The Mount Rushmore of the Houston Astros

1979 Topps #68 - Joe Niekro

We turn our attention to the Houston Colt .45’s, who came into being in 1962. Three years later they were rebranded as the Astros.

In their first 35 years, the Astros had limited success with just a couple of post-season appearances. Come 1997, though, they had 6 playoff appearances in 9 years, culminating with their lone World Series appearance in 2005. They’ve been pretty dismal since then, though.

Let’s take a look at their best players.

Rk Player WAR/pos From To
1 Jeff Bagwell 76.8 1991 2005
2 Craig Biggio 62.6 1988 2007
3 Jose Cruz 48.5 1975 1987
4 Cesar Cedeno 47.4 1970 1981
5 Lance Berkman 45.5 1999 2010
6 Jim Wynn 39.4 1963 1973
7 Joe Morgan 29.3 1963 1980
8 Bill Doran 28.6 1982 1990
9 Terry Puhl 26.3 1977 1990
10 Bob Watson 21.6 1966 1979
11 Glenn Davis 17.3 1984 1990
12 Doug Rader 16.8 1967 1975
13 Richard Hidalgo 16.3 1997 2004
14 Dickie Thon 15.3 1981 1987
15 Steve Finley 15.2 1991 1994
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/25/2012.

Wow…some great players.

On the pitching side:

Rk Player WAR From To
1 Roy Oswalt 43.6 2001 2010
2 Larry Dierker 31.9 1964 1976
3 Don Wilson 25.8 1966 1974
4 Nolan Ryan 23.2 1980 1988
5 Mike Scott 22.9 1983 1991
6 Joe Niekro 20.6 1975 1985
7 J.R. Richard 19.9 1971 1980
8 Shane Reynolds 17.4 1992 2002
9 Ken Forsch 17.4 1970 1980
10 Roger Clemens 16.1 2004 2006
11 Billy Wagner 15.7 1995 2003
12 Turk Farrell 15.4 1962 1967
13 Wade Miller 13.5 1999 2004
14 Mike Hampton 12.8 1994 2009
15 Mike Cuellar 12.8 1965 1968
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/25/2012.

Some more great players. Larry Dierker stands out. Aside from being the team’s second best pitcher, he was the manager when the team became a contender again, and also has worked as a broadcaster. I imagine he’s well-loved in Houston.

Then how do you skip over guys like Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott?

Let’s move right on to the poll…please pick 4 guys.


The Mount Rushmore of the Houston Astros — 23 Comments

    • In the early 70’s, Houston could have fielded an allstar team, with John Mayberry at 1st, Joe Morgan at 2nd,Radar at 3rd, Watson in left,Cedeno in center, and Jim Wynn in right. Pretending that the NL had the DH, that job would belong to Rusty Staub. Pitchers: Mike Cueller, Don Wilson Larry Dierker and Dave Roberts, with Dave Guisti and Fred Gladding in the pen.In most of these years, Morgan and Wynn would have walked over 100 times, as did Mayberry in 72 and 73. Off the bench would have been Greg Gross, who had 189 hits in his rookie year of 1974. Backing up Milt May at catcher would have been Cliff Johnson. Might have been a three-peat.

  1. Very, very glad to see Jose Cruz below Bags and Biggio in career WAR. He was one of the more exciting players to watch back in the day; he had an athletic flair to his game that made you root for him. So I’m going Bagwell, Biggio, Oswalt, and Cruz. Lots of great honorable mention picks here, including Dierker, Berkman, Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, Jimmy Wynn, Cedendo, etc.

  2. Love the baseball cards you’re using on this series of articles, Andy. I didn’t visit much back then, but didn’t you used to have a ‘Card of the Week’ series back on the old B-Ref blog, or am I confusing you with someone else?

    That Joe Niekro card is a ’79 Topps, a set that I came very close to filling completely by buying pack after pack after pack. Anytime I’d get a dollar, I’d walk to Food Town, buy 3 packs at 30 cents apiece, and sift through them on the way home. I must have 2,000 of those ’79 cards; I need to get them out of the attic and find which individual cards I need to complete the set, but they’re so dog-eared and bent from me keeping them sorted by team and rubber bands that the set would actually be worth very little. I’m still waiting for that special young person in my life to give all my cards to–no kids, and only one niece.

    • bstar, yes it was me who did the Card of the Week posts. I try to do them here, but mostly I use cards for images on other posts.

    • Bob Aspromonte- I made an argument with the Mets that Casey Stengel should be included to represent the early days of the franchise and when I started reading the article and started thinking about who would fill that role for Houston a clear image of Bob in his Colt 45’s uniform on a Fleer baseball card that’s somewhere down in my basement immediately came to mind.

