Results tagged ‘ Bob Aspromonte ’

The stars come out to celebrate the Astros/Colt .45s big birthday.

Two former Colt .45s: Jimmy Wynn and Bob Aspromonte

It’s probably a good thing that the Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros after three years, if only because “Aspro the Colt” just doesn’t have the same cool ring to it as “Aspro the Astro.”

Bob Aspromonte, an original Colt .45 and an original Astro, was in uniform as the starting third baseman 50 years ago when Major League Baseball was born in Houston. It’s only fitting that he was the guest of honor for a slew of activities on Tuesday, the exact 50th anniversary of the first game the Colt .45s played as a National League franchise.

Aspromonte headlined the introduction of the Astros new Walk of Fame, recently installed on the sidewalk of Texas Ave. near Crawford St. The original inductees include Aspromonte, all of the Astros retired numbers (Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio), plus broadcasters Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton.

Aspromonte was voted by a panel of experts as the best Houston player of the 1960s. The Astros will unveil the best player from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s on a month-by-month basis beginning in May and their names to the Walk of Fame.

Video from the Walk of Fame induction:

Photo album:

Aspromonte, Dierker, Cruuuuuuz

Aspromonte spoke glowingly of the Astrodome, which opened in 1965. It was obviously a gigantic step up from the old Colt Stadium, where Aspro played the first three years of his Houston baseball career.

Cruz next to his Walk of Fame plaque

Group shot: front: Elston, Wynn. Back: Cruz, Aspromonte, Dierker, Hamilton.

Aspromonte's Walk of Fame plaque

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Houston franchise, the Astros wore the Colt .45s jerseys during their game with the Braves. The club also honored several living members of that inaugural team that began a new era of baseball on April 10, 1962: Carl Warwick, Hal Smith, Al Spangler, Bob Bruce and Aspromonte. Also introduced: Rick Cagney, one of the original bat boys for the 1962 team; Elston, the first broadcaster for the ’45s, and Rene Cardenas, who broadcast both Colt .45s and Astros games in Spanish.

Warwick, Smith, Spangler, Bruce, Aspromonte, Cagney

Cardenas

Brad Mills greets Aspromonte and the Colt .45s alumni before the ceremonial first pitch.

Aspromonte throws the pitch. It was indeed a strike.

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Upon entering the clubhouse earlier in the day, players were sized for their Colt .45s cap that they were to wear during the game (they’ll wear the same uniforms on April 20 on the first official Flashback Friday). They also were given a sneak peek at the stirrups the Colt .45s wore 50 years ago.

I’m sure these strirrups were innovative and super-hip in the 1960s, but today, they’re a little funky. Judging from the players’ continued willingness to keep wearing the high socks, though, you have to assume funky can still be a good thing, even today.

Lucas Harrell was digging his stirrups.

Jose Altuve

Junction Jack

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Astros to unveil their Walk of Fame on Tuesday. First up: Bob Aspromonte.

Original Colt .45s: Bob Lillis (left), Bob Aspromonte, Joey Amalfitano and Al Spangler, 1962.

The Astros are celebrating their 50th anniversary all season, but this Tuesday is especially significant, given it’s the exact anniversary — 50 years to the day — of the very first Major League Baseball game played in Houston.

On April 10, 1962, the Colt .45s took the field at Colt Stadium against the Chicago Cubs and won handily, 11-2. A budding star on that team, Bob Aspromonte, was 3-for-4 in that game. He ended up as a fixture at third base for Houston for seven seasons, and to this day is probably the one player most associated with the original Colt .45s.

It’s only fitting that one of the first players to represent Major League Baseball in Houston will be the first honoree in a season-long celebration of the club’s anniversary. Aspromonte will be everywhere on Tuesday, beginning with the new Astros Walk of Fame, located on the sidewalk on Texas Ave. outside of Minute Maid Park.

