As part of the Astros' 50th anniversary, this is the first in a weekly "Game to Remember" series in which a former Astros/Colt .45s great discusses his favorite game while playing for the Houston franchise.
HOUSTON -- Bob Aspromonte wasn't known as a home run hitter in his 13-year Major League career, though he did develop a knack for hitting homers at key moments in games.
The biggest clutch hit of Aspromonte's career, however, didn't come to win a game or clinch a playoff berth. It came on July 26, 1963, when he hit a grand slam off Tracy Stallard of the New York Mets. It came in the first inning of a run-of-the-mill game between two new National League franchises, but for Aspromonte, it meant so much more.
Game to Remember
Third baseman Bob Aspromonte was one of the early great Astros/Colt .45s.
Bob Aspromonte Facts and Figures
Full name: Robert Thomas Aspromonte
Game to Remember: July 26, 1963 (Houston 7, New York Mets 3)
Nickname: Aspro the Astro
Jersey number: 14
Primary Position: 3B
Born: June 19, 1938 (73 years old)
Birthplace: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Major League debut: Sept. 19, 1956
Years in Major Leagues: 13
Years with Astros/Colt .45s: 7 (1962-68)
Other teams: Dodgers, Braves, Mets
Key stats with Houston: .258 batting average, 51 homers (six grand slams), 385 RBIs in 1,007 games
Claim to fame: Got the first hit and scored the first run in the history of the Houston franchise, which began as the Colt .45s in 1962
Did you know: Aspromonte hit the first regular-season home run in the history of the Astrodome for the Astros?
What's he doing now? Aspromonte is retired and living in Houston. He ran Aspromonte-Coors Distributing Company for 28 years and is extremely active in charity work in Houston, where he and his entire family have called home for 50 years
Sitting in the stands at Colt Stadium and watching the action that day was a boy from Arkansas named Bill Bradley, who had befriended Aspromonte a year earlier. Bradley lost his eyesight at age 9 in 1962 when a tree that was struck by lightning fell on him.
Bradley was moved to Houston to have several eye procedures and began listening to Colt .45s games on the radio. And Aspromonte soon became his favorite player.
"When he was visiting Houston, he called the ballclub and said, 'Can I meet Bob Aspromonte?'" Aspromonte said. "I visited him in the hospital and took him a glove and ball. The kid was blindfolded and couldn't see anything. That's how it all started."
Before Aspromonte left the hospital that day, Bradley asked him to hit a homer for him. Aspromonte, not being a home run hitter, was hesitant. But he did indeed hit a home run later that night. The next year, with Bradley back in Houston, he again asked Aspromonte to hit a homer, and again Aspromonte came through -- this time with a grand slam.
After undergoing several procedures and regaining some of his eyesight, Bradley came to Colt Stadium in 1964 and was finally able to see Aspromonte play in person for the first time. And, of course, when meeting Aspromonte prior to the game, he asked him to hit a home run.
"I said, 'Billy, you're really pushing your luck,' " Aspromonte said. " 'Will you settle for a couple of base hits?' "
And considering Aspromonte was in a slump, a couple of hits would have been asking a lot.
But with Bradley in the stands and the bases loaded in the first inning, Aspromonte swung at a pitch from Stallard and sent it over the left-field wall for a grand slam. The story of the relationship between Aspromonte and Bradley had been well documented by this time, so the game was stopped while the two embraced.
"As I'm crying and everyone is going crazy, I gave him the ball," said Aspromonte, who still keeps in touch with Bradley to this day. "You should have seen his reaction. What a spark of life that came over that kid."