Results tagged ‘ Jose Lima ’

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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One more tip of the cap to Jose Lima, through pictures.

Team photographer Stephen O’Brien has been snapping pictures of your Astros since the late 1990s, and he was kind enough to send along a bunch of photos of Lima from his glory days in the Astrodome. Enjoy!

Before a Throwback game, Lima tosses soft baseballs into the stands. The wig was a nod to the style of the 1970s era, when the Astros wore the rainbow uniforms.

Lima celebrates his 20th win after the last out was made. He won his 20th on Sept. 11, 1999 in a 5-3 win over the Cubs. 

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Lima acknowledges the fans after winning his 20th.

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Lima liked to clown around before games, and he spent quite a bit of time with the Dome Patrol. Here he is filming some pregame footage.

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Here he is with his son, Jose Jr., while being interviewed after his 20th win.

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Attempting to rally the fans before a game.

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Lima spent more time signing autographs than any other player, by a large margin.

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Celebrating a strikeout.

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Throwing soft baseballs to the fans.

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Celebrating the final out of the clincher, on the final day of the 1999 season.

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Lima celebrates the division title in the clubhouse with a bottle of bubbly.

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Lima Time: Real, and spectacular.

The one thing that’s been missing in the Astros teams in the last few years is that one guy who isn’t afraid to be loud after losses.

I’m not talking about someone yelling and screaming at teammates in an effort to rally the troops. I’m talking about that guy goes into the clubhouse after a bad loss, blasts the stereo with some upbeat music, and forgets about everything with some ear-splitting tunes and a little dancing.

Jose Lima was that guy. He was eccentric, strange, fun-loving and loud. He wasn’t universally respected — opponents couldn’t stand the demonstrative antics on the mound — but to know him was to love him, and to laugh at him, and to laugh with him. That was Lima.

I don’t know anyone that called him Jose. He was simply Lima — and, once he started winning a flurry of games in ’99 — he became Lima Time. Loosely translated, Lima Time meant a good time, and that’s what you had when you spent even five minutes around the guy.

When I heard about his passing Sunday morning, I started Tweeting some of my fonder memories of Lima Time. As soon as I thought of the first one, the rest came rushing through as if they happened last week.

If you peered into his locker, you’d fine the standard fare — shoes, jerseys, pants, and, of course, his Dome Patrol outfit. For those of you not familiar with the old days, the Dome Patrol was equivalent to today’s Park Patrol — the spirited gang that runs around the field and throws stuff to the fans and gets everyone riled up for the game.

Lima wasn’t one to sit around and do nothing on the days he wasn’t pitching, and with the Dome Patrol, he found his niche. He loved people and appreciated the fan base. He loved being adored, and boy, was he. So on any given day when he was not pitching, he’d suit up in his Dome Patrol garb and get to work. The seats were far from the field at the old Astrodome, but still, Lima found a way to make that personal connection with the fans.

During the offseasons in the late 1990s, you could often find Lima hanging around up on the ninth floor of the Dome, where the front offices were located. He’d sometimes spend more than an hour up there, just visiting with folks and making general conversation. I think he liked gossiping with us office girls, and we loved having him around. Without getting too personal, we often tried to give him friendly advice on various topics involving his personal life. I still laugh when I picture the expression on his face when we explained to him what “common law” means in Texas.

I remember walking out of the elevator at the hotel in San Francisco in 2000 and seeing a beaming Lima standing there in the lobby, proudly showing off his brand new head of blond hair. He had it colored the night before, and on him, it wasn’t so much blond as it was canary yellow. He did it to end a losing streak, and upon returning home to then-Enron Field, he lost again. An hour later, he was in the center field restaurant, grooving on stage to some Lima Time salsa tunes. (He also didn’t take offense to friendly banter. Me, after the dye job: “You look ridiculous.” Lima: “Thank you, mama.”)

The year the Astros opened their ballpark, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap brought his crew to Houston to tape a tour with Lima. They went everywhere — the laundry room, the video booth, the field and the bullpen. Sounds pretty standard, until you consider the bullpen stop took place during batting practice, and the workers at Ruggles, which at the time was the center field restaurant, brought everyone ice cream and carrot cake. Somewhere exists a tape of Schaap and Lima chowing down on carrot cake while baseballs are flying in all directions as the visiting team finished up their BP.

Lima was completely fluent in English, having learned the language on his own in the early ’90s. He was very easy to understand, which was great, because most of what he said, and how he said it, was hilarious.

Lima liked to get a little mud on his uniform before his games would start. “When I pitch,” he explained, “First, I have to dirty my pants.”