Aspromonte will be the first member to officially be inducted to the Walk of Fame. Television announcer Bill Brown will host the induction ceremony, which begins at 3:30 CT and is open to the public. Two of Aspro the Astro’s teammates with the Colt .45s, Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn, are also scheduled to be a part of the ceremony, as are Jose Cruz and former Colt .45s/Astros broadcaster Gene Elston.

(The inaugural 2012 Walk of Fame induction class will include all retired-number players as well as Elston and Milo Hamilton. Each month during the 2012 season, a new member will be inducted into the Walk of Fame. They will be honored in order of the decade they played in.)

That night, the Astros will wear the original Colt .45s jersey, which includes the pistol on the front, for the 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Aspromonte will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Tuesday is the only flashback event that will not take place on a Friday. Beginning on April 20, all of the nostalgic events will take place on “Flashback Fridays.” Here is the rundown of the rest of the former players scheduled to throw out ceremonial first pitches:

April 20 vs. LAD    Larry Dierker
May 4 vs. STL        Rusty Staub
May 18 vs. TEX        Nolan Ryan
June 1 vs. CIN        J.R. Richard
June 22 vs. CLE        Joe Morgan
July 6 vs. MIL        Jose Cruz
July 27 vs. PIT        Mike Scott
Aug. 10 vs. MIL        Jeff Bagwell
Aug. 17 vs. ARI        Brad Ausmus
Aug. 31 vs. CIN     Shane Reynolds
Sept. 14 vs. PHI    Jeff Kent
Sept. 21 vs. PIT    Craig Biggio

Fans can purchase a special Flashback Friday 14-game flex plan that guarantees a seat for each Flashback Friday night. This special ticket package also includes a free ticket for a 15th game of their choice. Plans are available by calling 1-800-ASTROS2 or visiting Astros.com.

In addition to uniforms, “Flashback Fridays” will also feature special ballpark entertainment and fireworks shows themed to each particular decade. Several additional promotions recognizing the 50th anniversary are scheduled throughout the 2012 season, with a complete listing available at www.astros.com.

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A no-doubt future Hall of Famer will be in Houston in the next few days, and the Astros will give him a respectful salute on Monday before the series opener with the Braves.

Chipper Jones, an 18-year Major League veteran who has played his entire career with the Braves, announced during Spring Training that he will retire following the 2012 season. It’s not often that a player is able to pick when he retires and go out, as they say, on his own terms. It’s even more rare that a player will announce his retirement early enough to give teams time to honor him during his final tour through the league.

More often, you’ll see a player hang on until he simply receives no more contract offers, and then retire because there’s really no other option. Other times, a player will wait until the end of the season to announce that he is finished.

Craig Biggio was one of the few who announced his retirement months in advance of the end of the season. Chipper is another, and this week, he’ll be in Houston with the Braves (albeit on the disabled list).

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t like Chipper much. Hey, I get it. I never liked the guy either, for no other reason than he was really, really good, and he played for a Braves club that consistently demolished my teams both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Oh, how I once hated the Braves. They were a thorn in the Reds’ side when I still lived in Cincinnati in the mid-90s, and they became an even bigger problem for the Astros when I arrived onto the scene in the latter part of that decade.

Eventually I outgrew my disgust (well, most of it), probably because in 2004 and 2005 the Astros finally figured out a way to bounce them from the playoffs, instead of the other way around, as was the case in 1997. And 1999. And 2001.

As it turns out, there’s plenty to admire about Chipper’s career. His 454 home runs rank third all-time among switch-hitters, behind only Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. His .304 career batting average is second among all switch-hitters, behind Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch. He is the only switch-hitter in Major League history with more than 300 home runs and a career batting average above .300.

Chipper is a seven-time All-Star and played in 11 postseasons, including three World Series. He was part of the Braves team that won it all in 1995.

He will eventually be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and on Monday, the Astros will salute his fabulous career. The presentation will take place around 10 minutes before the games starts on Monday.

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Ausmus, Bagwell, Biggio, Kent among A-listers headed back to Minute Maid Park in ’12.

