This is the sixth 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.
Gold and Navy: 1994-1999
In the wake of Drayton McLane’s 1993 purchase of the team, the Astros underwent their first complete uniform redesign since the introduction of the tequila-sunrise look in 1975. The result was perhaps the least-loved of all Astros uniforms. Replacing the team’s traditional orange with a metallic gold, the cap remained navy but the white H on orange star was replaced by a gold star outlined in white that I believe was supposed to be an update on the shooting star concept but always just looked like a star that was missing a lower left side. The uniform itself was nearly featureless, with only a single line of blue piping down the side of the pants and the jersey text. That text was tightly-bunched, mildly futuristic, italicized, drop-caps lettering with a version of the updated shooting star in the penultimate “O” in “Astros” (on the home whites and blue alternate) and “Houston” (road grays). In 1997, the road jersey was altered so that the open star surrounded the end of the word “Houston” rather than being contained within it.
This was the heart of the Bagwell-Biggio era, with the former totaling a staggering 40.7 bWAR in these six seasons and Biggio, who spend all six seasons at second base, coming in at 36.4. Those two also turned in the two greatest hitting seasons in Astros history in this uniform. In 1997, Biggio hit .309/.415/.501 with 22 home runs, 47 stolen bases (at an 82 percent success rate), eight triples, scored 146 runs, was hit by 34 pitches, and deservingly won the Gold Glove at second base, a performance worth a team-record 9.3 bWAR. In the strike year of 1994, Bagwell hit .368/.451/.750 with 39 home runs, 116 RBIs, 104 runs scored, 300 total bases, and 15 steals (at a 79 percent clip) in just 110 games while playing his home games at the Astrodome! That performance was worth 7.9 bWAR, which pro-rated over a full 162 games (as opposed to the 115 the Astros actually played) put him on pace for 11.1 bWAR had the strike not happened. Led by that 1994 campaign, Bagwell compiled four of the top six single-season bWARs by an Astros hitter while wearing this uniform, and Biggio’s 1997 makes it five of those six seasons in this uniform.
The Astros pitchers of this era were decidedly less impressive, led by Shane Reynolds’ 14.2 bWAR and Mike Hampton’s 13.5. The best single pitching season in this uniform was Hampton’s 1999, when he compiled 6.4 bWAR by going 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA (155 ERA+), hit .311/.373/.432, and was the runner-up in the Cy Young voting.
This was also the only uniform in their history in which the Astros did not have a losing season, and was what they wore in their first 100-win campaign when they went 102-60 in 1998. The Astros won the new NL Central in each of their final three seasons in these duds, but managed to win just two postseason games in those three years. It wasn’t until they switched both uniforms and ballparks that they would win their first postseason series.