There is something nostalgic for me about this card and bittersweet as well. First of all, let me say that nostalgia is not the exclusive property of Baby Boomers pining for the post war years.
I see the bright orange Astros uniforms of the 1970’s and I see a thing of beauty. THIS was the baseball I was introduced to. Bright colors, fun uniforms and exotic National League teams I did not see often playing on Astroturf were part of MY baseball tradition.
I have no memories of peaking through a knothole at the Polo Grounds or climbing up a tree to see a game at Crosley Field.
The Astros existed when I was a new baseball fans and I LOVED their uniforms. I actually had an Astros pullover top. I had a Cesar Cedeno glove.
I look at these uniforms in this card and think “Why can’t they wear those anymore?” I am not talking about special turn back the clock night. I am talking about Sunday through Sunday, wearing the Orange Tequila Sunrise jerseys.
This picture was of the 1979 team which is also historic. This was the first Astros team that really contended. They finished second to the star studded Cincinnati Reds, showing they could win in their first post Pete Rose season.
Despite not having a single player in double digit homers, they were just 1 1/2 games out when the season ended. They could steal bases and they could hit, foreshadowing the Whitey Herzog Cardinals of the 1980’s.
J. R. Richard led the way with 313 strikeouts in 292 1/3 innings while throwing to a 2.71 ERA. Joe Niekro won 21 games and Joaquin Andujar contributed in the rotation and the bullpen.
As this card was going out to print, the Astros acquired Nolan Ryan as a free agent from the Angels. Now, with Richard, they would have the most devastating 1-2 strikeout combination in the game. Niekro would be a 21 win third starter.
Richard was on his way to having a Cy Young season in 1980 when he had a devastating stroke that ended his big league career and almost his life.
The Astros and manager Bill Virdon would win a one game playoff for the NL West against Los Angeles and come within a swing of winning the pennant in one of the greatest NLCS ever played.
A sense of “What could have been” hangs over the Astros and 1980. If Richard never had the stroke, would Houston have won the World Series? Would Richard be in the Hall of Fame?
In this picture, I can not claim to recognize every Astros player, but Richard is prominent in the back row, literally towering over his teammates and casting a shadow over the year.
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