Two players who you'll see throwing out ceremonial first pitches this year: Brad Ausmus and Jose Cruuuuuuuuuz.

The Astros’ 18-inning win over the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS in 2005 still comes up in conversation from time to time, and what people remember best about that game, of course, is the Chris Burke home run that won it almost six hours after the affair started.

Fans might also remember Roger Clemens pitching three brilliant innings of relief. Or that Lance Berkman was lifted for a pinch-runner eight innings earlier. Or that Brandon Backe started the game and wasn’t terribly effective.

But the one key moment that sometimes gets pushed to the side, considering how significant Burke’s home run was, is that the Astros were minutes away from losing that game, if not for one improbable swing of the bat. The two teams were pretty much headed back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 — until they weren’t, thanks to Brad Ausmus.

The game only continued because Ausmus picked a really, really good time to be very un-Ausmus-like and hit a home run with two outs in the ninth inning to tie the game at 6.

The umpires also picked a really good time to show a complete understanding about the ground rules and the zig-zaggy yellow lines in the outfield that indicated what was a home run and what wasn’t. This was before instant replay, but when the ball smacked against the left-center wall, just above the zig and to the right of the zag, the umpire immediately started twirling his index finger in the air, indicating a home run.

Ausmus will be one of 13 former players who will visit Minute Maid Park this season as a ceremonial first-pitch honoree. His Game 4 heroics are not the reason why, of course. “Officer Brad” was a mainstay behind the plate for 10 of 12 seasons from 1997-2008, missing only two years when he was traded to the Tigers (and subsequently traded back after it became apparent the Mitch Meluskey experiment was a disaster).

Ausmus was Steady Eddie behind the plate, wearing several hats in addition to the one with the Astros star on it. He was a security blanket for the pitchers, an encyclopedia of knowledge while dissecting the tendencies and habits of every hitter in the league, and a no-nonsense field operator who was in complete control at all times. His pitchers knew that, as did whoever was running things from the dugout. His batting average was, well, average, but his value to the team was immeasurable.

On Tuesday, the Astros released complete list of first-pitch pitchers who will appear on “Flashback Fridays.” The team will wear throwback uniforms and celebrate Houston’s fabulous 50-year history every Friday home game in 2012, and the return of former players will only add to the nostalgia that is sure to take over Minute Maid Park throughout the season.

The first ceremonial pitch is on April 10, the actual anniversary of the first Major League game played in Houston. Bob Aspromonte, arguably the most well-known of the original Colt .45s, will have the first pitch honors that day. The rest of the best:

April 10 vs. ATL Bob Aspromonte; 1960s- Colt .45s
April 20 vs. STL Larry Dierker; 1960s-Astros
May 4 vs. LAD Rusty Staub; 1960s-Colt .45s
May 18 vs. TEX Nolan Ryan; 1980s
June 1 vs. CIN J.R. Richard; 1970s
June 22 vs. CLE Joe Morgan; 1960s-Astros
July 6 vs. MIL Jose Cruz; 1970s
July 27 vs. PIT Mike Scott; 1980s
Aug. 10 vs. MIL Jeff Bagwell; 1990s
Aug. 17 vs. ARI Brad Ausmus; 1990s
Aug. 31 vs. CIN Shane Reynolds; 1990s
Sept. 14 vs. PHI Jeff Kent; 2000s
Sept. 21 vs. PIT Craig Biggio; 2000s

Each player will throw a customized Rawlings baseball that features a 24-karat gold leather cover with the Astros 50th anniversary logo.

This group of players combined for 49 All-Star Game appearances, 15 Silver Slugger Awards, 12 Gold Glove Awards, four MVP Awards, two Hall of Fame inductions, one Rookie of the Year Award and one Cy Young Award. The 13 combined for over 18,000 hits and nearly 2,000 home runs. The five pitchers – Dierker, Reynolds, Richard, Ryan and Scott – have over 800 wins and more than 11,000 strikeouts.

