Bob Bruce: Houston’s 1st Big League Winner.

In 1964, Bob Bruce was Houston's 1st 15-Game Big League Winner.

Things weren’t easy during the three season life span of this city’s first major league club, the Houston Colt .45s. We had a local team made up of names from the 1961 expansion draft and a few fresh rookie snares, plus some veteran free agent players acquired in minor deals. and a few wannabe guys, most of whom never saw the light of day wearing the orange and deep navy blue of the new big league club.

One of the jewels in the early talent lot was a right-handed pitcher named Bob Bruce, whom the Colt .45s acquired from the Detroit Tigers. The 6’3″, 195 pound 29-year old turned out to be the most effective double-digit game winner in the club’s early history.

In 1962, when Houston finished 8th in an undivided 10-team National League, only besting the Chicago Cubs and the fellow expansion bunch at New York called the Mets, Bob Bruce hit the club record books as the first pitcher to register double-digit wins and a winning record in a single season. His 10-9 mark with  4.06 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 1962 did it for Bruce.

Teammate Dick Farrell also had ten wins in 1962, but he also picked up twenty losses along the way, a feat which prompted this proud explanation from the colorful guy they also called Turk: “Do you realize how good I had to be to keep going out there often enough to have lost 20 games in one year?”

Bruce fell off to 5-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 1963, but in 1964, in their third and final year to dress out as the Colt .45s, he came roaring back to become the first 15-game winner in franchise history, posting a season mark of 15 wins, 9 losses, an ERA of only 2.76 in 202.1 innings pitched – and another good year for “Ks” with 135 recorded again.

Bruce pitched two more years as a “Houston Astro” (1965-66), but he had run out of big-win seasons. His combined record for two Astrodome seasons was 12-31. Bob moved over to Atlanta in 1967 where he registered a 2-3 record for his last season in baseball.

Happy Birthday, Bob! Bob Bruce turns 77 on May 16 and he is still going strong in real estate.

All tolled, Bob Bruce worked a nine-season major league career (1959-67) into a final record of 49-71 and a fine 3.85 ERA over his 1,122.1 total innings. He played for Detroit (1959-61), Houston (1962-66), and Atlanta (1967).

A good fastball, an effective curve, and good control also allowed Bob Bruce to finish with 733 strikeouts against only 340 walks. During his Colt .45 years, Bruce was the guy who gave Houston fans rare hope for victory every time he took the mound. As one of those fans, I will always be grateful to him for that infusion of sunshine into our early big league community baseball spirit.

As a minor leaguer for eight years (1953-67), Bob Bruce also compiled a record of 76-55 and an ERA of 3.33 over several scattered seasons.

Happy Birthday, Bob Bruce! And thanks again the memories.

For those of you wanting to catch up on Bob Bruce today, or maybe even shop for some real estate in the Hill Country, check out Bob on Facebook. I’m sure he would be most glad to hear from you.

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10 Responses to “Bob Bruce: Houston’s 1st Big League Winner.”

  1. Dick "Lefty" O"Neal Says:

    I played in an old-timers game with him at V-J Keefe field on the St. Mary’s campus for the San Antonio Missions in 1993. He wore his old Colt-45 uniform. Nice man

  2. wade Says:

    Thanks so much for this. My fondest memory of colt Stadium is seeing Bob’s 12 inning shoutout of the Dodgers, beating Don Drysdale, in the last game ever played there. jim wynn drove in the winner. 12 inning shoutout ! How long will it be before we see something like that again ?if you look at all the stats from ’64, Bob was in the top five pitches in the leauge that year, and that was against a leuage that had Koufax, Drysdale, Marichall, Gibson, etc. He won 15 games despite the weakest Colt or Astro team offense in history that year !

  3. Michael R. McCroskey Says:

    I met Bob in the early 80’s in Brenham. The Texas Hall of Fame building in Fort Worth had burned, and its contents were temporarily being stored at Blinn Junior College. An HAC group, I believe, hosted a golf tournament that day a later a dinner in the Bud distributorship building.

    I had my wife ask hime an Astro’s trivia quiestion. “What pitcher gave up the first regular season homerun in Astrodome histroy. Bob thought for a few the moments, the smiled and correctly answered, “Me!”

    I was a college student in Beaumont in1966. I won two tickets to opening day at the local Weingarten’s grocery. Sat in the top row of the Yellow section, first base side. Thought the seats were the greatest.

    Bruce gave up a 2 run homer to right center about the 6th inning. Chris Short pitched a shutout. Bruce and the Astros lost 2-0. It was a wonderful experience.

    Mike

  4. James Anderson Says:

    How tough was it to pitch in Colt Stadium? Bob told me a story of him pitching a game at Colt Stadium between he and Bob Gibson. Bob said it was so hot down on the field that between innings both Gibson and Bruce were dousing their feet in buckets of ice to cool the feet from the unbelievable heat radiating up through their shoes on the pitching mound.

    He’s a great guy. He now lives up in North Dallas near me. We have met and have become good friends.

  5. mickey herskowitz Says:

    One of my alltime favorites. Brucie was always going against the likes of Drysdale, Koufax, Gibson and Marichal, and always held his own. If he had been with a contender during his career he might have won 200 games.

    But, best of all, he was fun to be around, light-hearted, quick to laugh, no meanness in him. I covered his 12-inning shutout and his classic, 2-0 loss to /Chris Short on Richie Allen’s homer in the Astrodome opener. The fact that he won 15 games for a team that didn’t hit speaks volumes.

  6. Mark Wernick Says:

    Bob Bruce also had a nice bio on one of the original 1962 “Here Come The Colts” brochures, one of 26 brochures featuring original Colt .45s players, coaches, the manager, general manager, and broadcasters. He is indelibly inscribed in franchise history not only as one of our originals, but as one of the best of the originals. I enjoyed watching him play as a 13 year-old transplant from San Antonio in 1961.

    Mark

  7. John Lucio Says:

    I was fortunate enough to have Bob Bruce as my Spring-Klein summer league coach in 1981. He was a true tough guy but very fair and he motivated me to work harder, something I really needed at the time. It was a great experience to have him directly challenge us in practice and then turn into our top advocate during games. I once struck out a top varsity player on three swinging strikes with slow inside pitches. The batter was so incensed and embarrassed the he threw a fit and started swinging his bat wildly in disgust, nearly hitting our catcher. After Mr Bruce warned our catcher to get out of the way, the hitter popped off to Bob, to which he gruffly and seriously replied, “Listen you little punk, if you hit my catcher, I’m gonna take that bat and turn you into a popsicle” The batter quickly shrunk down to his true size and we were all in awe of Bob. Life lessons aside, that moment made the whole season worthwhile.

  8. Andrew Bigbee Says:

    I was schoolmate of Pat Bruce, Bob Bruce’s son, in 7th and 8th grade at Strack Junior high in Spring Texas, can anyone tell me where I can find him today? Thanks in advance!

  9. Andrew Bigbee Says:

    I attended Strack Junior High School in Spring, Texas with Pat Bruce, Bob’s son, when I was in my 7th and 8th grade. Although I was new in the area, Pat and his family made me felt warm and welcome. Does anyone know where and how I can contact Pat Bruce? Thanks in advance!

  10. Bob Kachadourian Says:

    My brother John played varsity baseball with Bob Bruce at Highland Park High School in Michigan. I’m 10 years younger and only have heard about you. He lives in Richardson, Texas which is north of Dallas. I’ll connect Bob Bruce to him if I get an email back.
    Bob Kachadourian

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