Opinion

MLB airbrushes own history with Astros throwback jerseys

Eric McErlain Sports Blogger

Though most baseball fans are too young to remember, the baseball team based in Houston, Texas was not always known as the Astros. Instead, the team that became known as the Astros once it moved into the Astrodome in 1965 entered the National League as an expansion team in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s — a name that was chosen to “honor the gun that won the West.”

Apparently that sort of history doesn’t sit well with Major League Baseball, so they’re all set to airbrush it out of existence. According to multiple reports, the Astros are planning to wear throwback jerseys honoring the 1962 team twice this season. But when they do, the image of the famous Colt. 45 won’t be seen on the jersey. The reason: The folks at Major League Baseball’s New York headquarters wouldn’t approve the jerseys unless the gun was removed.

As others have pointed out, the decision seems a little odd in a baseball league where one team proudly displays a tomahawk on the front of its jerseys (Atlanta Braves), while others promote alcohol consumption (Milwaukee Brewers) and barbarians who still ply the oceans today (Pittsburgh Pirates).

According to ESPN.com, one Astros fan was so upset at the decision that he decided to write a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig about it. The fan received the following response from an Astros official:

“During our discussion with Major League Baseball, it was expressed to us that we could wear the uniform as long as the pistol was removed. We realize this changes the original design, but we still want to honor the Colt .45s. We are also under an obligation to follow Major League Baseball’s requests.”

I ought to note that this isn’t the first time that a professional sports league has tried to alter history. When Major League Soccer added a franchise in Houston in 2005, the owners of the team wanted to name the franchise Houston 1836, a reference to the Texas War of Independence. But under pressure from Hispanic activists, the name of the team was changed to the Houston Dynamo, a reference to the pivotal role of the energy industry in the region. Ironically, elsewhere in international soccer, the team name of Dynamo has traditionally referred to teams sponsored by the secret police in the former Soviet bloc.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.