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Monday, June 14, 1999

Astros manager hospitalized after seizure


AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) — The Astros were shaken when manager Larry Dierker suffered a seizure and collapsed in the Houston dugout.

But if they need encouragement for the future, they only need look at who threw out the ceremonial pitch for Sunday's game against the San Diego Padres.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Dierker shook violently and had to be restrained by players until attendants arrived.

He stabilized in an ambulance as he was being taken to Methodist Hospital, where he is expected to remain for several days undergoing tests.

The episode was later identified as a grand mal seizure, a condition that can be associated with epilepsy. Dierker had a milder seizure three years ago in San Diego when he was an Astros broadcaster.

On hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday was former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, who suffered a stroke and collapsed while working out in the Astrodome on July 30, 1980.

Richard fell along the first-base line, just a few feet from where Dierker collapsed.

Dierker wasn't the first member of this year's coaching staff to be sidelined with health problems.

"We've had a terrible year, even with some other coaches going down," bench coach Matt Galante said.

"But I think these guys will bounce back and might even play a little harder. We'll play each game one by one for Larry. I hope when he comes back, we'll have an even bigger lead."

Galante will fill in for Dierker until he returns. Jeff Bagwell was at bat when Dierker collapsed.

"I was getting ready to step in, and the umpire said, `Hold on,"' Bagwell said. "I looked around, and everybody was running to the dugout. Larry had collapsed. He couldn't talk. He was shaking violently. He was shaking the whole time. "It was shocking. We're all stunned."

A jovial crowd of 39,773, anticipating a three-game sweep of the Padres, was silent as players gathered around the dugout where Dierker fell. Some prayed. Jose Lima cried.

"I laugh and play with him every day, and now I have to pray for him," Lima said. "I started crying because I've seen my grandmother do the same thing in the Dominican Republic."

The game was suspended with the Astros ahead 4-1 on Derek Bell's grand slam. It will be resumed July 23, when the Padres return to Houston.

The Padres watched with equal horror.

"They couldn't get him under control, and they had to fight to hold him down," said Padres pitching coach Dave Smith, a former Astro and one of Dierker's golfing buddies.

"I was concerned yesterday that something was not quite right. Usually, he's upbeat and laughing but for some reason he was kind of quiet."

Paramedics in an ambulance rushed to the dugout from center field. Dierker's wife, Judy, left the stands and went to the dugout.

"It hurts to sit and see that happening. Talk about a knot in the stomach— there was an emptiness inside," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "I talked to him on Friday and he said he was working out."

Dierker, 52, has been Houston's manager since Oct. 4, 1996, and led the Astros to consecutive NL Central titles. He was voted NL Manager of the Year last season.

He was 139-123 in 14 major league seasons from 1964-77, spending his first 13 years with the Astros and finishing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

He holds Astros' records for starts (320), complete games (106), shutouts (25) and innings (2,295), and is second in wins, seven behind Joe Niekro.

Dierker was 20-13 in 1969, and pitched a no-hitter at the Astrodome against Montreal on July 9, 1976.

"Larry's one of those guys, when you come to a city you like to say hello to," Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn said.

Health problems have plagued Houston this year. First base coach Jose Cruz left the team May 10 for treatment for an irregular heart beat, and hitting coach Tom McCraw left six days later for treatment for prostate cancer.

All-Star outfielder Moises Alou tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he fell off a treadmill in mid-February and will miss most of the season.

And third baseman Ken Caminiti, a former NL MVP, has been on the disabled list since May 22 because of a strained right calf muscle.

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