The 1965 Astros—one team, many hats

2012 marks the 50th anniversary season for the Houston Astros, and they have been celebrating by wearing a range of historic uniforms from their very colorful visual history. The club recently sported their 1965 "shooting star" throwbacks, capped off by the iconic "H Star" headwear that they wore from 1965-93, on both navy and orange caps.

The franchise transitioned from Colt .45s to Astros in the winter of 1964 and the spring of 1965. After looking at multiple images from this time it has occurred to me that the club didn't have a firm plan in place for the design of their caps.

Players started reporting to Spring Training in Cocoa Beach, Florida on February 15, 1965. I've located a photo of former Yankee Bob Turley getting loose two days later—this was five days before veterans reported—so it stands to reason that this is one of the earliest on-field images of the 1965 Astros. Note the "H" on his cap, a design which was worn in Spring Training but never saw the light of day in a regular season game.

Many images exist of this plain H headwear, all taken during Spring Training in 1965.

To confuse the situation further, I've also found images from that Spring Training that depict players wearing a very plain star with no H on their caps. The following configuration seems to indicate a patch that's been placed over another decoration, quite possibly the ".45s" design worn by the franchise from 1962-64. It could well be a bad airbrush job too.

Confused? Here is an image of Hall of Famer Nelson Fox, taken during that same 1965 Spring Training. His star is sewn directly on to the cap he's wearing.

Let's fast forward a few weeks. The Astrodome will soon be hosting its first game and the Astros have engaged the ageless Leroy "Satchel" Paige in a publicity stunt—he has been called upon to throw what was described as the "first baseball ever pitched at the Astrodome." The following photos depict him in an empty Dome with a dirt infield and an unfinished scoreboard in the background. We can assume that this was taken in the weeks leading up to the first game played in the Dome, an exhibition match between the declining New York Yankees and the newly christened Astros, played on April 9.
Paige is wearing a cap featuring a completely different slab-serif "H," sewn onto a rectangular patch which has been sewn on to the headwear. The following close-up provides a great view.

One more image, taken from The Sporting News Dope Book, 1965 edition-a sketch of Astros manager Luman Harris, featuring the design worn by Satchel Paige above.

Licensing and revenue opportunities that would have coincided with the launch of a new team identity were not on the radar in 1964-65, so a scenario such as this would be unthinkable today. When the club finally figured out what they wanted to do, they came up with a design that had great staying power, lasting 29 seasons.


The 1965 Astros—one team, many hats — 8 Comments

  1. Todd –
    Very cool. Personally, I like the first “H” (seen in the Turley photo) with the serifs that point in one direction, giving a subtle feel of motion.
    – Tom

  2. I like the Astros’ standard hat that the team has worn. I will also admit to liking their funky, multicolored unis from the 1970s.

    • The first H—the one with the spiky serifs—matches the home jersey “shooting star” lettering. Pronounced serifs on the left side of the letterforms, a very clear choice for this variation.

  3. First, Todd, Congratulations on your blog!!! Already a Favorite Bookmark.
    I really enjoyed your Houston Astros first year cap study, wow, talk about client changes in the “prototype” stages, which looked like it lasted for months. While working on the Houston Rockets identity wayyyyy back in the mid-’90’s I remember a team in Houston called the Buffaloes or the Buffs so had to Google and wow, some really interesting stories and images about baseball in Houston before the .45’s and the Astros. Good stuff.

    • Thank you Tom! Discussing the sports branding landscape transcends opinions and critiques on what’s happening now—there’s a tremendous volume of great stuff waiting to be explored and talked about. Happy you are here.

      The history of Minor League Baseball in Houston is a rich one—they played at a different Busch Stadium:

      A Cubs farm team in their final Minor League season, 1961.

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