1973: Jerry Lewis Gets a Hit as an Astro

Left to Right: (1) Jerry Lewis takes the field as an Astros first baseman, planting a hug on base umpire Hank Soar; (2) Jerry congratulates home plate umpire Greg Olsen for getting it right; and (3) Lewis ignores the Tigers catcher.

Left to Right: (1) Jerry Lewis takes the field as an Astros first baseman, planting a hug on base umpire Hank Soar; (2) Jerry congratulates home plate umpire Greg Olsen for getting it right; and (3) Lewis ignores the Tigers catcher.

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:

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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.

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5 Responses to “1973: Jerry Lewis Gets a Hit as an Astro”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    Mid-season exhibition games are/were pretty rare except for the annual “Hall of Fame Game” that was held in conjunction with the Hall of Fame inductions and the various “Old Timers Games” which usually did not feature active players. The thought that a player might get seriously injured in one must be a reason these have gone away, plus doubleheaders have all but vanished and there are union-mandated days off within every 21 days on the schedule.

    I imagine that is why Will Farrell had to go to the minor leagues to do his stunts decades later.

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    Bill, my reason for going to this game was to see Al Kaline. It was one of the few times I sat in the right field pavilion. In addition to all the other craziness, Billy Martin, the Tigers manager, threw a few pitches in the game. In the first inning (if I remember correctly), a Tiger batter hit a ball to shortstop, and Roger Metzger (one my two all-time favorite Astros along with Bob Aspromonte) fielded the ball and threw it low in the dirt, but Jerry Lewis made a backhanded one-hop stab for the out. Later, he leaned over the railing of the Astros dugout and snagged a towering foul ball. I realized that it required a pretty good athlete to perform the kind of physical, slapstick humor he was famous for. As I said before, I’m not a fan of his humor, but have admired him ever since seeing him play for the Astros.

  3. Darrell Pittman Says:

    I wonder who generates more laughs on the baseball field: Jerry Lewis or the current Astros.

  4. Bill Bennett Says:

    “Those were the days”…sad, I don’t think we’ll ever see things like this again. How I loved those days, days they knew how to play, played “Hard Ball” It was fun then.

  5. The time Jerry Lewis got a hit for the Houston Astros | HardballTalk Says:

    […] smells like it’s going to be another slow day. So I don’t have any compunction over linking to a story from 1973 about comedian Jerry Lewis, then 47 years old, playing first base for the Astros in an exhibition game against the Detroit […]

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