Bob Bruce, Astros' starting pitcher in first Astrodome official game, dies
by Matt Young
March 16, 2017
(c) Houston Astros
Bob Bruce, the man who was the starting pitcher in the last game at Houston's Colt Stadium and the first official game at the Astrodome, died Wednesday at the age of 83.
Bruce was one of the original members of the Colt .45s, joining the team in its inaugural season in 1962 after three seasons with the Detroit Tigers.
He won a team-high 10 games -- tying Turk Farrell -- in the franchise's opening season. He was the first Houston pitcher to win 15 games when he did that in 1964. He also had a 22-inning shutout streak during that season.
Because of his strong 1964 season, Bruce was picked to be the Opening Day starter the next season when the Astrodome opened and the franchise was given the new Astros moniker.
"As a member of the original Colt .45s team, Bob Bruce will always have a special place in the history of our organization, playing a significant role in several milestone moments ..." the Astros said in a statement released Thursday. "He was a popular player both on and off the field and helped solidify the Astros as a Major League franchise in the early years. We send our heartfelt condolences to Bob's many friends, family members and fans."
In five seasons in Houston, Bruce went 42-58 with a 3.78 ERA.
After the 1966 season, the Astros traded Bruce with Dave Nicholson to the Atlanta Braves for Eddie Mathews, Arnold Umbach and a player to be named later -- who turned out to be Sandy Alomar.
Bruce pitched one season for the Braves before retiring after a nine-year major league career.
Former Astros pitcher Bob Bruce lived life to the fullest
by David Barron
March 19, 2017
Former Houston pitcher Bob Bruce moved across Texas over the last 40 years in pursuit of a real estate career that was still going strong when he died this week at 83, but family members said the highlight of his life was his days as an original member of the Houston Colt .45s.
Bruce, who lived in Plano, was found dead in his car last week, said his youngest of four children, Mary Ann Parrish of Dallas. She said Bruce had just returned from a walk at a Plano senior center and gotten into his car when he was stricken.
"The car was still running and his foot was on the brake, so it was that quick," Parrish said. "He went the way he wanted to go. He didn't like to be sick or to slow down. He was working until the day he died."
Bruce, who began his big league career with the Tigers in 1959, was traded to the Colts prior to Houston's first major league season in 1962. With a 10-9 record in 1962, he was the only starter on the first Houston staff to finish with a winning record.
His best season was 1964, when he went 15-9 with a 2.76 ERA for a team that lost 98 games. On April 19, 1964, he became the 12th pitcher in major league history to strike out three batters on nine pitches in a game against the Cardinals.
Bruce also started the Colts' final game at Colt Stadium and the Astros' first regular-season game at the Astrodome in 1965. He was traded to the Braves in 1966 in a deal that brought future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews to the Astros and retired in 1967 with a nine-year career record of 49-71, including 42-58 in Houston.
"It was the time of his life," his daughter said. "The fans were always amazing to him, and my dad was always gracious and generous to them and it brought him tremendous happiness."
Bruce returned to Houston for occasional old-timers games and team reunions, rejoining teammates Bob Aspromonte, Jim Wynn and Larry Dierker, who remembered the veteran pitcher as a welcoming friend during Dierker's early days in baseball.
"I had heard stories of rookies coming in who had problems with the older players," Dierker said. "But he was always good to me. I heard that he experienced the same kindness that he showed to me when he broke in, and I was glad to hear that. He was always an upbeat guy."
Bruce was born May 16, 1944, in New York and grew up with adoptive parents in Highland Park, Mich. He met his biological mother after his parents died and remained close with her until her death at age 102, his daughter said.
After baseball, Bruce worked in real estate neighborhood development, construction, marketing property management and sales in Michigan, Houston, San Antonio and for the last 10 years in Plano.
His daughter said she found on his laptop a quote from George Patton: "If a man does his best, what else is there?"
Survivors include three sons, a daughter, two sisters, two brothers and 11 grandchildren.