The Houston Astros will be moving after the 2012 season; not from Houston or their stadium, but from their league, the National League, the league they’ve called home since their debut season 50 years ago in 1962.  The Astros also have a new owner and their shift to the American League was a condition of that sale.

When it comes to the Houston Astros any major change to the franchise raises questions amongst the logo and uniform community about what they’ll do branding-wise when the change happens.

The Astros have had a history of introducing entirely new looks at moments such as these. The first time they moved into a new stadium they completely changed their name, when they moved again they nearly changed names once again before settling on merely radically changing their colour scheme and uniform style. Every time a new owner took over: change, change, change.

In 2012-13 the Astros will be experiencing both these events at the same time, I smell change a-comin’.  I asked the Houston Astros this week about any plans to change their look to coincide with their league-jump next year, they said that a rebrand in time for 2013 was indeed possible.  This came on the heels of new Astros owner, Jim Crane, mentioning he’d seek fan input on a new logo or uniforms.

Despite officially being known as the Houston Colt .45s, the media and team uniforms referred to the club as "the Colts" from 1962-64

Personally, I’d like to see a return to the classic blue and orange colour scheme that the team sported during those great Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, and Craig Biggio days.  Were they the best years for the Astros?  Maybe so, maybe not, but they sure looked great.

The Houston Astros started life in October 1960 and along with New York (Mets) they were the first two cities awarded Major League expansion franchises in nearly 60 years. The franchise was awarded largely due to the promise of a domed stadium being built by it’s expansion ownership group. The Houston franchise then held a name-the-team contest in 1961 to find the new club moniker.

On March 7, 1961 the Houston Sports Association announced the winner from the more than 12,000 entries for the new name.  The team was to be named “The Colts”, and would “use a revolver as an emblem instead of a young horse” as originally reported by the Associated Press.

Although the team was officially known as the Houston Colt .45s, the media and fans chose to brand the club “Colts” and even the team uniforms had “COLTS” blazoned across the front, the letters formed out of the smoke from a freshly fired weapon.

During the same off season as their move into the Harris County Domed Stadium (as it was then known) the Colt .45s became involved in a merchandising dispute with the Colt Firearms Company. The company stated they had no objection to the team retaining the Colt .45s name but took issue with the name being licensed out to manufacturers of merchandise.  Instead of being forced into a profit-sharing plan with the firearm company, Houston president Roy Hofheinz opted to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented to him to rebrand everything, including the stadium, name, logos… everything.

The Houston Astros first logo (1965), their new stadium "The Astrodome" was the main feature of the logo

After kicking around the idea of calling the club the Houston Stars, Hofheinz eventually settled on the Houston Astros, announcing his decision in December of 1964.  Hofheinz explained, in his own unique way, that the new name, “is keeping with the situation in which we are the space capital of the world… the name is taken from the stars and indicates we are on the ascendancy.”

Houston's 1965-74 home jersey, featuring the shooting star across the chest

Much like similar drastic brand changes over the years, the “Astros” name was met with negative reactions from Houston fans. “We don’t care for the name Astros, we’re Texans and we’d like the name to fit in more with our heritage”, claimed a manager of a local bond paper manufacturing firm.  Keep in mind, space exploration and Houston’s role as the centre of the space world was relatively new in 1965.

The club decided to retain their colour scheme of blue and orange from their days as the Colt .45s but added a shooting star, with an arch similar to that of a home run to the front of their home uniforms. Their new logo was predominantly orange and featured baseballs flying all around a graphical representation of their new domed stadium, The Astrodome.  You don’t see teams putting their stadiums on their logos anymore, that’s for sure, but The Astrodome was certainly iconic when it opened in 1965.  It was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, and was the first domed stadium in sports history.  Ever wonder how AstroTurf got it’s name? You guessed it, it was created specifically for the Astrodome when the grass they planted kept dying. They actually had to go through that to figure out grass can’t grow indoors….go figure.

The Astros didn’t introduce their most iconic look until ten years later, when the advertising firm McCann and Erickson was called in to radically rebrand the club with a look never before seen on the baseball field.  A pullover jersey with red, orange, and yellow alternating horizontal stripes wrapping around the jersey from mid-chest to the waist, a large blue star and a bright orange cap were added for good measure.

This was known as the “Rainbow Era” in Houston Astros history.