The first pitch participants are scheduled to appear at Minute Maid Park in the month during which their playing days are being honored. The appearances of Staub, Ryan and Morgan are scheduled out of order to accommodate their individual travel schedule.

“Flashback Fridays” highlights the rich tradition of the Astros’ former uniforms, some of the most recognizable and iconic in baseball history. In April, the Astros will celebrate the 1960s by wearing the original Colt .45s jersey. The 1960s shooting star jersey, the first Astros jersey ever worn, will be donned in May. The club will celebrate the 1970s and wear the rainbow jerseys in June, the 1980s shoulder rainbow jerseys in July and the 1990s blue and gold star uniforms in August.

Fans can purchase a special Flashback Friday 14-game flex plan, presented by Papa John’s, that guarantees a seat for Opening Day and each Flashback Friday night. This special ticket package also includes a free ticket for a 15th game of their choice.  Plans are available by calling 1-800-ASTROS2 or visiting Astros.com.

In addition to uniforms, “Flashback Fridays” will also feature special ballpark entertainment and fireworks shows themed to each particular decade. Several additional promotions recognizing the 50th anniversary are scheduled throughout the 2012 season, with a complete listing available at www.astros.com.

Meanwhile, enjoy some nostalgic photos of several first pitch honorees:

Jeff Bagwell during 2004 postseason.

Craig Biggio during pregame introductions at the World Series.

Larry Dierker during his uniform number retirement in 2002.

Jeff Kent introduced himself to the Houston fanbase in dramatic fashion, hitting a home run in his first game as an Astro.

Nolan Ryan during a press conference following his 3,509th career strikeout.

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New year, new blog: FanFest, Caravan, Astroline, Bagwell. (Will the Hall call?)

Happy New Year, Astros fans! Hope you ate too much, enjoyed time with your families and watched a lot of football (not necessarily in that order) over the holiday break. The first day back at work for baseball people is a lot like Groundhog Day: six weeks until Spring Training with a full slate of activities to get to first, before we head to Florida.

Many of you have asked about FanFest, caravans and Astroline. Here are some general guidelines for what’s on tap, although we’ll be posting a more formal schedule when it’s all ready to go.

In the meantime, hope this provides some assistance…
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Baseball Dinner

The Annual Houston Baseball Dinner Benefiting Grand Slam for Youth Baseball will take place on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Americas Hotel near Minute Maid Park.

The event will include a special celebration of the Houston franchise’s 50th anniversary, with several former MVPs and current players expected to attend. Award winners include Pitcher of the Year Wandy Rodriguez and Rookie of the Year J.D. Martinez, as well Jason Bourgeois, the winner of the Darryl Kile (Good Guy) Award. Two former Astros will be recognized as well: Hunter Pence, voted as the team’s MVP, and Lance Berkman, who will be presented the Greater Houston area’s Major League Player of the Year award. Longtime television broadcaster Bill Brown will be recognized with the Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Baseball.

Former Astros expected to attend include Bob Aspromonte, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Bob Watson, J.R. Richard, Jose Cruz and Enos Cabell.

To order tickets, click here or call 713-259-8686.
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FanFest

The next day, on Saturday, Feb. 11, the Astros will host FanFest at Minute Maid Park. Full details and a rundown of player appearances will be released at a later date, but here are the basics: FanFest will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature autograph sessions with current and former players and interactive activities for all age groups.
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Caravan

The Astros most likely will be ready to release their full caravan schedule early next week, but here’s a peek:

The caravan (aptly and creatively renamed CAREavan this year) will begin a little later than usual, in order to coordinate it with the baseball dinner and FanFest. The Houston-area caravan stops will take place the week of Feb. 6 and will include stops in Sugar Land/Missouri City, Spring, Cypress and Katy. There will be an autograph signing session at an Academy Sports + Outdoors each day, starting around 6:30 p.m. CT. The lone exception is Friday, Feb. 10, when the Academy signing will start at 3:15 p.m. because of the baseball dinner that evening.

Brian Bogusevic signs autographs at Academy Sports + Outdoors last year during the caravan.

