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The Rainbow Guts uniform (sometimes called the Creamsicle uniform or Tequila Sunrise uniform) is a nickname for a series of uniform styles worn by the Houston Astros Major League Baseball club from 1975 to 1993. The colorful uniform style--featuring broad horizontal stripes in red, orange, and yellow across the abdomen or on the shoulders--was made possible by the advent of synthetic fabrics, and followed the use of bright-colored uniforms by the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s to take advantage of color television.

Contents

From Colt .45s to Astros

From the formation of the Houston Colts in 1962 (the team name was changed briefly to "Colt .45s", and finally to "Astros" in 1965 with the opening of the Astrodome) until 1969, the club wore traditional white home uniforms and gray away uniforms with dark blue as the principal trim color. In 1971, blue was replaced by a deep orange as the main trim color.

Introduction of the Rainbow Guts

[1]In late 1974, the Rainbow Guts uniform was introduced. The cap was white and the lower part of the pullover jersey--from just underneath the chest to the belt--was encircled with red, two shades of orange, and yellow stripes. The striping pattern was a distinct nine-stripe pattern: from the bottom of the jersey, the four colors used were displayed in ever-narrower segments. Above the fourth stripe (the only time it was on the body of the jersey), the first three colors appeared again in 1-inch stripes, then the first two colors were reversed in 1-inch stripes.

The chest portion was plain white with the legend "Astros" in navy blue. On the left side was a white five-pointed star trimmed in orange. The rainbow stripes extended to the lower part of the short sleeves and the long-sleeved undershirt was navy blue. Also diverging from tradition, the uniform number was moved down to the front of the right thigh.

But a lawsuit over the team's new logo, a stylized "A" made out of a triangle with a star and a contrail streaking towards the sky, necessitated minor changes in the uniform that would be worn from 1975 until 1987. The white cap became orange, and the white star on the front of the jersey became blue. The star was outlined in orange until 1983, when it was outlined in white.

Upon the introduction of the style in 1975, it became very popular and unpopular at the same time. "Creamsicle" and "Spaceball" were some of the terms used to refer to the uniforms, especially when paired with the team's white shoes.

Notoriety and influence

The uniform helped bring the otherwise ignored Houston club to the attention of fans nationwide. The style was eventually adopted by many of the minor league teams in the Houston farm system. In fact, except for the short-season Single-A teams, Astros farm teams routinely wore Rainbow Guts jerseys with the inception of the uniform style.

Not all of the uniforms were orange and red; the Charleston Charlies and Dubuque Packers had horizontal stripes in various shades of blue. One Charleston uniform broke the mold of most Rainbow Guts uniforms in 1979 when the shoulder portion of the jersey was yellow instead of white.

The uniform was eventually adopted into the Medalist/Sand-Knit catalogue as the UltraStripe model, and was licensed to Cooper for use in Canada. Through the catalog, the uniform style was adopted by numerous high school, college, and recreational baseball and softball teams. Amongst the prominent adoptees were Seton Hall, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, and the University of Denver. One unique feature of Medalist's operation for team outfitting was that they would make trainer/coaches shirts with the same striping style as the rest of the team when a uniform set was ordered. Instead of a two-color V-neck, however, the trainer/coaching jersey sported a wide butterfly collar.

Toning down the pattern

In 1980, the Astros adopted a more subdued alternate gray away uniform, with rainbow stripes relegated to the shoulders and the outside of the sleeves. In 1982, a white home version of this modified style began appearing. Many of the Astros minor-league teams including the Tucson Toros and the Asheville Tourists, adopted this style full-time.

By the late 1980s, Medalist/Sand-Knit had altered the original Rainbow Guts pattern slightly for its recreational baseball and softball clientele. Instead of the usual nine-stripe pattern, the four colors were displayed in seven stripes. From the bottom hem of the jersey, the four colors used were displayed in ever-narrowing stripes. But then, the first three colors were displayed in reverse, giving rise to the term Tequila Sunrise. One can also distinguish the Tequila Sunrise pattern from the Rainbow Guts pattern by looking at the collar trim. While the original Rainbow Guts uniforms had invariably a two-color collar, the Tequila Sunrise pattern had a three-color trim on the collar elastic in five distinct segments.

The Tequila Sunrise pattern never made it into the professional ranks, since the Astros dropped the original Rainbow Guts pattern completely in 1987; the team wore cream-colored rainbow-shouldered uniforms on the road, white at home. The rainbow-shouldered style lasted through 1993.

Legacy

Other sports teams have had uniform touches from the Rainbow Guts look. The Milwaukee Bucks wore uniform tops and shorts with the pattern on the side panels, and used the full tops for their warmup jerseys in the 1980s. The University of Wyoming did the same.

Since 1987, the last year the Astros wore Rainbow Guts, the design has been kept alive both on and off the field of play. The Astros have occasionally worn them for Turn Back The Clock games, including one played the final year they played in the Astrodome. Since moving to Minute Maid Park, the uniforms worn in throwback games are usually autographed and then given to randomly chosen fans in the "Jerseys Off the Back" promotion.

Nolan Ryan in 1983, wearing a later version of the Rainbow Guts uniform, with the rainbow stripes moved to the shoulders and the outside of the sleeves.

Hip-hop music videos and rap stars have increased their visibility and popularity. When OutKast and Nelly started wearing Astros throwback jerseys in their videos, demand skyrocketed. Sports apparel manufacturer Mitchell & Ness has released several successful versions of the Rainbow Guts jerseys featuring players such as Nolan Ryan, José Cruz, and J.R. Richard. These authentic jerseys are of the finest quality and often run upwards of $300. But numerous imitations started flooding the marketplace in 2002 and 2003. Some Far Eastern knockoffs altered the striping patterns, others altered the color scheme. Even mainstream designers such Willie Esco, the Zoo York skateboard company and P. Miller clothing borrowed from the Astros' look.

Besides Astros "Turn Back The Clock" games, the Rainbow Guts pattern has been used recently by baseball teams such as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, New Orleans Zephyrs, Rockford Riverhawks, and Gateway Grizzlies, none of whom ever had the UltraStripe pattern in their uniform histories. The Las Vegas Wranglers professional ice hockey team wore a version of the uniform, but with long and puffy sleeves. The baseball teams of Virginia Tech and the University of South Alabama wore these uniforms during the 2009 season. A high-school varsity baseball team in Preston, Idaho sported them during their 2009 season as well.

The Rainbow Guts uniform was immortalized in celluloid during the 1977 film The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. In the climactic baseball game between the Bears and the Houston Toros, held in the Astrodome, the officials tried to call the game while the Astros pro team began to enter the dugout in their Rainbow Guts home uniforms.

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