Jim Wynn official website
Jim Wynn player page
Wynn was not destined to toil in the minors for long. After an excellent half-season with San Antonio in the Texas League, Wynn was called up to play for the Colts in mid-season. Debuting on July 10, 1963, Wynn played over 20 games at shortstop before moving to the outfield. With his speed and powerful arm, Wynn quickly adapted and finished his first half-season in the majors with 5 outfield assists, just two short of the team lead. Unfortunately, Wynn struggled at the plate and began the 1964 with Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Once again, a successful half-season in the minors was rewarded and Wynn finished the 1964 season with the Colts and never again returned to the minors.
In 1966, Wynn was on pace for an even better season. With a third of the season remaining, Wynn had already hit 18 homers and driven in 62 runs, although his batting average had dropped from .275 to .256. But on August 1, Wynn's season would end suddenly after a collision with the center-field fence in Philadelphia that would fracture his left hand, wrist and elbow. The effects of the injury were not lasting, as Wynn rebounded in 1967 with a power display that Houston fans would not be seen again for decades. On June 10, in front of his family and friends in Cincinnati, Wynn hit the longest home run in the history of Crosley Field. His blast was a titanic shot that cleared the 58-foot scoreboard in left-center field and bounced onto Interstate 75 outside the stadium. Just five days later, Wynn would set a team record by hitting three home runs in a game against the Giants in the Astrodome. One month later, he would make his first All-Star appearance, and his only as an Astro. As the season wound down and the team slid further down the standings, excitement was still high because Wynn was in a heated race with Hank Aaron for the home run title. With both players tied at 37 home runs entering the last few days of the season, Aaron took the title with two late home runs. Nevertheless, Aaron would later comment that he considered Wynn to be the champion because the Astro had to play half of his games in the cavernous Astrodome. At the end of the season, Wynn was the team leader in home runs, RBIs and runs scored, but his disappointing .249 average would cost him the team's MVP award, which went to Rusty Staub and his .333 batting average, another team record that would last for decades.
(c) Houston Astros
Wynn's role with the team would change on July 8, 1970. On that date, he would be displaced in center field by 19-year-old phenom Cesar Cedeno. Wynn finished the season with fine numbers, but soon faced unexpected adversity in the off-season. On December 21, Wynn was injured in a near-fatal stabbing during a domestic dispute and required emergency abdominal surgery. Although physically healed by the following Opening Day, it is clear that Wynn was not ready to return to playing full-time. Wynn struggled through the worst season of his entire professional career, batting only .203 with 7 home runs over the season. Wynn returned to form in 1972, hitting .273 with 24 homers and 90 RBI. But after struggling with a .220 average in 1973, the 31-year-old Wynn was shipped to Los Angeles in the off-season for pitcher Claude Osteen.
In Los Angeles, Wynn became an instant hit. His season started under the media scrutiny of Hank Aaron's chase for home run #715, and Wynn was playing center field when that historic blast was launched off of Al Downing. After a hot start, Wynn was named to the All-Star team and led the team to the 1974 World Series. Unfortunately, he injured his arm late in the season and was never the same. Although he made All-Star team again in 1975, Wynn's injury affected his defense as his once-powerful arm became a liability in the outfield. His hitting suffered as well, and 1977 became was his last season of major-league ball.
Wynn: Will Cooperstown realize its error?
Jim Wynn belongs in the Hall of Fame. I have believed this for quite a while, and have not seen a compelling argument to convince me otherwise. The centerfielders in the HOF can be roughly divided into three categories: the elites, the very good, and the marginal picks. Here are the players in those categories, listed with the following stats: games played, batting average, on-base pct, slugging pct, and Total Player Rating by Total Baseball, which adjusts for era and park effects.
