By Lenny Moon
Before the vaunted “Killer B’s” (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Bergman) a dynamo housed in a 5-9 frame and weighed a mere 160 pounds named Jimmy Wynn became the first breakout star for the Houston Colt 45s and later the Houston Astros. Although drafted by the Cincinnati Reds back in 1962, the Colt 45s acquired the promising infielder at the conclusion of that same year admiring his raw athleticism that included exceptional speed and surprising power for his anatomy. The Houston club along with the New York Mets arrived on the MLB scene as expansion teams the season prior to the Wynn transaction.
After spending a short stint in the minors, the Hamilton, Ohio native was prepared when the team rolled out the “Eighth Wonder of the World” aka the Astrodome in 1965 as their fulltime starting centerfielder. The “Toy Cannon” was born, blasting 22 home runs, 73 RBI, 43 stolen bases, and 84 BB with a solid .275 BA. Additionally, Jimmy was a splendid defensive outfielder with a great arm rounding out the proverbial “five-tool” player indicative of a bonafide MLB star. Wynn would go on post 20 plus round-trippers in seven of his nine seasons for the Stros as a starter, including 37 in 1967 and 33 in 1969. He was a league MVP candidate both seasons.
The Toy Cannon held his bat high and came through the hitting zone with a big sweeping swing. As with most power hitters, he struck out his fair share of the time but contrasted that trait with a penchant to draw walks enhancing his on base percentage (led the league in 1967 with 148 BBs). What made Wynn “box office” was not only his being the team’s premier slugger in the middle of the lineup, but the distance that his blasts would travel. He and teammate Doug Rader were the only players to ever hit home runs in the upper deck at the pitcher-friendly Astrodome. Another of his blasts went viral at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati when the power hitter lauched one that left the ballpark completely and landed in the middle of the freeway.
Wynn was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the 1974 season and again became a MVP candidate, depositing 32 home runs, 108 RBI, scoring 104 runs and drawing 108 walks. The three time all-star, teamed with resident stalwarts Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Dusty Baker to participate in his only World Series where the Dodgers lost to the Oakland As. He would wrap his major league career with stints in Atlanta, New York (Yankees) and Milwaukee. Wynn finished with 291 roundtrippers and 964 runs batted in. His jersey no 24 was retired by the Houston Astros in 2005 and is a member of their hall of fame. The Toy Cannon was employed by the ‘Stros until his death on March 26 2020….Thanks “Toy” for all of the great moments.