Astros lose all-time great in outfielder Jimmy Wynn

(Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros mourn the passing of all-time great Jimmy Wynn.

The Houston Astros lost their first great star on offense as Jimmy Wynn passed away at age 78. His number 24 is retired by the team for a reason, as “The Toy Cannon” left an indelible mark on the franchise.

Wynn actually broke into the majors with the Colt .45s in 1963. He became a regular in 1965, the first year the team was called the Astros, and popped 22 homers and stole 43 bases in the first season in the Astrodome.

He went on to hit 223 home runs for the club and stole 180 bases. For a short time in the early 1970s, both Wynn and the great Cesar Cedeno patrolled the same outfield. It’s rather disappointing that the club couldn’t get to the postseason with that duo.

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Wynn compiled seven 20-homer seasons and a pair of 30-homer campaigns despite playing half his games in the Astrodome. It’s fair to wonder how many more homers he would’ve hit if he’d played somewhere else. I, for one, would’ve loved to see him play at Minute Maid Park in his prime. He would’ve worn out the facade above the Crawford Boxes.

You also have to look at the historical context. The late ’60s were a golden age for pitching, which was quite the opposite of this homer-crazy era we’re in now. To demonstrate, only one Astro hit more than six home runs in 1968, and that was Wynn with 26. The team as a whole hit 66 homers, so Wynn accounted for almost 40 percent of the team’s homers that year.

He was never one to hit for a high average, but he drew a lot of walks and hit plenty of bombs and  had a real knack for hitting those tape measure shots. He was the first player to hit three home runs in one game in the Astrodome, with each one traveling more than 400 feet. There was a seat in the dome’s upper deck that he hit and was later marked in his honor.

Unfortunately, Wynn and teammate Joe Morgan frequently clashed with manager Harry Walker, who wanted them to be more like slap hitters. It resulted in Morgan being traded to the Reds, and Wynn was ultimately traded as well. He had a great first year with the Dodgers, including hitting a homer in the World Series, but was later traded to Atlanta in a package for Dusty Baker.

When all was said and done, Wynn finished with 291 career homers, and his 55.8 WAR is better than several Hall of Famers. He was the type of player whose game would be more appreciated in modern times than it was back then. But let’s take a moment to appreciate what The Toy Cannon means to the Astros franchise as one of its all-time great players.