      In this case, Jimmy Wynn will have to fill that role for me (at least he donned a Colt 45’s uniform even if he wasn’t there the first season) plus I have to go with Bagwell & Biggio as clearly the best players to spend their entire careers with the team. The final pick it tough- Oswalt & Berkman overlap a lot with B & B. Dierker, Morgan and Wilson all overlap with Wynn. I considered going Voomo’s what might have been route with Richard and Thon but it finally came down to Cruz and Cedeno for me and I went with Cruz because he’s one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated players ever and it’s about time that he got his due.

  3. This one, as I suppose many others to come will do, ate me up. I chose Bagwell, Biggio, Cruz and Scott. I saw the last three as Astros (and Cruz as a Cardinal). Studs all. But others called out to me: Wynn, Dierker and Cedeno. Then there were the others who put up their monster years elsewhere: Morgan and Ryan (not to say they didn’t have monster years in Houston, in that dark, dark stadium).

    • Cruz, as a Cardinal, was one of those “when he finally puts it all together” players. So they got rid of him after about three or four frustating years, and he finally put it all together.

      • Amazingly, Cruz’s son was the exact same kind of player. Toronto and Seattle both tried to wait for him to put it all together.

        • It wasn’t even one of the Cardinals’ classic poor 1970s trades (Carlton for Wise; Reuss for Scipio Spinks; Reggie Smith for Joe Ferguson, etc.). They just sold him to the Astros.

  4. I went with Biggio, Bagwell, Scott and Dierker. B and B are obvious. I chose Dierker for his long-term multiple successes with the team, and Scott for the glory of 1986 and his last day of the season no-hitter. It was really tough to leave off Cruz. And in all seriousness, Alan Ashby is someone I would have considered for his contributions both a player and broadcaster. Still can’t believe they fired him.

  5. Very tough after the two B’s – the Astros really have had a lot of top quality players for long tenures. Over the years, I’ve generally wondered why they weren’t doing better in the standings – 50 years and still waiting to win a WS game.

    I chose Dierker third because of his range of strong contributions and virtual 100% association with the Astros – I’m guessing that’s what an Astros fan would do. I spent a long time thinking about others, especially Ryan and Oswalt. For reasons of sentiment I went with JR Richard – he was so clearly on his way to being the first Astro in the Hall. His story is sadder than Score’s.

  6. I went for Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, and Oswalt. Those Astros teams of the early 2000s are really “the” definitive Astros teams in my mind; they were relevant every single year, and those four guys were the core of players that really made the Astros what they were.

  7. I went with the Toy Cannon (gotta love him) and Oswalt as my other two (I feel the need to pick a pitcher in these threads). Those years Morgan put up there at ages 21 to 23 were a forecast of things to come I’ll say…

  8. To be frank I’m very surprised at the lack of support for Cesar Cedeno. I think of him, Toy Cannon, JR Richard, and even Nolan Ryan before I think of Lance Berkman.

    Also I voted without looking at the WAR charts; it feels more “real” that way.

  9. this one was really hard. The only guys I know I DIDN’T want to include are Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Richard Hidalgo. :)

    Biggio and Bagwell are obvious (which really hurts Berkman since they are the same era)

    I have always loved Jose Cruz and how do you choose then between Cedeno, “Toy Cannon” or having ANY pitchers (specifically Oswalt, JR Rixchard, & Scott).

    Biggio, Bagwell, Cruz, Cedeno. “Just let the kids play!” – Bad News Bears in Breaking Training

    Special nod to the Uniform worn by Joe Kniekro in the 1979 topps baseball card posted by Andy.

  10. If it was about pure, home-grown talent:

    Morgan, Cedeno, Wynn, JR Richard….


    Bagwell, Biggio, Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan

    This organization sure has made some pretty awful trades in their first 15 years of existence. If they weren’t playing in the Grand Canyon, maybe they would have realized the quality of the talent they were dealing

  11. I’ve followed the team for 50 years. My dad took me to the second game. In the early years, Jim Wynn was a legitimate star. In 1967 he battled Hank Aaron down to the wire for the HR title – with the Astrodome as home field. In homage to all the other budding stars that could have made the team a powerhouse, I’ve got to go with Wynn.

    Same nod to Larry Dierker. In the 60’s he came up as an 18 year old, took perfect games into the bottom of the ninth twice, was the team’s first 20 game winner while throwing 300 innings leading the team to its first pennant race in ’69. I saw his no-hitter in the twilight of his career. He came back to Houston after a year in St Louis and he sold tickets, wrote a great column for the Chronicle, had a great stint as TV color announcer and a great stint as manager. There has got to be a place for a guy like that. Bagwell and Biggio are obvious. I wonder how long they will have to wait to get the nod for the Hall of Fame?

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