The elites: G AVG OBP SLG TPR Inducted Willie Mays 2992 .302 .387 .557 92.2 1st year - 1979 Ty Cobb 3035 .366 .433 .512 91.0 1st - 1936 Tris Speaker 2789 .345 .428 .500 86.5 2nd - 1937 Mickey Mantle 2401 .298 .423 .557 76.1 1st - 1974 The very good: G AVG OBP SLG TPR Inducted Joe Dimaggio 1736 .325 .398 .579 46.9 3rd - 1955 Robin Yount 2856 .285 .346 .430 43.1 1st - 1999 Richie Ashburn 2189 .308 .397 .382 30.2 Veteran's Committee - 1995 Kirby Puckett 1783 .318 .363 .477 29.1 1st - 2000 Billy Hamilton 1591 .344 .455 .432 26.5 Veteran's Committee - 1961 Max Carey 2476 .285 .361 .386 22.6 Veteran's Committee - 1961 Duke Snider 2143 .295 .381 .540 22.3 11th - 1980 Larry Doby 1533 .283 .387 .490 21.2 Veteran's Committee - 1998 The marginal: G AVG OBP SLG TPR Inducted Earl Averill 1668 .318 .395 .534 17.6 Veteran's Committee - 1975 Hack Wilson 1348 .307 .393 .545 15.6 Veteran's Committee - 1979 Edd Roush 1967 .323 .369 .446 13.1 Veteran's Committee - 1962 Earl Combs 1445 .325 .397 .462 11.6 Veteran's Committee - 1970 Hugh Duffy 1737 .324 .384 .449 5.5 Old-Timer's Committee - 1945 Lloyd Waner 1993 .316 .353 .393 -3.4 Veteran's Committee - 1967
One interesting thing I noticed about these lists is that, with the exception of Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielders were either inducted right away or had to wait for an induction by the Veteran's Committee. Perhaps this is typical for other positions, but I expected to see more players inducted in their later years of standard eligibility. Regardless, it is clear that the Veteran's Committee is responsible for watering down the standards for the Hall.
But the HOF voters can be finicky. Here are the better centerfielders left out of the Hall, with the maximum number of HOF votes they received in any year:
The left-outs: G AVG OBP SLG TPR Max votes received Jim Wynn 1920 .250 .369 .436 33.2 0 Cesar Cedeno 2006 .285 .350 .443 28.3 2 Roy Thomas 1470 .290 .413 .333 22.8 0 Chet Lemon 1988 .273 .357 .442 22.3 1 Fred Lynn 1969 .283 .364 .484 22.3 26 Amos Otis 1998 .277 .347 .425 19.3 0 Dale Murphy 2180 .265 .348 .469 19.2 Al Oliver 2368 .303 .348 .451 13.4 19 Vada Pinson 2469 .286 .330 .442 8.8 67
(c) Houston Astros
One key gripe about Wynn is his low batting average. But when making this argument, Wynn's critics always neglect to mention that his ability to draw walks more than compensated for his low batting average. Without even considering the effects of the Astrodome, Wynn's OBP is better than three of the eight "Very Good" HOF'ers, and his slugging pct is better than four. That doesn't make Wynn an elite member of the "Very Good" HOF'ers, but it certainly places him just under the midpoint. And when you consider that his offensive numbers were depressed by his home park and that his career ended early because of an arm injury, his case becomes stronger.
In a recent column, "Deshaies gets his due", I briefly suggested that I thought Jim Wynn was more qualified for the Hall of Fame than the newly-inducted Kirby Puckett. Without resorting to TPR and park effects, here is a comparison of the two center-fielders:
AB R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG SB Puckett 7244 1071 207 1085 .318 .363 .477 134 Wynn 6653 1105 291 964 .250 .369 .436 225
For all of the consideration given to Puckett's career-ending glaucoma, Wynn's career was ended just as abruptly by his arm injury in Los Angeles. With a roughly equivalent amount of playing time, Wynn showed more power, more speed, and was most certainly a better defensive player. Puckett had a huge, 68-point edge in batting average, but that edge completely evaporated when their strike-zone judgement is considered: Wynn had the superior on-base percentage. In the end, Puckett garners a slight edge because of his superior slugging percentage, but that is the area where players are most negatively impacted by the Astrodome. Once those effects are properly considered, Wynn easily ranks in the top 10 among all-time center fielders.
Emotions among baseball fans are often strongest when the Hall of Fame criteria are discussed. And when emotions run strong, opinions are rarely changed. If you started reading this with the preconception that Wynn is undeserving of the Hall of Fame then I understand that, in all probability, your opinion remains unchanged. At a minimum, however, is the hope that Wynn's case of the Hall of Fame is now seen as supportable by facts and not merely the blatant orange-blooded fanaticism that is part of this particular fan.
