- Paul Lukas
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Whatever else you can say about the Houston Astros, they've certainly had some of MLB's most creative uniforms of the past half-century. Even the team's embrace of orange qualifies as an innovation, one that other MLB teams are only now catching up with.
So with the ’Stros slated to get new uniforms next year, to coincide with the team's move to the American League, expectations are high. Will they go with a solid orange uni? Rainbow striping from head to toe? A handgun and a shooting star facing off against each other?
We'll have to wait until autumn to find out. For now, though, Uni Watch readers have come up with their own proposals for redesigning the ’Stros. Nearly 100 of you sent in designs -- some wacky, some fairly traditional, but almost all of them interesting. Here are Uni Watch's favorites (in each case, you can click on the image to see a larger version):
1. Alex Rocklein
Lots of readers attempted to combine design elements from past Astros uniforms, but none did so as successfully as Rocklein. His alternate jersey, with the simple band of rainbow striping, is particularly sharp, and the "motion" lettering on his home jersey pairs nicely with the shooting star. Love the simple but effective cap designs, too. Well done.
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2. Carlos Sosa
Several readers tried to make an explicit visual connection between the Astros and NASA's visual program (including lots of logos based on the NASA logo). Sosa took this approach the furthest, and with the best results. There are some overdesigned elements here -- the number typeface, the green alternate jersey -- but the overall proposal is really strong. (And just for fun, Sosa also came up with a design based on the connection between the team's name and the Jetsons' dog.)
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3. Mark Rabinowitz
Most of the design submissions included some version of the Astros' old tequila sunrise rainbow striping, but only Rabinowitz came up with the idea of restricting it to piping and trim. It's a clever approach, and it totally works -- a good visual reference to the team's past without being a slavish re-creation. The rainbow-outlined star logo is nice, too. Let's hope the team's real uniform for next year turns out to be half this good.
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4. Richard Koehler
Here's another good combination of past Astros elements: the rainbow striping serving as the tail of the shooting star. It works particularly well on that home jersey, no? (Also, Koehler submitted another design with a completely different color scheme. Those colors don't feel right for the ’Stros, but the alternate uni at far right, with just the uni number inside the shooting star, has potential. Wouldn't mind seeing that one rendered in more Astros-appropriate colors.)
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5. Tom Bierbaum
Uni Watch has a soft spot for non-computerized design submissions, and Bierbaum's was definitely the best of the analog concepts. If you can get past the retro feel and the orange road uni, the chest wordmarks and cap logo are all really strong.
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Honorable mention: The best NASA-based design, aside from Carlos Sosa's, was Andy Woolley's. You can see his full slate of designs here. ... Uni Watch really likes Peter Melling's primary and secondary logos, although his uniform concepts seem a bit pedestrian. ... Another strong logo: Christopher Pirrone's "H" design. Love those cap concepts. ... Speaking of fun cap designs, how cool would it be if the ’Stros went with Ed McVey's cap concept? ... Kudos to Seth Pringle, who rendered his design in Houston Oilers colors. ... Christopher Noice gets bonus points for coming up with a design that's based on an astronaut's suit -- including a shiny satin alternate uni! ... The most creative idea of the whole contest came from R. Scott Rogers, who suggested glow-in-the-dark uni elements.
Want to see more? You can check out all of the design submissions here.
Last week's column on MLB uniforms quirks and oddities prompted a lot of good responses. Here's a sampling:
• Regarding players who don't wear batting gloves, here's an article about how Nelson Cruz of the Rangers switches back and forth between going gloved and bare-handed.
• Uni Watch's list of hitters who wear only one batting glove should have included Madison Bumgarner of the Giants (although he's a pitcher, so that barely counts).
• We can add a name to the list of players wearing double-earflap batting helmets: Brian Roberts of the Orioles. Roberts just returned to the lineup this week after missing more than a year with a concussion, so he apparently wants all the protection he can get.
• Uni Watch should have mentioned Kyle Drabek of the Blue Jays and Alex White of the Rockies, the only pitchers in the bigs with single-digit uni numbers. (For more on the history of single-digit pitchers, look here.)
• John Jaso of the Mariners is still wearing his pink necklace from Mother's Day.
• Brian Matusz of the Orioles has former O's outfielder Brady Anderson's name stitched onto his glove, because Anderson mentored him during the offseason.
• Finally, there's this: Remember how Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, and A.J. Pierzynski like to leave their back pockets hanging out? There's another player who's doing that: Jordany Valdespin of the Mets. But here's the kicker: It turns out that during the Great Depression, this inside-out pocket was known as a Hoover Flag. Interesting to see how this gesture has gone from the broke and destitute to millionaire ballplayers, no?
(Big thanks to all who contributed, including Stuart Birdseye, Ken Levin, Brian Pace, Dan Ruef, James Samsel, Matt Takimoto and Caleb Yorks.)
Paul Lukas will be running more design contests soon. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.