10 players you forgot played for the Astros

December 1st, 2021

Who can forget when Pudge Rodriguez broke the Major League record for games caught while playing for the Astros in 2009? How many people can tell you Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews hit his 500th career homer while wearing a Houston uniform in 1967? And did you know that 2018 World Series Most Valuable Player had a cameo for the Astros in 2012?

Everyone knows about Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and , but many other notable players have passed through Houston -- some staying longer than others -- as they headed for stardom elsewhere or wrapped up their careers. In Hall of Famer Joe Morgan's case, he did both, beginning his career with the Colt .45's before becoming a two-time MVP with the Reds in the 1970s, and finally returning to Houston in '80.

From the early days of the Colt .45's to the rainbow uniform teams of the 1980s to the perennial division title contenders from 1997-2001 and beyond, quite a few players rolled through H-town who you might have forgotten were Astros.

Rick Ankiel/Carlos Pena, 2013 Ankiel and Pena are two players, but they pretty much were brought to Houston for the same reason and with similar results. The Astros' rebuilding effort bottomed out in '13, and the club signed Ankiel and Pena -- two veterans at the end of their careers -- to bring some leadership. Ankiel homered on Opening Day against the Rangers but was cut loose after 25 games. Pena lasted 85 games before the Astros and the slugger parted ways.

Buddy Bell, 1988 A five-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner, mostly with the Texas Rangers in the early 1980s, the veteran was traded to the Astros on June 19, 1988, and played just 74 games with the Astros. He retired after 34 games the following season with the Rangers and spent nine years as a manager with the Tigers, Rockies and Royals.

Aaron Boone, 2009 Best known for his walk-off home run against the Red Sox to clinch the 2003 American League Championship Series for the Yankees -- the team he would later manage -- the son of veteran catcher Bob Boone was signed to bring a veteran presence to the '09 Astros but wound up having open-heart surgery in March. He made a remarkable comeback in September and had 13 at-bats, mostly as a pinch-hitter, before retiring.

Vinny Castilla, 2001
A feared slugger for the Rockies in the 1990s, Castilla was signed by the Astros as a free agent early in the 2001 season and had 23 homers and 82 RBIs in 122 games, adding another homer against the Braves in the playoffs. He even hit three homers in a game on July 28 against the Pirates. Three years after leaving the Astros, he had 131 RBIs for the Rockies, walloping 35 home runs.

Dwight Gooden, 2000
The 1985 NL Cy Young winner, who made his big league debut at 19 years old in 1984 against the Astros in the Astrodome, was signed to a Minor League contract in 2000 and started the first game at Enron Field for the Astros, an exhibition against the Yankees. He pitched in only one regular-season game for the Astros, though, before being traded to his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was released by Tampa Bay in May and signed with the Yankees in June before making the final 18 appearances of his career and retiring after the season.

Curt Schilling, 1991
Acquired from the Orioles as part of the Glenn Davis trade, Schilling went a pedestrian 3-5 with eight saves and a 3.81 ERA in 56 games in relief for the Astros. He was traded to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley the following April and blossomed into one of the game's best starters, going 101-78 in 226 games with Philadelphia. Schilling was a six-time All-Star and won three World Series, including being named World Series MVP in 2001 with Arizona, making him one of biggest stars the team let slip away.

Don Sutton, 1981-82
Many forget the curly-haired Hall of Famer had a brief stop in Houston. Sutton was an Astros' nemesis for 15 seasons with the Dodgers but signed with Houston as a free agent in 1981. He went 11-9 with a 2.61 ERA in '81, injuring his kneecap when he was hit by a Jerry Reuss pitch while trying to put down a bunt late in the season and missing the playoffs. He was sent to Milwaukee late in 1982 in a trade that netted future All-Star outfielder Kevin Bass.

**John Franco, 2005
**The veteran lefty appeared in 1,119 career games, third-most by a pitcher in MLB history. The majority of those (695) were with his hometown Mets, but he finished his career with the Astros, posting a 7.20 ERA in 31 games. 

Ron Washington, 1989
Before he was nearly a World Series-winning manager with the Rangers, Washington played a decade in the big leagues with five teams, ending his career in Houston in 1989. He played in seven games and had just one hit for Houston, scoring on a Craig Biggio double at Montreal. He managed the Texas Rangers to the World Series in 2010 and '11.

Mitch Williams, 1994
The hard-throwing reliever known as "Wild Thing" might be best known for giving up a walk-off homer to Toronto's Joe Carter that won the 1993 World Series. He was dealt to Houston the following season in exchange for closer Doug Henry and promptly blew a save on Opening Day. That was a sign of things to come. He had a 7.65 ERA in 20 innings for the Astros.