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Dierker Has Seizure; Astro Game Suspended

June 14, 1999|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — Astro Manager Larry Dierker collapsed in the dugout after suffering 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 he was transported from the Astrodome to Methodist Hospital, 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.

"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 leading, 4-1, on Derek Bell's grand slam. It will be resumed July 23, when the Padres return to Houston.

Astro owner Drayton McLane said Dierker had a seizure three seasons ago in San Diego, when he was an Astro broadcaster. "The one out there was much milder," he said. "This one was really bad."

Jeff Bagwell had just gone to the plate, taking the 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 Padre pitching coach Dave Smith, a former Astro and one of Dierker's golfing buddies.

"I was concerned [Saturday] 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. Astro players huddled in group prayer.

"I laugh and play with him every day, and now I have to pray for him," 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," Padre 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," Padre 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 Houston club 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 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."

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