As part of the Astros' 50th anniversary, the weekly "Game to Remember" series features a former Astros/Colt .45s great discussing his favorite game while playing for the Houston franchise. This week: Kevin Bass.
Kevin Bass was in the thick of some of the most memorable Astros games in the 1980s. A popular player, he was a switch-hitter who could run and hit for power, which meant he could beat you in many different ways.
For Bass, there was no bigger thrill in his 14-year Major League career -- 10 of which came during two different stints in an Astros uniform -- than hitting a walk-off grand slam off Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams to polish off a sweep of the Cubs on Aug. 20, 1989.
Game to Remember
Kevin Bass and Figures
1. Full name: Kevin Charles Bass.
2. Game to Remember: Aug. 20, 1989 (Astros 8, Cubs 4).
14. Claim to fame: Bass made the 1986 National League All-Star team in the Astrodome and finished the year with a .311 batting average, 20 homers and 22 steals.
15. Did you know? Bass is the cousin of NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton.
16. What's he doing now? Bass lives in Houston. When he's not on the golf course, he's busy in the real-estate business.
Bass, who three years earlier made the National League All-Star team and finished seventh in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting, was still one of the Astros' best hitters in 1989, a season in which the Cubs were roaring to the NL East title and wound up encountering a Bass-led road bump in the Astrodome.
"It kind of put a little damper on them late in the season," Bass said.
Batting third in the Houston lineup, Bass went 3-for-5 with five RBIs and homered from each side of the plate, including a one-out grand slam to left-center field in the ninth that won the game for Houston, 8-4, to thrill a Sunday afternoon crowd of 38,624.
"I remember being in a can't-miss situation," Bass said. "There was only one out. Billy Doran came up before me and struck out, and I was after him, so there was one out in a tie ballgame. Either way, other than hitting a double play, all I had to do was make contact to win, basically. [Williams] gives [me] this pitch pretty high over the dish and I served it up -- grand slam."
Williams, who later in his career played for the Astros, was an All-Star in 1989 and finished ninth in the NL Cy Young Award voting after saving 36 games, pitching 81 2/3 innings and allowing six homers that year -- two of them to Bass.
"I just kind of remember being in that situation, being able to relax a little bit more," Bass said. "All the pressure was on [Williams]. Mitch wasn't a guy that threw a lot of strikes, but he threw hard, and if he got it over the plate, he was pretty effective at times. That was kind of what I was feeling, what I remember."
Bass homered off the hard-throwing Williams from the right side of the plate in the ninth. Earlier in the day, he homered from the left side of the plate against starter Mike Bielecki. That was the third time in his career he homered from both sides of the plate in the same game, tying an NL record.
The Bass game-winner came before game-winning homers were called "walk-off" homers, and before the celebrations at home plate became so animated and rehearsed. Back then, a few slaps to helmet and a couple high fives at home plate got the job done.
"It was in the Dome, so that made it even more special, because fans were going crazy," said Bass, who was an unknown when he was one of three players dealt to the Astros from the Brewers in exchange for eventual Hall of Famer Don Sutton in 1982.
The Astrodome, with its AstroTurf surface and large outfield, fit Bass' game perfectly. Perhaps that's why after leaving the Astros for free agency following the 1989 season, he chose to re-sign with them three years later.
"I played with four other clubs, but Houston was the most productive [place for me]," he said. "The Astrodome fit my game. I really enjoyed playing there. It was a different game back then than it was today. I'm not saying it was better, but it was different."