Growing up in Baton Rouge, I spent many a hot and humid summer night listening to Houston Astros games on the radio.
The Astros fielded horrible teams in the 1960s, although they had players like Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan and Bob Watson, and pitchers like Mike Cuellar, Don Wilson and Larry Dierker.
They also boasted a center fielder who like Willie Mays wore No. 24, Jimmy Wynn, "the Toy Cannon." The 5-9, 165-170 pound Wynn earned that nickname because of his prodigious home run blasts. Once, he hit a ball out of Crosley Field, home of his hometown Cincinnati Reds.
In 1967, playing for a last place team without a strong hitter behind him, Wynn registered one of the greatest power seasons in Major League history, hitting 37 home runs and driving in 107 runs while playing home games in the dead-air Astrodome.
Wynn, who died last week at age 78, was the Astros' biggest star before faltering under the pressure to hit home runs in the Dome. Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he enjoyed several standout seasons before finishing his career with the Yankees.
When he arrived in Houston, Wynn was acclaimed as a can't miss superstar who like Mays possessed power, speed and a strong arm. Wynn never reached those heights. But when he came to the plate as I listened, excitement stirred in the Louisiana heat.
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