Time diminishes Wynn's accomplishments
I would like to suggest a brief thought experiment for long-time Astros fans. Think about the team's assorted sluggers throughout the history of the franchise, especially the one's noted for their power. Think about the home-run hitters that stood out above their teammates and were feared across the league for their power. In the Nineties, Jeff Bagwell springs immediately to mind, as might Moises Alou and Richard Hidalgo. Some might put Eric Anthony on this list, although he fizzled out rather quickly. Derek Bell and Craig Biggio do not, although perhaps Ken Caminiti would if he had not been traded to San Diego. Going back to the Eighties, the only true slugger the team had was Glenn Davis, also known as the "Big Bopper". The Seventies gave us plenty of home-run hitters: Lee May, Cesar Cedeno, Doug Rader and Cliff Johnson. Their home-run totals would pale in comparison to today's inflated statistics, but in their time they were certainly feared for their ability to hit the ball out of the park in any given at-bat. And finally, the premier slugger for the Sixties was Jim Wynn, who in 1967 came closer to winning a home-run title than any other Astro in history.
(c) Houston Astros
Here are two lists, the Top 10 single-season leaders for home runs for the Astros, and the Top 10 career leaders for home runs per 150 games played.
Top 10 Single season leaders, Home Runs Top 10 Career leaders, Home Runs Year Player HR Player HR/150g 1. 2000 Jeff Bagwell 47 1. Jeff Bagwell 31.5 2. 2000 Richard Hidalgo 44 2. Glenn Davis 30.0 3. 1997 Jeff Bagwell 43 3. Richard Hidalgo 28.8 4. 1999 Jeff Bagwell 42 4. Lee May 27.1 5. 1994 Jeff Bagwell 39 5. Jimmy Wynn 23.5 6. 1998 Moises Alou 38 6. Cliff Johnson 20.7 7. 1967 Jimmy Wynn 37 7. Sean Berry 17.3 8. 1998 Jeff Bagwell 34 8. Eric Anthony 17.1 1989 Glenn Davis 34 9. Doug Rader 16.3 10. 1969 Jimmy Wynn 33 10. Derek Bell 16.3 (minimum 300 games played)
(c) Houston Astros
What sticks out like a sore thumb in these lists is the complete dominance by modern players. Jim Wynn's single-season record of 37 home runs lasted 27 years, but has been broken six times since 1994. In the second list, five of the ten players are modern players, and it's only going to get worse as Moises Alou (35.8) and Lance Berkman (25.3) move into the list when they reach 300 games played for club. Of course, most old-timers would scoff at the notion that Derek Bell and Sean Berry were better power hitters than Cesar Cedeno, or even that Richard Hidalgo could go deep like Jim Wynn.
What's missing in these lists is that the hitters are not being placed within the context of the times they played in. Wynn and Cedeno never had the opportunity to play in Enron Field, to take advantage of a smaller strike zone, or even to participate in an off-season training regimen. Players during Wynn's era actually had to work in the off-season for extra money. For whatever reason, home runs before the Nineties were far less frequent than they are today. For example, when Wynn set the club HR record at 37, there were 1.37 home runs hit per game in the National League. In 2000, when both Bagwell and Hidalgo exceeded Wynn's mark, there were 2.32 home runs hit per game. That's almost a 70% increase in frequency over 1967, not even considering the advantages gained by playing in Enron Field. So while Hidalgo and Bagwell may have hit more home runs, Wynn was the player in a tight race with Hank Aaron for the home run title.
To put the accomplishments of these players within the context of their contemporaries, we need to compensate for the changing offensive levels across the seasons involved. While this might sound like a difficult task, it is a feature easily accessed within the ASS 2001 program by simply clicking the "Normalize for era" check box on any of the Astros reports. Doing this will re-adjust statistics based on an "average" year from 1962 to 2000. So players in the Nineties will have their power numbers adjusted downwards, and players in the Sixties will see the opposite effect.
