Monday, January 4, 2010
#143) BOB ASPROMONTE
Bob Aspromonte joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Ron Herbel on December 1, 1970. The man nicknamed "Aspro" was well-liked by the Houston fans, but had gotten on the wrong side of management over an issue in 1968. Bob and fellow teammate, Rusty Staub refused to play on the national day of mourning for Senator Robert Kennedy. It was not long after that he was traded to Atlanta. Aspromonte was in the twilight of his career when he joined New York. "My legs were giving out." Bob recalled, "About the best advice I got when I was having trouble running was to take the subway." Mets' fans held a special night to honor the Brooklyn native and presented him a new automobile. He was released two months later on October 28, 1971. The club had acquired Jim Fregosi to become their future third baseman. By lasting so long, Bob had earned the distinction of being the last active former Brooklyn Dodger to retire from baseball.
Bob's greatest story occurred in 1962. A young little-leaguer from El Dorado, Arkansas was hit by lightning and tragically lost his eye sight. The boy, Bill Bradley was a big Houston 45's fan whose favorite player was Bob Aspromonte. Learning this "Aspro" visited the young Bradley in the Houston hospital where he was about to undergo the first of several eye surgeries by Dr. Louis Girard. Bob brought the youngster an autographed baseball, pair of Colt 45 pajamas, and a transistor radio to listen to the games. Before Aspromonte left a grateful Billy innocently asked his star to hit a home run for him. It is said that Dr. Girard allowed Bradley to attend the game but insisted that he return to the hospital by 10 p.m. to rest for the next day's surgery. Bob had struggled at the plate and was 0-3 heading into his last at-bat in the eighth inning. By that time Bradley was back in his hospital bed and listening to the game on radio. Aspromonte sent a 2-1 pitch over the fence as Houston broadcaster Gene Elster yelled, "This one's for you Bill Bradley!" The youngster returned the following year on two occasions for continued surgeries. Each time he was visited by Bob and asked by young Billy to repeat the home run feat. On each of those occasions Aspromonte responded with no less than Grand Slam home runs! Bradley's eyesight gradually improved and with the help of contact lenses became 20/20 vision. A couple years later, while still pitching in Little League, Billy tossed a no-hitter. He told the El Dorado News-Times that he did it for Aspromonte and sent a copy of the article to his hero.
Ironically three years after his retirement from baseball Bob Aspromonte was the victim of a freak accident. He was nearly blinded in his right eye when a car battery exploded in his face. It took several surgeries, by none other than Dr. Girard, to restore 40 percent of his vision.
Along with his brother Ken Aspromonte, also a former major leaguer, he built a beer distribution business (with an estimated worth of $15 Million dollars in 1981) and owns two Burger King restaurants in the Houston area. Bob sold majority interest in Aspromonte Coors to two local Miller distributors in 2000. "After a period of time, you have to look at what the marketplace is doing." Aspromonte was quoted, "Right now, It's consolidation."
Bob Aspromonte signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 29, 2008.