Astros baseball dinner and FanFest provide a heavy dose of nostalgia. The 50th anniversary celebration is underway.

Larry Dierker witnessed plenty of great moments during his four decades with the Houston Astros as a player, broadcaster and manager, but there’s one event in particular that stands out as more significant than the rest.

Keep in mind that Dierker threw a no-hitter, had his number retired by the team and struck out Willie Mays in his Major League debut on his 18th birthday in 1964. But those moments come in a distant second to Oct. 3, 1999 — the last regular season game played in the Astrodome.

The Astros had to win that game against the Dodgers in order to clinch the division title, and had they lost, the postgame celebration — one that included dozens of former players who flew in for the finale — surely would have been muted.

But they didn’t lose. They beat the Dodgers handily, and the party was on. Confetti fell from the gigantic Astrodome ceiling. Players rode onto the field on motorcycles and lit up the cigars. It was pandemonium, followed by an amazing tribute to Astrodome history: the All-Time team was honored on the field, and players from every decade were invited onto the field to commemorate the beginning, and the end, of a wonderful run in the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Dierker smiled at the memory.

“For about 30 minutes,” he recalled, “It was baseball heaven.”

Dierker shared that story a couple of times on Saturday at FanFest, capping a nostalgia-filled weekend that started with the annual baseball awards dinner, featuring nearly 20 players from the Astros’ past.

The weekend officially springboarded what will be a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Major League Baseball in Houston. The Colt .45s officially opened for business in 1962, became the Astros in 1965, and over the next five decades produced dozens of iconic figures and exciting moments that shaped baseball history in the Space City.

The end of this season will mirror that final day in 1999, in that the All-Time 25-man roster will be determined through a fan vote and a panel of experts. The players who comprise that roster will be invited back during the final homestand as part of Legends Weekend.

Other significant initiatives were revealed during FanFest. Here’s a few to look out for:

* An Astros Walk of Fame: areas outside of Minute Maid Park will be dedicated to honoring the best of the past. This year, names that will be made indelible on the grounds surrounding the ballpark include all nine retired numbers plus one player from each decade, as voted on by a panel of experts.

* Flashback Fridays: the Astros will wear retro jerseys from past decades every Friday home game this year, starting with the Colt .45s (minus the pistol, which was deemed inappropriate to include on a uniform).

* Great Moments bobbleheads: most Astros fans remember Mike Scott’s no-hitter, Jeff Kent’s walkoff homer in Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS and Chris Burke’s game-winning homer in Game 5 of the Division Series in 2005. Those moments, and more, will be recreated in the form of bobbleheads, to be given out at various games this year.

Images from a nostalgic weekend:

Prior to the dinner, guests gathered for a VIP reception. Pictured are Astros TV announcer Bill Brown and former manager Phil Garner.

VIP reception: former infielder Craig Reynolds and current manager Brad Mills.

Lance Berkman was honored as the Houston-area player of the year. As expected, he was highly entertaining while giving his acceptance speech.

VIP reception: Jim Deshaies, Craig Reynolds sign a couple of autographs.

VIP reception: Rookie of the Year J.D. Martinez.

VIP reception: Wandy Rodriguez, Jose Cruuuuuuuuuz

Baseball dinner: former MVPs gather on stage to be recognized for their contributions to the Houston franchise.

Players from all decades of Houston baseball were also honored at the dinner.

FanFest: Alex Trevino, Kevin Bass were among the many Astros alumni to sign autographs.

Current Astros Brad Mills, Bud Norris and Chris Snyder were also part of the autograph sessions.

Catcher Jason Castro signs autographs at FanFest.

J.R. Richard at FanFest.

FanFest began with a roundtable discussion among George Postolos, Brad Mills and Jeff Luhnow. Milo Hamilton emceed the session.

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So who are the former MVPs on stage? I recognize Jimmy Wynn on the far right, but sadly, the others have me stumped.

J.R. Richards can STILL hold four baseballs in his hand! He used to “charm” the
flight attendants, with stuff like that! Still cool to see! Becky🙂🙂🙂🙂

Cool. I’m planning to be at the last game at Minute Maid this season to witness our last game as a National League team.😦
But alas, looking forward to that last game now for more reasons, should be fun for the nostalgia of our 50th season, ironic that it will also our be our last game in the NL.

