To me the scariest moment in Astros history has to be Larry Dierker’s seizure during a 1999 game against the San Diego Padres. In his third season as the Astros manager Dierker had been experiencing intense headaches for a couple of weeks. In the eighth inning of the Astros June 13 home game against the Padres Dierker fell unconscious in the dugout. Dierker had suffered a grand mal seizure due to an arteriovenous malformation (tangled blood vessels) in the front part of his brain.
The sight of Dierker twitching and convulsing on the dugout floor was too much for the players and umpires to overcome. The game was suspended and would have to be completed the next time the Padres came to town.
Dierker was rushed to the hospital and would undergo more than five hours of brain surgery two days later. During his recovery Dierker received countless cards and letters from Astros fans and other well-wishers. Eventually the Astros skipper would make a full recovery. The 1998 Manager of the Year returned to the dugout on July 16, one month after undergoing surgery. That day the Astros overcame a 6-0 deficit and beat the Detroit Tigers 8-6.
Winning was nothing new to Lawrence Edward Dierker. The right-hander from Southern California made his big league debut for the Houston Colt 45s on his eighteenth birthday and has been winning ever since. In 1969 Dierker became the first Astros pitcher to achieve 20 wins in a season. He ranks third all-time on the Astros wins list for pitchers with 137. He also ranks second on the team for career wins as a manager. Dierker’s .556 winning percentage is the highest for any manager in team history. Dierker pitched for the Houston franchise from 1964 until 1976. Even though he battled arm troubles late in his Astros career, Dierker still managed to throw a no-hitter against the Expos on July 9, 1976.
From 1979 through 1996 Dierker was a member of the Astros radio and television broadcasting team. Many of the so-called experts were skeptical when Dierker was hired to be the Astros manager in 1997. I can even remember the comic strip “Tank McNamara” poking fun at the Astros for hiring an announcer to manage the team. But the Astros would get the last laugh. Dierker guided the team to division championships in each of his first three seasons, and four of five overall.
Dierker would return to the Astros announcers booth for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Since then he has continued to follow the game and has authored books on the subject of baseball. Dierker currently posts articles for MLB.com and probably wears his trademark Hawaiian shirt while writing.