Out-of-town stops will begin Feb. 1 and will include visits to Austin, Brownsville, Harlingen/McAllen, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

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Astroline

General manager Jeff Luhnow will appear on Astroline on Wednesday (Jan. 4) at Buffalo Wild Wings on Gray St. in Midtown. The show, hosted by Milo Hamilton, begins at 7 p.m. CT and will be aired on 740 KTRH and Astros.com.

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Hall of Fame announcement

Second time a charm for Jeff Bagwell?

The Hall of Fame will announce its 2012 inductees on Jan. 9, and as was the case last year, our man Jeff Bagwell will likely be the talk of the Internet regardless of whether he gets in.

Bagwell received 41.7 percent his first time on the ballot in 2010-11. Judging from published reports by voters who are making their choices public, Bagwell has received more support this time around. That said, it’s not looking promising that he will receive enough votes to count for 75 percent of the final tally. I think a lot of us agreed a while back that Bagwell’s third time on the ballot was going to be his best chance to be voted in anyway, given his longtime teammate Craig Biggio will appear on the ballot for the first time at the end of 2012 and should have no problem getting in on the first try.

I’ve read the arguments against Bagwell’s HOF candidacy that range from the well-reasoned to the (IMO) completely absurd. That’s what happens when you have more than 500 people giving more than 500 opinions, but it’s good to see more voters are coming around on Bagwell this year. The PED issue continues to follow Bags, as many writers are still taking the guilt-by-association route — as in, he played in the 1990s, so he must be guilty, despite any real evidence that he was actually associated.

Some writers simply think Bagwell was a very good player, but not among the best ever. A friendly reminder to the voters who actually watched Bags play in person 10, maybe 12 times during his 15-year career: there is good baseball played all over the country, played by Hall of Fame-worthy players who spent their entire careers in places other than the Northeast. That their feats weren’t televised nationally on a regular basis doesn’t make them less worthy of being recognized for what they accomplished.

If early returns are any indication, it appears that Barry Larkin will be the lone inductee in Cooperstown in July.

(Of the many pro-Bagwell columns, I think I like this one the best.)

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Here’s a fun story about someone you may not have heard of before but is a huge part of the Astros’ operation. Mike Acosta started in the late 1990s as a broadcasting intern and eventually worked his way into a job the Astros created especially for him — Authentication Manager. In this Ken Hoffman column in the Houston Chronicle, Acosta discusses bobblehead technology and why he has so much to be excited about as the Astros prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball in Houston this year.

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On this date in Astros history:

January 3, 1962 – A groundbreaking ceremony takes place on the future site of the Astrodome. The ceremony’s attendees, include players from the Colt .45s, city and county officials, fire pistols into the ground to celebrate the historic event.

To receive daily updates of Astros historical moments, follow @astros on Twitter and look for the hash tag #Astros50.

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A holiday salute from the Astros, 50th anniversary style.

Twenty-five years ago, Ruth Ryan sat next to her husband, Nolan, on a charter flight during an Astros road trip and was introduced to a popular relief pitcher walking down the aisle on the way back to his seat.

Larry Andersen, the unofficial class president of the loosey-goosey fun-loving, wacky mid-80s Astros, stopped by to say hello to the Ryans and chat for a bit. Throughout the conversation, Larry wore a set of fake teeth — crooked, yellowish teeth with brown undertones that were entirely too big for his mouth.

Once the conversation ended, Larry made his way back to his seat and Ruth, a polite woman well-known for her classy demeanor, turned to Nolan and said, gently, “You know, he’d be so handsome if he’d just get his teeth fixed.”

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I checked with Larry on this story to make sure I had it straight, as I figured it would be a fitting anecdote to include in an end-of-the-year project intended to serve two purposes: wish everyone a very happy holiday season and give a cap-tip toward our fabulous history as we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball in Houston.

