Feel the Heat
Sex sells, even for a bad ballclub.
As the Astros featured fewer and fewer players who fans could identify, the team in 1990 turned to their fresh faces—Ken Caminiti, Craig Biggio and Gerald Young—to draw interest.
The trio participated in one of the most sexually suggestive photo sessions in the history of the game, posing for two images in the locker room: one in their game uniforms, and one with them partially stripped down and glistening with a post-workout sheen.
My book Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever is available wherever books are sold.
Young is on the left, shirtless, the light bouncing off his ebony skin, with a bat over his shoulders. Ken is in the center, wearing a loose V-neck with his arms crossed and his fists under his biceps, which photographer Michael Hart said was Ken’s idea.
“I gotta pump it up,” Caminiti said during the photo shoot before making a joke to Gerald about his thin, lithe arms.
“Don’t touch my guns, dude,” Young told him.
Biggio, to the right, is grasping a long, slender bat in his hands. Balls rest at the players’ feet, and smoke billows in the background, and beads of sweat drip off them, and you wish for a second you were one of those droplets in this locker room fantasy.
The title of the poster appears at the bottom: “Feel the Heat.”
“Nobody in Houston had ever done that,” Hart said. “It was a little revolutionary at the time. It was, I guess, somewhat risqué in this oil field down here.”
The campaign—dubbed “Young Guns”—came about from a marketing brainstorming session. The Astros didn’t have a lot to market around. Veterans like Nolan Ryan had left the team in bunches, and the lineup featured a lot of unknown and unproven players.
“They're cool, they're hot, they're fun, they're young. And that was the tact we took for the marketing campaign,” said Pam Gardner, who served as the Astros’ marketing director and later, president of business operations. “So that's how that came to be, just sitting around a table with a bunch of folks, dreaming other ways to entice people to come to games.”
Eye appeal could only go so far. Houston wound up second to last in attendance in 1990 and in fourth place with a 75-87 record. But the photo shoot resonates. Posters and advertisements continue to pop up for sale and online.
At the time, Ken, 26, didn’t worry too much about that “young” label. Or being a sex symbol. He just wanted to play and to contribute to his team’s success.
"We're just young baseball-wise," Ken told the Galveston Daily News. "I think me and Craig are a part of this team. We just have to come to the ballpark and uphold our image."