After compensating for era, here is how the two previous lists now look:
Top 10 Single season leaders, Home Runs Top 10 Career leaders, Home Runs Year Player HR Player HR/150g 1. 1967 Jimmy Wynn 43 1. Glenn Davis 31.8 2. 1968 Jimmy Wynn 38 2. Lee May 29.5 1989 Glenn Davis 38 3. Jeff Bagwell 25.6 4. 1988 Glenn Davis 36 4. Jimmy Wynn 25.6 5. 1997 Jeff Bagwell 35 5. Cliff Johnson 25.1 6. 1969 Jimmy Wynn 34 6. Richard Hidalgo 19.5 7. 1986 Glenn Davis 32 7. Cesar Cedeno 18.5 1974 Cesar Cedeno 32 8. Eric Anthony 18.1 1994 Jeff Bagwell 32 9. Doug Rader 17.6 10. 2000 Jeff Bagwell 31 10. Bob Watson 16.9 1972 Lee May 31 (minimum 300 games played)
Wow! Now there is definitely more balance in the lists. Bagwell still owns three of the top 10 spots in the single-season totals but places no higher than #5. But this makes sense when you realize that Bagwell has never really contended for a home-run title except in 1994, when his season was coincidentally ended prematurely by a broken hand and a players' strike. You can also see the extent to which Bagwell's and Hidalgo's home-run totals in 2000 were severely deflated. Although their 47 and 44 homers rank #1 and #2 on the "raw" all-time list, after adjusting for differences in era only Bagwell's 47 homers barely crack the Top 10. And, true to his legend, Jim Wynn still holds the top two spots for most adjusted home runs in a single season. Also, Wynn and Bagwell are coincidentally neck-and-neck in the number of adjusted home runs per 150 games.
On the career list, both Sean Berry and Derek Bell have been sensibly knocked off in favor of Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson. As one fan who has seen all four of those players hit, those changes make a lot of sense. While Moises Alou (25.8) is still only 15 games away from springing into the middle of the list, Lance Berkman's era-adjusted total (17.2) will not be high enough to make the Top 10 after Alou is in.
So what's the point of this? Is it merely a calculator exercise designed to impugn the accomplishments of our current players while pining for a return to the "good old days"? I think not. Rather, I think it is important to recognize the fundamental changes which have since 1993 dramatically altered the balance between pitching and hitting. While we can argue over the causes of these changes, we cannot rationally dispute that the changes have actually occurred.
After all, nobody except stat geeks really cared about "park effects" until Colorado joined the league and their mediocre players started hitting like Triple Crown winners -- at home. Now anyone knowledgeable about the game knows to make adjustments when evaluating the performances of Colorado players. That is because the differences between Coors Field and every other park are so obvious that they cannot be ignored. Enron Field is also developing a similar reputation. Until last season, there has never been a time when writers routinely suggested that the power numbers of Astros should be adjusted DOWNWARD because of their park. Sometimes, I don't know whether to laugh or cry about that.
So just as we now consider the effects of parks when comparing players on different teams, the offensive explosion of the current era forces us to consider the changing conditions in baseball across time when we compare current players to the old-timers. And when we consider Hall of Fame inductions or the breaking of career records, those are the comparisons that we are making. For the old-time Astros hitters like Jim Wynn, this is especially important because they were doubly burdened with the misfortune of playing during a pitchers' era in an extreme pitchers' park.