Another part of the project: I asked former players and broadcasters, as many as I could track down, to take a photo holding a “happy holidays” sign that bears the logo from the era they played in Houston. When I checked in with Andersen on this story, I also sent along a (second and third) gentle reminder to pleeeeeeease take the photo and send it back to me.

“Ninety minutes,” promise,” Andersen emailed back.

Ninety minutes later, he delivered.

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They don’t make ‘em quite like Larry Andersen anymore, but that’s OK. Plenty of unique personalities have passed through the clubhouse doors in Houston, first at Colt Stadium, then at the Astrodome and now, at Minute Maid Park. Each has a story — some more interesting than others — and each contributed in some fashion to five decades of big league baseball in the Bayou City.

Some moments I witnessed in person. Some happened long before I got here. Some happened long before I got here, but I’ve heard the stories told and retold so many times that I’m starting to convince myself that maybe I really was there to see them.

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There was that one time…

Early in Larry Dierker’s managing career, when the Astros were playing a weekend series in Montreal, the skipper found himself in a precarious, Dierker-like situation. It was a Sunday, and the team was scheduled to play an afternoon game. After a night of restful sleep, Dierk opened his eyes, looked at his watch and panicked as he realized it was about 30 minutes before game time.

Except that it wasn’t. Ever looked at your watch upside down when it’s 7 a.m.? It looks a lot like 12:30. “I came this close to calling the clubhouse and giving them the lineup over the phone,” Dierker said.

How about the time when…

Jose Lima was a local celebrity by the time the calendar flipped to 2000, a year when two big things happened to him: 1) his employers lined his pockets with several wads of Astrobucks to the tune of a three-year, multimillion-dollar contract, and 2) his career began to spin in an Enron Field-y downward spiral.

Lima bought himself a new car that year — a Mercedes, if memory serves – and he was excited it about it, because this shiny new ride came with voice-activated commands. There was just one problem. It was programmed to detect the English language, sans foreign accents, and it couldn’t pick up Lima’s commands.

Lima was fluent in English, no doubt, and you could understand him just fine. As long as you weren’t a computer chip in a new Mercedes.

Lima parked his car in the garage at the ballpark, walked into the clubhouse and screamed, “my new car is racist!”

Or how about when…

The 1999 season had whittled down to game No. 162, and the Astros, sitting on 96 wins, still needed one more to knock off those pesky, refuse-to-go-away Cincinnati Reds. Mike Hampton pitched a gem against the Dodgers that day and left after seven innings with a 9-1 lead.

With champagne on ice in the clubhouse and a packed house ready to celebrate both a division title AND the final regular season game ever to be played in the Astrodome, the game slowed to an absolute crawl. Jay Powell, saddled with the easy task of pitching the final three outs in a landslide win, instead gave up three hits and three runs, allowed seven baserunners and delayed the party by at least 20 minutes.

Later, during a loud celebration in a happy clubhouse, Drayton McLane walked over to congratulate Powell.

“Sorry it took so long,” Powell mumbled.

“That’s OK,” McLane chortled. “We sold more stuff.”

Heard this one not long ago…

Bob Aspromonte spent his career largely as a self-proclaimed happy bachelor, one whose outgoing personality and movie-star handsomeness allowed him to channel (and embrace) his inner ladies’ man-itude.

In his day, Aspromonte could live life however he wanted, pretty much out of the spotlight, without having to worry about cell phones with cameras or curious strangers documenting his every move on Twitter. Aspro the Astro liked the nightlife, but unlike his less sophisticated, more neanderthal-like teammates, an evening out with Aspro involved fine dining at the best restaurants in town. First-class accommodations from start to finish.

But that didn’t mean general manager Spec Richardson (who was liked by very few players) didn’t want him to tone it down from time to time. Unlike the George Steinbrenner-Derek Jeter flap from about 10 years ago when the crusty Yankees owner made it clear to the world, using various media outlets, that he wanted his shortstop to ix-nay the ightlife-nay, Aspromonte’s admonishment came in a much more muted tone, just man-to-man.