Dear Astros,

I’m offended that the Astros have decided to not include the Colt .45 pistol on their jersey for Flashback Friday. Its very disturbing to me that the Astros have let misplaced political correctness destroy one of the greatest uniforms in baseball history. Perhaps the Texas Rangers should follow suit and change their name because, after all, the lawman that were Rangers carried firearms, and God forbid, occassionally had to use them! This to me is like the final insult. Its bad enough that the Astros are leaving the NL after 50 season, then the owner openly flirted with a name change, and now this.

Semper Fidelis,
James Crabtree

Colt .45 jerseys without the gun? Silly, just silly. I suppose it is somehow appropriate for the surreal 50th anniversary celebration / mourning for an emasculated franchise.

There’s been zero consideration for Astros’ history or the long-time fan in this whole debacle, I would not expect it to get any better.

Political correctness gone crazy to alter the uniform. I am VERY disappointed in the organization, and much less likely to take in any games this season.

Pingback: No ’45s for the ’45s :

I can not believe they are removing the gun from the Colt 45 jersey! HORRIBLE! They are trying to drive off the few loyal fans left. Houston, the Round Rock Express may be drawing more fans than you soon!

No Pistol wi the 45s emblem/logo is just asinine…Hopefully the new ownership is not this stupid..

Clarification folks…this was an MLB decision. It was decided that in today’s world, having a gun on an MLB uniform is in poor taste and sends a bad message. To be honest I agree. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. The rest of the Colt .45 jersey will look the same and it looks great, in my opinion. Thanks!

Ms. Footer,

I’m a bit surprised to see you weighing in with your personal political opinion on this matter.

While we are now discussing baseball images and Texas heritage, should the Texas Rangers change their name as well? Its a fair question and I ask it sincerely. Rangers use firearms and that may offend someone, right? In fact, Rangers used Colt .45s back in the day.

What has changed in the last 50 years is that the Astros and MLB have become so politically correct that they risk offending a vast majority of their long time loyal fans. How is a pistol in bad taste? Why still keep the .45 on the hat? MLB lets the Indians still sport Chief Wahoo, but an organization that lost 100+ games and is being forced into a new league after 50 years can not wear their first uniform because it doesn’t comport with the imagery the Thought Police have for Houston Astros fans.

Semper Fidelis,
James Crabtree

I didn’t realize my opinion was political. Last I checked, the Rangers unis did not include a gun.

I agree with the notion that a gun does not belong on an MLB uniform. MLB, being a social institution, has a duty to represent itself in a decent, upstanding manner and it has decided guns on uniforms are not acceptable.

The Astros will be wearing the .45s jerseys twice all year. This is not a permanent uniform.

Why do the Braves still have a tomahawk on their uniform? They are a weapon just like a Colt .45 and the Braves wear them all season long. What’s the difference? The Astros are being pushed out of their league after 50 seasons and their fans can’t even see the original jersey on the field without fear that it is somehow a vulgar display of our evil history.

Maybe the uniforms should depict what baseball is all about. I got it, have pictures of the team owners with their pockets overflowing with cash entering the bank while trampling the fans.

Why not compromise? Show the Colts in their road unis. That way we aren’t bastardizing history with a phony uniform and we aren’t sporting the “offensive” gun either.

Pingback: Colt 45's Jersey's aren't PC - Climbing Tal's Hill - A Houston Astros Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More

If they are only going to wear the uniform for two game dates, what exactly is the problem, does MLB really think that for a team celebrating its 50th Anniversary by wearing a uniform with the Original team name and colors is going to make things better or worse? Not to mention “moving” to the AL West. How about a picture of Bud Selig holding a gun to Houston’s head on the front?
Come on, hasn’t Houston been scewed enough by MLB?

Unfortunately it is just another case of trying to redo history to suit the liberal whims of MLB management, a group of eunuchs who have lost touch with reality and their fans. One thing is for sure, history will always win in the long run. Pistols and all! Houston was founded and prospered under men who had the intestinal fortitude and brass ball to stand up to minor issues like this. It is a shame the current owner has neither..

Not weighing in on the disarming Colt .45 unis.

I will however mention that the caption to the photo of Lance raised my eyebrows. Due to the right margin as displayed on my screen it reads, “As expected, he was high.

Imagine my relief after copying and pasting to find that it actually says, “As expected, he was highly entertaining while giving his acceptance speech.”

Pingback: Bloggers To Be Named Later » Houston Astros pull gun, then about face, on Colt .45s logo. Here’s my solution.

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