Astros in the Sky
Born: Apr 21, 1963
Drafted in 1984 out of San Jose State, third baseman Ken Caminiti made a big first impression with Houston fans, homering and tripling in his first major league game in 1987. With moderate pop in his bat and lots of gold in his glove, Caminiti established himself as a solid third baseman, prompting the organization to try rookie Jeff Bagwell at first base in 1991.
Caminiti was part of the ill-fated cost-cutting trade that sent he and Steve Finley to the Padres after the 1994 season. Over the next four seasons in San Diego, Caminiti would win three Gold Gloves, club 121 homers and earn National League MVP honors in 1996. "Earn" is used loosely, as Caminiti later revealed that he began using steroids during his MVP season. Before that knowledge became public, Caminiti returned to Houston for two injury-plagued seasons in 1999 and 2000. Only Doug Rader played more games at third base for the franchise. He sparkled in the 1999 NLDS, where he hit three homers and drove in eight in a losing effort.
Addiction was recurring demon for Caminiti. He disclosed in 1994 that he was battling alcoholism and, later in his career, struggled with addiction to harder drugs. It would eventually cost him his life when he died of a heart attack on October 10, 2004. His drug use had taken such a toll on his body that his heart gave out at the age of 41. The next day, the Astros won their first postseason series in team history but it was a bittersweet time for many of his teammates who knew him well.