Bob Aspromonte Starred Off the Field

Sure, Bob Aspromonte owns the stats to back up a 13-year career in the majors.

A few feathers in his baseball cap, worn 1956 and 1960-71…

* NL record for consecutive errorless games by a third baseman (157, in 1962)
* NL record for fewest errors (11) and highest fielding percentage (.973, also in 1964)
* Houston franchise record for career grand slams (6, later matched by Jeff Bagwell)

Interestingly, “Aspro” didn’t quote statistics when asked about some of his memorable career moments. For instance, regarding his debut with the 1956 Dodgers, this Brooklyn native and resident recalled:

“Taking the field in a Brooklyn Dodger uniform as a 17 year old kid just out of high school, sitting alongsdie Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and many other superstars, are some of my greatest memories.”

Aspromonte’s devotion to a young fan in need inspired the 2008 docu-movie “Blind Faith: Bob Aspromonte,” one installment of “Amazing Sports Stories,” seen on FSN.

Bob promised a boy who had been struck by lightning on a Little League field that he’d hit a home run for him. Not once, not twice, but three times. The happy ending is recounted in this fine Memphis newspaper article. The legend remained largely untold for more than 30 years. I wanted to know if Bob’s Houston teammates had any idea of what happened.

“Gene Elston our announcer made the players aware of the Divine Intervention story.”

The Astros wound up on the other side of a headline in 1968. June 9 was declared a National Day of Mourning after the assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Team owners insisted on playing. Aspromonte, Rusty Staub and Dave Giusti sat out the game in protest. While Houston played, no Astros challenged their absent teammates.

“They completely understood how strongly we felt about the National Day of Mourning for Robert Kennedy.”

All three players were dumped from the Houston roster at season’s end.

Bob and his brother Ken Aspromonte found fulfilling careers beyond baseball. Both are retired and live in Houston.

Torre, Torre, Koufax: Ken Aspromonte’s Brooklyn Baseball Boyhood

Ken Aspromonte enjoyed a magical time growing up as a ballplayer in Brooklyn.

Yes, his younger brother Bob made the majors, too.

But he crossed paths with three other guys who fulfilled the same dream.

“The Torre brothers (Frank and Joe) played against the Aspromonte brothers throughout the high school years and sandlot baseball,” he wrote. “Sandy Koufax went to the same high school, Lafayette in Brooklyn, with my brother Bob and I. He played first base but eventually moved to pitching –“

Ken’s career as a starter was brief. He did earn a full-time job in the 1960 Cleveland infield, batting a career-best .290. More time to make good wasn’t the only explanation, he noted:

“Success comes in the major leagues when a baseball player finally realizes that he belongs in the majors. It takes lots of patience and finally if you have talent, it will all come about –“

Ken returned to Cleveland to manage in 1972. He led the team through one of the zaniest, scariest nights in baseball history: “10 Cent Beer Night” in 1974. When drunken “fans” wouldn’t clear the field, the Indians forfeited.

When rowdy fans confronted Ranger Jeff Burroughs in the outfield, manager Billy Martin urged his team to grab bats and charge the field to defend a teammate. However, the Texas roster wasn’t big enough to confront the mob.

That’s when Ken Aspromonte sprang into action. He led his Indians onto the field to help defend the visiting team.

“It was a terrible unfortunate evening, something I knew was going to happen when you make beer available at such a LOW price,” he recalled. “I definitely would do the same today if I was managing.”

The world may offer 10-cent beers again someday. But there will never be another Ken Aspromonte.

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