Awards and Honors
1962 - named Topps Player of the Month
1965 - Houston Astro Most Valuable Player
1967 - named to National League All-Star team
1974 - named to National League All-Star team
1975 - named to National League All-Star team
Professional Baseball Record
Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1962 Tampa 120 400 116 10 5 14 81 20 .290 .445 1963 San Antonio 78 302 87 15 11 16 49 7 .288 .570 1963 Houston 70 250 31 61 10 5 4 27 4 30 53 .244 .319 .372 1964 Oklahoma City 82 282 77 8 5 10 40 13 .273 .443 1964 Houston 67 219 19 49 7 0 5 18 5 24 58 .224 .301 .324 1965 Houston 157 564 90 155 30 7 22 73 43 84 126 .275 .371 .470 1966 Houston 105 418 62 107 21 1 18 62 13 41 81 .256 .321 .440 1967 Houston 158 594 102 148 29 3 37 107 16 74 137 .249 .331 .495 1968 Houston 156 542 85 146 23 5 26 67 11 90 131 .269 .376 .474 1969 Houston 149 495 113 133 17 1 33 87 23 148 142 .269 .436 .507 1970 Houston 157 554 82 156 32 2 27 88 24 106 96 .282 .394 .493 1971 Houston 123 404 38 82 16 0 7 45 10 56 63 .203 .302 .295 1972 Houston 145 542 117 148 29 3 24 90 17 103 99 .273 .389 .470 1973 Houston 139 481 90 106 14 5 20 55 14 91 102 .220 .347 .395 1974 Los Angeles 150 535 104 145 17 4 32 108 18 108 104 .271 .387 .497 1975 Los Angeles 130 412 80 102 16 0 18 58 7 110 77 .248 .403 .417 1976 Atlanta 148 449 75 93 19 1 17 66 16 127 111 .207 .377 .367 1977 Milwaukee 36 117 10 23 3 1 0 10 3 17 31 .197 .294 .239 New York (AL) 30 77 7 11 2 1 1 3 1 15 16 .143 .283 .234 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MINORS TOTAL 280 984 280 34 21 40 170 40 .284 .484 HOUSTON TOTAL 1870 6629 871 1937 335 80 138 942 288 730 841 .292 .359 .429 MLB TOTAL 1920 6653 1105 1665 285 39 291 964 225 1224 1427 .250 .366 .436
For more complete stats on Jim Wynn, check his entry at Baseball-Reference.com.
Astros Media Guide entries
1964 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Oklahoma City (PCL) 82 282 77 9 5 10 40 13 .273 Houston 67 219 49 7 0 5 17 5 .224
#24 - Started career as infielder, but played mostly in the outfield during 1964... did outstanding defensive job in centerfield last three weeks of season for Houston...
1965 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 157 564 155 30 7 22 73 43 .275
#24 - Voted club's most valuable player in 1965 by Houston area sports writers... Set club season records for doubles (30), extra base hits (59), total bases (265), stolen bases (43), slugging average (.470) and most home runs on the road (15)... also lead '65 club in homers, RBIs and batting average... also made some of the club's best defensive plays in his first full season in the majors.
1966 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 105 418 107 21 1 18 62 13 .256
#24 - Was injured seriously August 1, 1966 in Philadelphia and missed the rest of 1966 season... his 18 home runs last year made him the Houston all-time leader with 49... one of club's best defensive players... was second in National League in double plays by outfielders in 1966.
1967 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 158 594 148 29 3 37 107 16 .249
#24 - Had outstanding year, breaking nine major club batting marks for one season, plus many others... singled in his only time at bat in the All-Star game... leads club in career homers with 86... hit three homers in one game against Giants in the Astrodome... works for Schlitz beer distributor in Houston during off-season.
1968 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 156 542 146 23 5 26 67 11 .269
#24 - Led 1968 Astros in homers (26), total bases (257), runs (85) and walks (90)... runner-up in total hits (146) and triples (5), tied for second in doubles (23)... hiked his batting average 20 points to .269... had team's longest 1968 hitting streak (16 games)... set all-time club outfield records for most assists (20) and most double plays (8)... has 112 career home runs to lead Houston... was radio sportscaster during the off season... nicknamed "The Toy Cannon".
1969 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 149 495 133 17 1 33 87 23 .269
#24 - Figured prominently in Houston's record-setting in 1969... he and Menke combined to tie major league mark of two grand slams in one inning (July 30)... he set a National League mark, walking in 11 consecutive games, and tied the NL season mark of 148 bases on balls... set Houston records for runs (113), slugging percentage (.507), most single season homers in the Astrodome (16)... has hit 96 homers the last three seasons... hit .269 for the second straight year, but appreciably increased his total of RBI's (by 20)... now has 145 major league career homers... radio sportscaster during the off season...
1970 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 157 554 156 32 2 27 88 24 .282
#24 - Continued to be one of Houston's top offensive guns, ranking 1-2 in virtually all departments... produced 27 homers and batted in 88 runs... over the past four seasons, has hit 123 homers and had driven in 349 runs... upped his 1970 average to .282, his major league high... he's closing in on his 1,000th hit (needs 45 more)... holds all-time Houston lead in most major batting categories... in 1970, was especially productive against Pirates (.389, 12 RBI), Padres (.354, 17 RBI), Cubs (.351, nine RBI)... had 21 RBI in May... employed as radio sportscaster in the off season.
