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Astros retire Wynn's No. 24

Astros retire Wynn's No. 24

HOUSTON -- Sure, we know all about Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, who between them own nearly every offensive record in the history of the Houston Astros franchise.

But before Bagwell and Biggio, there was Wynn -- Jimmy Wynn, the first bona fide slugger in club history. Saturday was dubbed "Jimmy Wynn Day" at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros retired Wynn's No. 24 uniform during a star-studded pregame ceremony that honored the small, but mighty slugger aptly nicknamed The "Toy Cannon."

Wynn rode onto the field of Minute Maid Park on the back of a Lexus SC430 -- "a car I'd like to own," Wynn later joked -- to a rousing ovation from the fans who arrived early to attend the ceremony.

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Surrounded by former teammates, his family and members of the Astros front office staff, Wynn expressed his appreciation to Astros owner Drayton McLane and to the fans, who played a part in this day becoming a reality by writing to the Astros and asking for No. 24 to be retired.

"It's a great feeling to see my number up there among some of the greatest to ever play the game," Wynn said. "Anytime you get your number retired, it's like going into the Hall of Fame."

Former teammates Ivan Murrell, Enos Cabell, Tommy Davis, Bob Watson, J.C. Hartman and Mike Cuellar were in attendance, as was Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who was Wynn's roommate on road trips back in the 1960s.

"He was the only roommate I had for any length of time," Morgan said. "We were like two peas in a pod. We loved the same things. We both loved Westerns on TV. We did everything right on time together. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate."

Wynn played 11 of his 15 big league seasons in a Houston uniform from 1963-73. He hit .250 with 291 home runs, 954 RBIs and 1,224 walks over his career. He hit 223 home runs as a member of the Houston franchise, a total that stood as the club record until 1999, when Bagwell surpassed the mark soon after that season began.

Originally signed by his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 1962, Wynn was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the First-Year Player Draft following the 1962 season. He made his big league debut in 1963 and was part of an all-rookie lineup on Sept. 27, 1963.

Wynn earned his first All-Star selection in 1967, the same season he became the first Astros player to hit three home runs in a game.

Of all of Wynn's home runs, his most memorable was the shot he launched at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, because it left the ballpark and bounced onto the freeway.

His second favorite? The homer he hit on April 12, 1970, when he became the first Astros player to hit a homer into the Astrodome's upper deck in left field during a regular season game.

Saturday's ceremony featured several featured speakers. Radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton emceed the event, and Morgan, club president Tal Smith, McLane and Mayor Bill White addressed the crowd.

"His playing career was so important, but he has also been such a big part of this community in Houston," McLane said. "He has conducted himself in such a credible way that we wanted to recognize him. We are very proud to retire Jimmy Wynn's No. 24."

When it was time for Wynn to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, the entire 2005 Astros team walked with him to the mound, except for Bagwell, who stood at home plate to catch Wynn's pitch.

"It was a great sign of respect," Wynn said of the Astros joining him on the field. "I was looking for Jeff. I asked Craig, 'Where's Jeff?' He was standing right at home plate."

Wynn is the eighth player in franchise history to have his number retired. He joins Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker and Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 was retired by all of Major League Baseball in 1997.

Most would agree Wynn, who stood at 5-foot-9 and weighed all of 170 pounds during his playing days, would have had even better numbers if he played today. Even Morgan, himself a diminutive slugger, said, "He played in a bad era in a bad ballpark. He played in the Astrodome. That place was just too big, but he still hit 37 home runs [in a season]."

Asked how many home runs he'd have if he played in Minute Maid Park, Wynn laughed and said, "Since I'm 63, I don't know. But if I had a ballpark in the 60s like now, I'd hit a lot. A whole lot."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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