In Memory of Aurelio Lopez

Former Astro Lopez Dies in auto accident
by Jayne Custred, Neil Hohlfeld, Houston Chronicle
September 24, 1992

(c) Houston Astros
Relief pitcher Aurelio Lopez, the former Detroit Tigers ace who spent two seasons with the Astros, was killed Tuesday in an automobile accident in Mexico.

Lopez, who was a member of the Astros' 1986 National League West championship team, was some 300 miles north of Mexico City when a car he was driving overturned, police said. He was thrown from the vehicle and killed. Lopez's wife, Celia, and a passenger were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Lopez, 44, started his major-league career in 1974 with Kansas City, played in the minors, then returned to the majors in 1978 with St. Louis. But he was best known for his stint with Detroit. During the 1984 season with the Tigers, Lopez went 10-1 with 14 saves.

Lopez, who retired from baseball in 1987, joined the Astros in 1986.

"He and I were a lot the same that season," former Astros and Padres pitcher Larry Andersen said. "We joined the team after the start of the season and both pitched middle relief. Plus, we both liked to have a laugh and keep things loose. He was a good man, one of the teammates I'll really remember."

"More than anything, apart from his ability, he was a jovial type of person," said former Astro Terry Puhl, who played with Lopez in 1986 and '87. "He really didn't talk about a lot of things, but when he did, he was always in a playful mood. Always upbeat. Those types of players are so important to a club."

Lopez finished his career 62-36 with 93 saves and a 3.56 ERA. With the Astros, he was 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 45 games in 1986 and 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 games in 1987.

After leaving baseball, he returned to his hometown of Tecamachalco, in Puebla, Mexico, 90 miles east of Mexico City. He was elected municipal president in 1990, which is equivalent to mayor of the city and the surrounding county.

"He was really a nice guy," said Craig Reynolds, another former Astros teammate. "He was everybody's friend. I don't know of anyone who didn't like him."

Reynolds said he got to know Lopez when he went with him to Japan as part of the National League team for a game against an American League squad.

"We had a good old time," Reynolds said. "He called everyone, 'My friend.' He was always fun to be around. I hadn't seen him for several years, but I remember how he always did his job and never complained."

"I have a lot of good memories from the 1986 season, and Lopez was part of a lot of them," said Padres pitcher Jim Deshaies, a former Astro. "He was a good man, good people, and he always had such a good attitude about things. You could tell how much he loved the game by how happy he was being part of it."

In addition to his wife, Lopez is survived by a son and a daughter. A memorial service and burial are scheduled for today.