1971 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 123 404 82 16 0 7 45 10 .205
#24 - Went over 1,000 career hit mark last season... needs 21 home runs to reach 200-HR plateau... holds club lead in most major batting categories.
1972 Record G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG Houston 145 542 148 29 3 24 90 17 .273
#24 - Set club record for most runs scored in a single season with 117 in 1972... Scored in 89 of the 145 games he played in last season... Scored at least once in 11 consecutive games last season (June 12 through June 23)... Holds numerous club single season achievement records such as most homers (37 in 1967), most runs batted in (107 in 1967) and highest slugging percentage (.507 in 1969)... Led Astros in walks with 103 in 1972... Had 90 runs batted in which was best since 107 in 1967.
A loud round of thanks to 'Toy Cannon'
Jimmy Wynn's skills and flair made him city's first baseball star
By RICHARD JUSTICE
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
June 26, 2005
The Astros on Saturday retired the number Jimmy Wynn never wanted in the first place. Funny how things sometimes work out.
"I found it hanging in my locker at Colt Stadium a few days before opening day (in 1964)," he said. "I pitched a fit. I didn't want anything to do with that number. I'd worn No. 18 during spring training. That's the number I wanted. They gave it to my roommate, Joe Morgan. But 24, I couldn't wear that one."
To players of Wynn's era, No. 24 belonged to just one player - Willie Mays. To wear it was to invite comparisons with one of the greatest who ever lived.
For a center fielder to wear it, especially a 20-year-old center fielder with nothing on his resume‚ except dreams, it seemed boastful. And even now Wynn, 63, is anything but boastful.
Wait, it gets better.
"I'm a young kid, so I'm not about to complain about what number I've been given," he said. "I'm in the major leagues. What do I have to complain about? But then (club executives) Spec Richardson and Paul Richards come to me on opening day and tell me why they've given me that number. They want me to be Willie Mays. I mean, that's a lot of pressure to put on a 21-year-old kid."
They weren't done. When the Colt .45s played the San Francisco Giants a few weeks later, they ordered Wynn to go speak to the great Mays. They told him they'd spoken to him and that Mays would be expecting him in the Giants' dugout.
"So I walk across the field, and there he is," Wynn said. "I shake his hand and tell him Spec Richardson and Paul Richards told me to ask him what I have to do to play in the big leagues. I tell him they want me to be just like Willie Mays."
Mays smiled and told him to relax.
"He told me I couldn't be Willie Mays, that I could only be Jimmy Wynn," Wynn recalled.
He remembers the conversation as lasting a couple of minutes. Someone snapped a picture that he has kept to this day.
He carried a big stick
To a generation of Houston baseball fans, Wynn was Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle rolled into one. He hit long home runs. He stole bases. He made spectacular catches in center field.
He played with a certain flair, too. When he made the final out of an inning, he laid his bat and helmet down gently near home plate, just as Mays did. When he trotted out to center field, he stepped on first base, just as Mays did. He became the first giant the Astros ever had.
The fact that he generated all that power, that he hit 37 home runs in 1967 and 33 in 1969, was even more special because of his stature.
He was just 5-9. And yet he used a mammoth 38-ounce bat and hit moon-shot home runs. Chronicle sportswriter John Wilson gave him a nickname that stuck: the Toy Cannon. "He didn't just hit home runs," said Larry Dierker, a former teammate. "He hit tape-measure home runs."
He played his home games in the cavernous Astrodome. "His might have another 100 career home runs if he'd played in another ballpark," Dierker said.
Wynn hit them into the distant sections, too. Someone painted a toy cannon on a seat in the Dome's gold level after Wynn homered there.
"I didn't really like the nickname at first," he said. "You feel like you're under pressure to hit home runs. If you don't, what are you then?"
He accepts it now, saying: "It stuck. It's unique."
A link to credibility
In those early years when the Astros had little distinction except the fact that they played indoors, Wynn was the star. They had other good players. They had a slick-fielding third baseman named Bob Aspromonte. They had future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan at second base for a while. They had Dierker and Bob Watson.
