the Astros players, Katie Stone, a professional poker player who grew up in Houston, will also play. She has played all over the world with the European Poker Tour, the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker.

Prizes will be awarded to the top four and bottom four “winners.” The tournament consists of a total of 80 players.

The poker tournament prizes include:

A signed and framed Biggio Houston Astros jersey
A two hour Wine and Hors d’ oeuvres reception for you and 9 guests hosted by 51fifteen restaurant and lounge
A Chris Johnson signed Houston Astros jersey
A signed and framed Nolan Ryan 8 x 10 photo.
Alabama Crimson Tide’s Shaun Alexander signed 11 x 14 photo
A silk tie and custom–made shirt by Britton Sudduth Clothiers. (A business card must accompany tie to redeem the custom shirt).
A golf foursome with Phil Garner at the Houstonian Golf & Country Club.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Judy Nichols at judynichols1@sbcglobal.net

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Astros lineup 9/19 at Reds. First pitch 6:10 p.m. CT

Sunday morning at Wrigley: Stairs, ramps, a stopwatch and flip cam. Ready. Go!

Wrigley Field is a wonderful place. The history. The tradition. The fun. The uncomfortable seats. The sticky floors of stale beer and smushed hot dog buns.

Wrigley Field warms the cockles of any baseball fan’s heart, because it’s simply one of the best places on Earth to watch a game. And it’s located in one of the most charming neighborhoods in one of the best cities in America to visit.

But Wrigley Field is also old. Of course, old, in baseball terms, usually means “charming.” It can also mean “inconvenient,” as is the case with Wrigley’s teeny-tiny, cramped, old visitor’s clubhouse.

The clubhouse itself is clean and well-kept and well-tended to by a clubhouse staff that can do nothing to fix the only real problem — it’s about a mile away from the dugout. It takes forever to get from point A to point B.

On Sunday, I wondered, just how long is forever? I mean, I’ve walked the path from the dugout to the clubhouse and back to the dugout dozens of times over the years, but never before have I timed it. So I decided to do just that, with the assistance of my handy flip cam to document the journey.

Here are the scientific results. For those of you asking if there is nothing better for me to do on a rainy Sunday morning with no batting practice to attend and no place in the clubhouse to hang out (unless you want to risk taking one step in the wrong direction and ending up in the bathroom), the answer is…no.

Enjoy!

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