This is the third in a series of articles describing the various uniforms of the Houston Astros, the performance of the team during each uniform era, and the best individual performers in each uniform. It was originally published by SB Nation in 2013 and written by Cliff Corcoran.
Orange shooting star: 1971-1974
The Astros flipped their color scheme in 1971, making orange their primary color and navy their highlight, but otherwise kept the same basic look, though they tweaked it several times during this span. In 1972, they switched from flannels to double-knits, adding stripes to their sleeves and collars, ditching their belts for elastic waistbands striped in the same orange-white-navy sequence, and replacing their jersey buttons with zippers. In 1973, they changed the style of the lettering on their road jerseys from radially arched to vertically arched. Still, we can treat these four seasons as a single uniform set, one inextricably linked to tragedy.
The Astros best pitcher during these seasons was Don Wilson, who compiled 16.9 bWAR over those four years and led all Astros hurlers in this uniform set with a 5.7 bWAR in 1971 (16-10, 2.45 ERA, 138 ERA+ over 268 innings). However on January 5, 1975, Wilson was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage at the age of 29, an incident which also claimed the life of his son and was ultimately ruled an accident. The best hitter to wear these duds was center fielder Cesar Cedeño, who compiled 7.9 wins above replacement in 1972, 7.2 in ‘73, leading the team to their first two winning seasons in the process, and a team-best 22.2 bWAR in these four seasons from age 20 to 23. Unfortunately, Cedeño never lived up to the promise of his ‘72 and ‘73 seasons, a fact some blame on an incident in December 1973 in which his mistress was killed with his gun, a death also later ruled an accident.