At an underwriter’s party for the wives gala, Lima, ever the performer, sauntered over to the piano, and soon, the night turned from a stuffy hoity-toity cocktail hour to another Lima Time concert. The pianist was playing a bunch of oldies, and that was no problem for Lima. Not only did he know the words to three Sinatra songs, he also knew every word to the Four Tops “I Can’t Help Myself” (you know the song — starts with “Sugar-Pie Honey Bunch.” Yea, that one).

Right as the team flights would take off, Lima would yell out something in Spanish that no one could understand. It was the same sentence every time, and it started with “Soobie,” as in Tony Eusebio, but after that, it was unintelligible. Nevertheless, it cracked everyone up and strangely, it gave me comfort that the plane was indeed going land safely.

On a particularly cold, rainy morning at Wrigley Field around 1999, a bunch of us sat huddled in the dugout trying to stay warm during batting practice. Lima scooted over and put his arms around me. “I don’t think we’re allowed to do that,” I said. “I don’t care. I’m %*$&*#& freezing,” he answered.

It was funny, but coming from Lima, it was hilarious. It comes as no surprise to me that following the news of his death, the official statements from the teams Lima played for and the teammates he played with talk more about his singing, dancing and zest for life (this video sums it up) than his on-the-field contributions. He was, as they say, good people. He squeezed more laughter and fun in his 37 years than most do in a lifetime. I’m just thankful I was there to share some of that laughter. He’ll be missed, by me, and by you, and by everyone who was lucky enough to  know him.

Those are my memories. What are yours?

 
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Apparently, the first wives gala involved dancing.

 

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In 1990, two young wives of two budding superstar Astros players put together a modest fundraiser titled “An Evening of Stars” and hand-picked the organization to where the funds would be donated.

The gala was the first of its kind in the Astros organization, and it’s unlikely Patty Biggio and Nancy Caminiti could have imagined that a night of dinner and dancing for approximately 400 guests would snowball into the most lucrative single fundraising event the Astros host in every calendar year.

At some point in the early to mid-1990s, “An Evening of Stars” turned into “Black Ties and Baseball Caps.” Although the title changed, the recipient of the proceeds has remained the same. The Houston Area Women’s Center — a safe haven for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence — started as a modest eight-bed facility in 1977 and has grown to a 125-bed shelter, the largest in the country for woman and child survivors of domestic and sexual assault. The Astros Wives have played a part in that; two decades worth of galas have raised over $3 million for the HAWC.

This year’s soiree will be held on Aug. 6 on the field at Minute Maid Park and will be co-chaired by Pamela Michaels and Michelle Quintero. Tickets to the gala begin at $400, and as an added benefit, All-Star, Diamond, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger tables have the opportunity to select a player and his wife or guest to be seated at their table. Player requests are granted first by level of sponsorship and in the order received.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 713-781-0053.

As I was looking through pictures from past events in preparation to blog about this year’s milestone gala — the big 2-0 — I couldn’t help but notice the ones in the early years involved not only dinner and schmoozing with baseball players, but also dancing, and, during the Casey Candaele years, break dancing. These days, the gala is a bit more subdued, but still a lot of fun. And the silent and live auction items have undoubtedly improved.

Judging from the picture at the top of this blog, it’s clear Craig and Patty Biggio felt comfortable on the dance floor. They’re not the only ones…

This is the most normal pose I found of Candaele, circa 1990.

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Those who know Casey, however, would probably say this one is the more normal of the two.

 

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Many people danced that night, but from what I can tell from the pictures, Casey was the only one who took it to the floor, literally.

Hey, look, it’s Jim Deshaies…with hair!

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Fast foward 10 years…the team in 2000 wasn’t very good, but there were a lot of fan favorites on the club. Left to right: Jose Lima Time, Scott Elarton, Jeff Bagwell, Billy Wagner, Jay Powell and Lance Berkman (pre-Puma.)

 

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2003: Bagwell, Milo Hamilton, Berkman.

 

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While perusing the 1990 scrap book I found this letter written by Ellen Cohen, who had just taken over as President and CEO of the HAWC. I was struck by Cohen’s description of exactly how the funds from the gala were spent, and how much Cohen was hoping the wives would again pick the HAWC as their charity of choice (obviously, they did).

(Point of interest: Cohen left the HAWC in 2006 when she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Houston District 134.)

 

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Friendly reminder that the Kids Free All Summer will continue through Aug. 23. A friend of mine tried it out couple of weeks ago — he and his wife each bought a $20 ticket and their four kids got in for free. That six people for 40 bucks. Check it out…

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