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Astros host ex-players for Legends Weekend

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Astros Legends Weekend, a longstanding midseason event at Minute Maid Park, regularly draws alumni from every generation, dating back to the original Colt .45s from the early 1960s.

On Saturday, that cross-section represented, in literal fashion, the entire history of the organization. On one end stood 81-year-old Carl Warwick, an original Colt .45 from 1962. On the other end was Carlos Beltran, a two-time Astro who played a vital role in the team capturing its first World Series championship in 2017.

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HOUSTON -- Astros Legends Weekend, a longstanding midseason event at Minute Maid Park, regularly draws alumni from every generation, dating back to the original Colt .45s from the early 1960s.

On Saturday, that cross-section represented, in literal fashion, the entire history of the organization. On one end stood 81-year-old Carl Warwick, an original Colt .45 from 1962. On the other end was Carlos Beltran, a two-time Astro who played a vital role in the team capturing its first World Series championship in 2017.

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In total, nearly 30 former players and managers, representing 56 years of Houston baseball history, lined up on the field for a pregame salute.

"I love seeing all these old guys," said Phil Garner, an Astros infielder from 1981-87 and the first manager to guide the Astros to a World Series in 2005. "I don't get to see these old guys often. It is a lot of fun to reminisce and go back. Their memories are getting a little faded, so when I can help them remember some of the things -- about how good we were -- we have a lot of fun. It's always a pleasure."

The ex-players in attendance for Saturday's festivities represented 10 of the Astros' 11 postseason teams. Stars from yesteryear included 20-game winner and former manager Larry Dierker, as well as 6-foot-8 flamethrower J.R. Richard, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Beltran.

Video: SEA@HOU: Dierker on Astros career, no-hitter

More recognizable figures from the 1980s clubs included infielder-turned-manager Art Howe, outfielder and fan favorite Jose Cruz and outfielder Kevin Bass, a staple of the lovable '86 team that set a then-franchise record with 96 wins.

Many of the ex-players settled in Houston in their post-playing careers, which helps make Legends Weekend such a well-attended event.

"It's a fraternity," Bass said. "It's a time in the players' lives that basically is probably the best time of our lives. Ten, 15 years, however long you played, you just meet some of the best guys ever. It's always great to be able to come back, just get together and just reminisce, talk about the good old days and watch these [current Astros] out there do the stuff that we used to be able to do."

The younger generation of Astros was well-represented at Legends Weekend, too. Recognizable faces from the 2005 World Series team were everywhere, including pitcher Brandon Backe and the Astros' two Hall of Famers, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.

Outfielder Luke Scott, whose rookie season was in 2005, and Chris Sampson, an Astros pitcher from '06-10, also represented the barely-40 crowd.

"No matter when you played, we're all still part of a big family," Sampson said. "It's a fraternity. Not too many people get to be in this elite club. It's very special me and to my boys to be a part of it, as well. It's very family-oriented. We're having a lot of fun with it."

Backe, a major contributor to the Astros postseason teams in the mid-2000s, called the Astros' World Series championship last season "bittersweet."

"They stole our thunder from '05, because they actually went out there and won it," he joked.

But in truth, Backe and Sampson, both natives of the Houston area, enjoyed last year's championship run as both fans and fathers, reveling in being able to share the excitement with their young sons.

"I never experienced the World Series, but it was awesome to come to the game, share that experience with my sons. ... It felt like a piece of me was out there," Sampson said. "Since it's something I never got to experience, I felt like I was right there in the game and in the moment with them."

Legends Weekend kicked off on Friday with a reception in the center field club, hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Any ex-player from any team who lives within a 100-mile radius of Minute Maid Park was invited, and approximately 60 attended.

The MLBPAA will host a similar function in every Major League ballpark over a period of a couple of years. There are 18 scheduled for this season, with six taking place in August.

The events are designed to encourage players to keep in touch with each other, as well as remind them of what programs and services the MLBPAA provides for alumni who may need assistance.

Mostly, though, they provide the perfect setting for baseball's version of a class reunion.

"It's old home week here," Howe said. "We've all got big stories when we faced each other, and here, we can blow it all out of proportion."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

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