The infamous Astros "rainbow guts" jersey with orange cap; worn from 1975-1982

In 1980 a new ownership group took over and the rainbow uniforms were phased out shortly thereafter – being used less and less over the next 6 years before being replaced completely.  The new uniforms which officially became the full-time duds for 1987 carried over the rainbow stripes but they were now relegated to the arms of the uniforms and the orange cap gave way to blue creating a much less offensive, but still unique look for the club.

Another new owner in 1992 and another re-brand. For 1994 the rainbows were finally gone, orange was completely eliminated, and a much more space-like colour scheme of navy blue and gold was introduced. Players now wore a blue cap with a gold shooting star and uniforms featuring “ASTROS” italicized across the chest with a star in place of the “O”.  Even nearly 30 years after it’s opening, that old Astrodome imagery still kicked around in the graphic package, now actually forming the shape of the primary logo.

The Astrodome still present on Houston's '94 rebrand, it was removed from the logo after the season

In the late 1990s the Astros announced they would be leaving the Astrodome to a new retractable roof stadium in downtown Houston. Their new stadium (which would be known as Enron Field) was to be built next to Houston’s Union Station and would open in time for the 2000 season.

Would it make sense for the Astros to leave their iconic Astrodome and retain their name?

That was a decision owner Drayton McLane wrestled with as they bounced around plans to rebrand the club to fit their new stadium.

The uniform and logo of the minor league Houston Buffs - yes they wore shorts. The Astros had contemplated changing their name to the Buffs for the 2000 season

Just a few days before the Astros made their first trip to the post-season in 11 years, it was revealed that the club was considering a name change. The Houston Diesels, the Houston Wildcatters, and the Houston Buffs were the names in the running.  Diesels would have tied in with the new stadium’s proximity to Union Station to create a railroad motif. Wildcatters would reference Houston’s energy industry and the Astros relationship with Enron who had naming rights to the stadium.  “Buffs” was a throwback to the original Houston baseball franchise – the Buffalos, their minor league club which had played off-and-on from 1888 through 1961.

With fans strongly against renaming the club McLane backed off from this idea but a rebrand still happened, for their inaugural season at Enron Field in 2000 the Astros came out wearing a much more subdued, traditional, train engineer-esque set.  The colour scheme was switched over to black, brick and sand, pinstripes were worn with the home jerseys.  The club mascot which had previously been an alien named Orbit (makes sense right?) was replaced by a train driving rabbit known as Junction Jack.  Nothing about this new brand had anything to do with the original meaning behind the name “Astros”.

Houston's mascot "Junction Jack" introduced for the 2000 season, another example of the proposed re-naming of the club from Astros to Diesels

To this day the Astros are still out there wearing their Houston Diesels uniforms with “Astros” written across the front; at some point near the end of the 2012 season I expect we will hear more serious rumblings of a change with an official announcement coming in November.

Do I think they’ll change the name? Not at all, but I do expect a new logo, uniform, and colour scheme.  If the feedback from the Toronto Blue Jays recent rebranding is of any indication it’s possible we’ll see a return to orange in some capacity, hopefully paired with navy blue in a uniform set based upon their first Astros uniform from 1965.  That’s what I’d love to see but knowing the Astros and their history of changes it’ll be something new that nobody’s expecting.

Check out Chris’s sports logo and uniform website at SportsLogos.Net, or follow him on Twitter at @sportslogosnet

Comments (23)

  1. I’d like to see the re-birth of the Colt .45s. I see that going over quite well with parents’ groups, the media, society, etc…

  2. I’m sure the NRA would love the name Colt .45′s. The mascot could even be a caricature of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. They could do target shooting between innings. Free hand gun day. The possibilities are endless…

  3. Am I crazy or are those rainbow jerseys kind of crazy enough to be cool? Great article this week Creamer!

  4. Not happy about the move to the AL, but hey, might as well do a rebrand to get everyone excited here. The current uniforms are so boring!

  5. They had grass early on with the Astrodome because the ceiling was made of glass, allowing sunlight to come into the building. But the fielders complained about the glare of the sun due to the ceiling and they were forced to paint over the glass. This lead to the grass dying and the advent of Astroturf.

    • Yup. I think some sun still crept through – hold a long enough event in the Astrodome (Wreslemania X7 comes to mind) and you could notice a definite difference in the overall light.

  6. I think the current Astros unis are the best they’ve ever had, unfortunately I do think they need to change because they really do not tie in at all with the space theme of the team’s name. A re-imagining of the “rainbow guts” set would be interesting. Pretty much the only team with a valid reason to do something outlandish is the Astros.