“Bob,” Richardson said to his third baseman during contract negotiations, “I’ll add on 10 grand more if you’ll stop chasing the ladies.”

Aspromonte paused for a moment, thought about it and said, “Nah, you keep your money. And I’ll keep the ladies.”

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I wish I had been there to witness Casey Candaele sitting on a serving tray and “skiing” down the aisle during takeoff on the Astros’ charters. That said, I’m ecstatic that I never watched him take batting practice in the back cages on Sundays, because apparently, he did so without wearing any clothes.

I wish I had been around to watch the Astros clinch the division behind Mike Scott’s no-hitter in 1986, but I’m really glad I missed seven-hour, 20-minute, 22-inning showdown between the Astros and Dodgers in 1989. I’m doubly happy that I didn’t have to work the next game either. That Sunday matinee began 11 hours after the 22-inning game and ended up lasting four hours and 17 minutes and took 13 innings for the Astros to finally win it.

That of course pales in comparison to another long, drawn-out affair that I was more than happy to witness, 16 years later. Six-plus hours of baseball was worth sitting through that October afternoon in 2005, especially the 10 seconds it took for Chris Burke’s game-winning home run to clear the left field wall. Eighteen innings of agony translated into a Division Series win over the Braves, and ended up being the first step toward the first World Series berth in club history.

So many years, so many players, so many memories. A lot has happened in the 50 years since Major League Baseball arrived to the Bayou City, thanks to a lengthy cast of characters. Here are some who you’ll surely recognize.

From our Astros family to yours, we wish you a happy, hearty holiday season. We look forward to reminiscing about the old days, while making new memories in 2012.

Larry Dierker, pitcher, 1964-76; broadcaster 1979-96; manager 1997-2001

Carl Warwick, 1962-63

Jimmy Wynn, 1963-73

Bob Aspromonte, 1962-68

Ron Brand, 1965-68

John Edwards, 1969-74

Bob Watson, player, 1966-79; general manager 1994-95

Gene Elston, broadcaster, 1962-86

Norm Miller, 1965-73

J.R. Richard, 1971-80

Jose "Cheo" Cruuuuuuuuuuuz, 1975-87

Art Howe, player, 1976-82; manager, 1989-93

Alan Ashby, player, 1979-89; broadcaster, 1998-2005

Enos Cabell, 1975-80, 1984-85

Billy Smith, 1981

Charley Kerfeld, 1985-90

Kevin Bass, 1982-89

Larry Andersen, 1986-90

Terry Puhl, 1977-90

Phil Garner, player, 1981-87; manager, 2004-07

Billy Hatcher, 1986-89

Glenn Wilson, 1989-90

Jim Deshaies, player, 1985-91; broadcaster, 1997-present

Luis Gonzalez, 1990-95, '97

Brian Williams, 1991-94, '99

Craig Biggio, 1988-2007

Vince Cotroneo, broadcaster, 1991-97

John Hudek, 1994-97

Mike Hampton, 1994-99; 2009

Mike Jackson, 2001

Brad Ausmus, 1997-98, 2001-08

Tim Bogar, 1997-2000

Tony Eusebio, 1991, 1994-2001

Adam Everett, 2001-07

Chris Burke, 2004-07

Mark Loretta, 2002, 2007-08

Jason Lane, 2002-07

Jose Vizcaino, 2001-05

Dave Borkowski, 2006-08

Brandon Backe, 2004-09

Willy Taveras, 2004-06

Darin Erstad, 2008-09

Brad Mills, manager, 2010-present

Dave Raymond, broadcaster, 2006-present

Milo Hamilton, broadcaster, 1985-present

Brett Dolan, broadcaster, 2006-present

Bill Brown, broadcaster, 1987-present

Humberto Quintero, 2005-present

Doug Brocail, player, 1995-96, 2008-09; pitching coach, 2011-present

Jason Bourgeois, 2010-present

Chris Johnson, 2009-present

Bud Norris, 2009-present

Brian Bogusevic, 2010-present

Bobby Meacham, first base coach, 2010-present

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