They had an assortment of pieces, but they were years from winning with consistency.
They sold what they had to the fans, and in Jimmy Wynn, they had someone special.
He made the National League All-Star team in 1967. That night, he stood alongside Mays and Hank Aaron. He reminded Houston that it had arrived as a big-league city. He was the franchise's first real star, its first link with credibility.
"Expansion teams are saddled with players other teams don't want," Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith said. "Jimmy was the beginning of our scouting and player-development system. He had an enormous impact on the franchise."
Jimmy Wynn never did become Willie Mays, but for a few years, he was one of baseball's best players.
Until Nolan Ryan arrived, he was arguably the most popular player the Astros ever had.
Childhood in Cincinnati
He grew up a few blocks from old Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
His father, Joe, who spent his adult life in waste collection "and loved his job, I mean really loved his job," taught Jimmy, the oldest of seven children, how to hit.
"Almost everything I know about hitting comes from him," Wynn said.
Wynn could stand in his yard and watch the Reds drive by on their way to Crosley Field. He remembers that Frank Robinson had a pink Thunderbird.
Robinson stopped one day, took the kid to the ballpark, gave him a glove and told him to go get 'em.
Wynn signed his first professional contract with the Reds, then was drafted off their roster by the Colt .45s after one year. He was converted from shortstop to center field and played his first big-league game at 19.
Because baseball players didn't yet have a union and because they didn't have free agency, most of them made salaries that required them to have offseason jobs. Wynn never minded.
"I loved to be out in the city," Wynn said. "I ate and drank in the black neighborhoods and the white ones. I loved signing autographs....
"Teams were different. After games, we'd stay in the clubhouse and talk about the game. We might stay in there three or four hours. We'd drink a beer and get something to eat and just go over what happened."
Giving back at home
Wynn played his last big-league game in 1977 and settled back in Houston. He has married for the third time and has a son, daughter and seven grandchildren in the area.
He has had a variety of jobs, including doing speeches for the Astros.
"He's very generous with his time," said Elmer Rogers of Houston's Urban League. "He's a good role model for kids. They might not know Jimmy, but their parents do. It took a long time for the Astros to recognize what we did, but he maintained the same character. He was the same nice person to everybody. The message is that if you do the right thing, if you treat people right, it'll pay off."
Last Wednesday, he spent two hours at the Lilly Grove Missionary Baptist Church and spoke to about 50 children about their dreams.
"I had a dream, and you should have dreams, too," he said. "Don't let anyone take them away. You can be a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer. You can be what you want. Sometimes you have to be patient. You can dream positively or negatively."
He still wears a ring he received after playing in the 1974 World Series as a member of the losing Los Angeles Dodgers. But Houston is home.
A special honor
Saturday's celebration has taken on additional meaning as he has gotten older. He's had three back surgeries and walks with the aid of a cane.
He says the idea of having his number retired crept into his mind through the years. As time passed, he'd nearly given up.
Then last winter, he was asked to attend a luncheon with Astros owner Drayton McLane. Afterward, McLane pulled him aside and gave him the news that he would become the eighth player to have his number retired by the Astros.
"He seemed stunned," McLane said. "His wife, Marie, gave me a big hug, but I'm not sure Jimmy said anything."
On the drive home, Marie asked her husband if he was OK.
"Did you understand what Drayton said?" she asked.
Wynn shakes his head as he recalled the conversation.
"I think I did," he said.
Now he comes full circle.
"Good things come to those who wait," he said, smiling.
He uses phrases such as "warm and beautiful" to describe the last few weeks.
"Anytime you can get your number retired, it's like going into the Hall of Fame," Wynn said Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
He says friends have telephoned. He says youngsters tell him their dads thought he was the greatest.
"You don't want to think people have forgotten you," he said. "I was a kid from Cincinnati who got to play in the major leagues. I got to see cities I'd only seen on television. I remember going to San Francisco one year and getting in a cab and telling the guy, 'I want to see Alcatraz. Take me as close as you can get me.'
"I'd heard about it my whole life, but I wanted to see it for myself. Baseball is the reason I got to do that. How many people get to do something like that?"
Staff writer Terrance Harris contributed to this report.