    • I like the current Astros unis a lot actually. It doesn’t really fit the “Astros” image, but the unis themselves are pleasing to the eye

  7. I like “Houston Buffaloes” or something like that. “Houston Colts” is good too, but they really could not get away with using a gun-related logo these days.

  8. I would like to see the Astros make the switch back to blue and orange, and bring back the H and star logo on their caps. The throwbacks they wore for the 45th anniversary were pretty sweet! They could even bring back Orbit and get rid of that stupid rabbit mascot while they’re at it.

  9. The real story of AstroTurf:

    The Astrodome has a glass roof. The grass was growing fine. During an exhibition game with the Yankees, the glare off the glass was so severe that Mickey Mantle got clocked in the head by a fly ball.

    It was then decided to tint the glass. They over-did it. The tinting killed the grass. Thus, artificial turf was born from the head of Mickey Mantle.

  10. Hey Chris – the Junction Jack was an attempt to tie in the coolness of the Union Station building because of the lousy naming rights produced Enron Field – when it should have been called The Ballpark at Union Station!

    Working at NASA and the team having routes in Astronauts from early in franchise history, I would pray the Astros name sticks (in fact, they may be dead to me if the y lose it)! Although – we need to go back to some kind of heritage colors. I talked to to Woody at the last weekend Biggio played (they wore the rainbow sleeves jerseys) and he said they guys LOVED those throwbacks and hated what they were wearing. I always felt it a huge slap in the face to put pinstripes on our unis… especially with the bad taste that Yankee Rocket left in my mouth!

  11. I would love to see the ‘Stros go back to using the blue, orange & cream colors. Bring back the star w/ the “H” on the lids. I always liked the original Astros unis with the swoosh strips across the top of the chest. I hate the fact that the Astros & D’Backs colors are almost exactly the same. Houston needs it own identity.
    Speaking of the D’Backs, their colors are awful. They had something unique with the purple, turquoise & copper. I didn’t necessarily agree with how they used the colors, but changing to the nasty brick & black stuff was a big step back IMO.

  12. “Colts” might work again – but they’d end up using a horse logo instead of the “weapon.” Colt .45s wouldn’t be PC enough of course (remember the fate of the Washington Bullets NBA franchise’s moniker). Diesels? Puke! The environmentalist crowed would be apoplectic.

    Maybe the rabbit holds the key – Houston Jackrabbits…. it’s no worse than “Wildcatters”

    Seriously – the Astros name and tradition can stay – but they need a uni that says “Astros” rather than the current, confused, misfit look. If they musts change – Colts would be the only alternative to baseball purism – horse or not…

  13. Great article … Fascinating read.

    I agree with a number of people about the current uniforms of the Astros not really matching their space-themed name. I really like the colors but if they are going to stay as the Astros the I think they need a return to the gold and blue of the prior to Minute Maid Park era.

    I was also thinking that if the current colour scheme was popular then keeping it and a name change wouldn’t be a bad idea. I don’t really like any of the three names suggested in the article and think they would make terrible mascots.

    I was thinking about my time in Houston and how hot it was and how Houston have has some of the best fastball pitching ever with Ryan and Clemens. So I thought a name like the HOUSTON HEAT might be a contender for the rebrand with a logo of a flamining sun in the and colour which could replace one of the “o’s” in Houston on their jerseys. Love to hear what people think.

  14. Change the name? No way!! The logo needs to stay also. I don’t care what they do with the uniforms.

  15. Bring back the original Jerseys with the original Colt 45 on it. This is TEXAS.
    Its time to shine!

  16. How about this?

    Take the 87-93 jerseys, give them buttons, make the sleeve rainbows thinner, update the Astros letters to a more fluid, stylized font (somewhere between the 80′s block letters and today’s script), and change the navy star to orange front numbers. Get rid of the navy lines along the sides, and leave the pants plain white/gray. In home games, wear orange belts and white spikes.

    The logo could keep the exact same composition as the current one, but with the updated orange star with the H and the new Astros font style.

    In short, an update of the late-80s style with a couple details from the current look thrown in. What do you think?

  17. This is the reverse Astros Rebrand in 2013? History says, “Yes!” | Getting Blanked | Blogs | theScore.com journal for anyone who wants to attempt out out nearly this content. You observance so often its nigh effortful to debate with you (not that I real would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new twirl on a substance thats been handwritten around for years. Squeamish squeeze, just high!

  18. Really, they should go all out with the space theme and just wear Star Trek uniforms.

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