Tom Hunter is fast becoming my best source on the memories of Houston Sports History that are so easily slipping away from all of us. Yesterday, Tom wrote the following as a comment upon my column about Billy Crystal’s one time at bat for the New York Yankees in the spring of 2008:
“Billy Crystal actually started college on a baseball scholarship, but the program was dropped during his freshman year. He also does a dead-on impression of Phil Rizzuto. Another Walter Mitty moment came in the Astrodome in late July 1972, when Jerry Lewis started at first base for the Houston Astros in an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers. Although I was never a fan of his humor, I was amazed at how well he played defense; he even got a hit off Tiger pitcher Mike Strahler. It was reported that he arrived at a party later that night still wearing his number ’9′ Astros jersey.”
The game and appearance by Jerry Lewis as an Astro took place on July 19, 1973 – and here’s how it was reported by the Baytown Sun:
Pitchers, Lewis Steal Astro Show
Houston (AP) – Bob Gallagher’s inside-the-park grand slam home run won the game but a pair of pitching coaches in their 50s and a comedian stole the show in an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers.
Gallagher’s eighth inning smash gave Houston a 10-7 victory Thursday night in the game as both clubs allowed their pitching coaches to pitch and comedian Jerry Lewis played four innings at first base for the Astros.
Lewis (age 47 at the time) got a single and a walk in his two times at bat.
Pitching coaches Hub Kittle, 56, of the Astros and Art Fowler, 51, of the Tigers finished on the mound to the delight of an Astrodome paid crowd of 11,955.
Fowler walked one batter after relieving Bob Miller in the eighth following Gallagher’s grand slam but got the next batter to hit into a forceout.
Kittle also walked the first batter in the Tigers’ ninth but retired the next three to end the game,
Gallagher’s grand slam poke climaxed a six-run eighth inning for the Astros, who were trailing 7-4 at the time. Gallagher’s drive eluded Frank Howard and Dick Sharon in left centerfield.
~ Baytown Sun, Friday, July 20, 1973, Page 11.