Rainbow resurgence: Bright Astros jerseys now a fan favorite

Associated Press
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HOUSTON (AP) Once mocked, now fashionable, those rainbow jerseys of the Houston Astros are back in full bloom at the World Series.

The Astros won’t be sporting them Friday night for Game 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But they’ve become a fan favorite decades after they debuted, and Minute Maid Park undoubtedly will be peppered with the out-of-the-box style.

Count model Kate Upton in that crowd. She liked the bright colors so much, she recently wore them on the field while celebrating with her fiance, Astros ace Justin Verlander.

No surprise, in fact. The man who designed them said the team was looking to play to a certain demographic.

“We were trying to appeal to women,” recalled Jack Amuny, who turns 80 next month.

The revolutionary pattern was introduced in 1975 and the Astros wore a version with only minor tweaks until 1986. From the start, it caught the eyes of the baseball world: The pullover jersey featured various hues of red, orange stripes and yellow stripes, plus a navy blue star to the left of center.

They didn’t have an official name – while rainbows seem to be the most popular way to describe them, they’re also referred to as tequila sunrise because of the cocktail that features similar color scheme.

Nolan Ryan pitched his fifth no-hitter in them, Mike Scott and Larry Dierker also threw no-nos in the gear.

Though they haven’t been the team’s uniforms for more than 20 years, they’re Houston’s go-to throwback. The Astros have worn them 10 times since 1999, including on June 24 when Lance McCullers came off the disabled list and pitched.

“That’s an iconic jersey for us, for the Astros organization,” McCullers said Thursday. “Nolan, Scott, a lot of guys when you think of Astros baseball, you think of those guys, and that jersey.”

There certainly weren’t always such warm feelings about them. When they were released, some called the outfits the ugliest uniforms in the history of baseball.

Amuny, the freelance graphic designer who created the design for ad agency McCann Erickson, didn’t exactly brag about his role in their inception.

“I got a lot of criticism about it and there was a lot of snickering,” he said.

Amuny, who lives in suburban Houston, didn’t receive much guidance when he began the project.

“My assignment was to design something different and I had no restrictions,” he said.

Since this was the early 1970s, all the work was done by hand, with Amuny cutting strips of paper and lining them up in a sequence of hues from light to dark.

“I’m a very conservative person and I was doing something that was really wacko in that no other major league team had a uniform where the top was a different color than the bottom,” he said. “So I think that was a little off. I was just trying to do something that was bright.”

He also said the team hoped to attract more female fans with the uniform redesign.

“The Astros I don’t think at that time had a real good team and they were trying to fill that dome,” Amuny said of the almost 68,000-seat Astrodome.

The only change the Astros made to Amuny’s original design was moving the star from the center of the stripes.

And for the record, Amuny didn’t get rich off the celebrated style.

“Back then I was charging about $50 an hour, so it couldn’t have been a whole lot of money,” he said with a chuckle.

Not that he feels badly about that.

“It comes down to the satisfaction and the enjoyment of designing something that worked. That’s the big kick I get out it,” he said.

Besides, he has a nice little keepsake of his handiwork.

“I ordered one, a Nolan Ryan jersey, and he autographed it for me on the day that he pitched a no-hitter with that jersey on,” Amuny said.

Among those who liked the look was Steve Sax, a rookie with the Dodgers when they faced the rainbow-wearing Astros in the playoffs in 1981.

“I played for two franchises that had a lot of tradition, the Dodgers and the Yankees, and we didn’t have uniforms like that,” he said this week at Dodger Stadium. “No one did. That wide band and all those colors, that was very `70s and `80s. I know some people made fun of those Astro uniforms. I thought they were kind of cool.”

He’s far from the only one, with Esquire magazine calling them the best uniforms in a piece written before the start of the World Series.

“This is, hands down, the best baseball uniform of all time,” the magazine wrote. “You killed it Astros, you killed it.”

Baseball uniforms aren’t exactly high fashion, but the style is so loved that even a woman who spends her days on catwalks in places like Paris and Milan has embraced the style.

Celebrating with Verlander after Game 7 of the AL Championship Series last weekend, Upton stunned in a $200 Mitchell & Ness reproduction of the warmup sweater the team wore bearing the design. The navy button-up sweater with the signature stripes and “Astros” in white letters is so popular that it’s sold out on the company’s web site. The team store at Minute Maid Park also sold out during the ALCS.

It’s been a staple in the closet of nearly every Houston rapper over the years. But the affinity for the jersey certainly isn’t limited to the locals. Big Boi, one half of Atlanta duo Outkast, rocked it in a video in 1998 and New York-born rapper and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs donned one in a video in 2003.

Houston rapper Paul Wall had a custom Nolan Ryan replica made that features anaconda skin on the letters and logo.

“We don’t get a lot of love outside of Houston from other cities or other artists, so when we see somebody from out of town wearing one of our Houston jerseys, we recognize it,” he said. “When we saw Outkast representing wearing an Astros jersey, we were all excited about that.”

In their first trip to the World Series in 2005, the Astros were in their brick red and black uniform period that lasted from 2000-12. Soon after Jim Crane bought the team, the club redesigned them. While they didn’t bring back the rainbows, they did revert to the classic team colors of orange, navy blue and white.

And though they won’t be donning those fabled duds as they try to win the first championship in franchise history, it’s worth noting that when Sports Illustrated featured George Springer on the cover of the magazine in 2014 with the headline: “Your 2017 World Series Champs,” he was wearing the rainbow throwbacks.

“The rainbows are something that I think will forever be associated with the Astro organization, because it should be,” McCullers said. “They’re a great look and fans love them.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.