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Astros’ Dierker Collapses in Dugout

June 14, 1999

HOUSTON (AP) _ Houston Astros manager Larry Dierker collapsed in the dugout following a grand mal seizure during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres.

Dierker’s condition stabilized in an ambulance as it drove him from the Astrodome to Methodist Hospital, Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said.

Dierker, 52, will be hospitalized several days for tests. Bench coach Matt Galante will take over as interim manager until Dierker returns.

A grand mal seizure is a condition that can be associated with epilepsy.

``The good news is there was no heart or cardiac damage,″ Hunsicker said. ``This may be one of those strange and unexplained situations where the body reacts violently to something and (it) then goes away.″

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.

Astros owner Drayton McLane said Dierker had a seizure three seasons ago in San Diego, when he was an Astros broadcaster.

``The one out there was much milder,″ McLane said. ``This one was really bad.″

Jeff Bagwell had just gone to the plate, taking his first pitch for a ball. Dierker then 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.″

Houston players huddled around the end of the dugout with concerned looks on their faces.

``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.

Dierker was put in the ambulance, which was driven off the field accompanied by a motorcycle escort. Astros players huddled in group prayer.

``I laugh and play with him every day, and now I have to pray for him,″ Astros pitcher Jose Lima said. ``I started crying because I’ve seen my grandmother do the same thing in the Dominican Republic.″

An announcement was then made to the crowd of 39,773 at the Astrodome that the game was being suspended.

``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 was beside Galante when the seizure occurred, and Galante rushed to assist. Dierker appeared to be resisting assistance but his jerking motions were involuntary.

Bell and Carl Everett held down Dierker until help arrived.

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

Dierker has been Houston’s manager since Oct. 4, 1996, and led the Astros to consecutive NL Central titles. He was voted the 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.

Houston has been plagued by health problems 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. Cruz is expected back later this month.

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.

``We’ve had a terrible year, even with some other coaches going down,″ 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.″

Notes: Bell’s sixth-inning grand slam off Heath Murray overcame a 1-0 deficit, his first slam in 3,613 career at-bats. ... Shane Reynolds allowed one run _ unearned _ and six hits in eight innings, struck out six and walked none. ... San Diego went ahead in the third when Damian Jackson reached on shortstop Tim Bogar’s fielding error and scored on Quilvio Veras’ single. ... Gwynn, recovered from a strained left calf, played in his second consecutive game after coming off the disabled list. He went 1-for-4 with a fourth-inning double and needs 23 hits to reach 3,000. ... Galante said no more coaches will be brought in as replacements. The Astros expect Cruz to return by June 17. Minor league field coordinator Harry Spilman is filling in for McCraw.

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