Robert Perry Lillis (born June 2, 1930, in Altadena, California) is a retired American infielder, manager, coach and scout in Major League Baseball. Lillis was an original member of the 1962 expansion Houston Colt .45s who remained with the club (renamed the Astros in 1965) for more than two decades and later became its manager.
After attending the University of Southern California, Lillis signed his first contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. A shortstop by trade, he spent eight years in the Dodger farm system, buried (along with many others) behind Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese. Finally, in 1958, the Dodgers' first season in Lillis's home city of Los Angeles, he made the Major League team. But Lillis never claimed the regular shortstop job — that would go to Maury Wills — and in the middle of the 1961 campaign, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. After a half season with the Redbirds, he was selected by Houston in the 1961 MLB expansion draft.
Lillis then spent 5½ seasons as a shortstop and utility infielder for the Astros, retiring to a coaching position in the middle of 1967. Over his ten-year MLB career, Lillis appeared in 817 games and batted .236 with three home runs. He threw and batted right-handed.
After scouting and player development posts with Houston from 1968 to 1972, Lillis returned to the Astro coaching staff in 1973 and served under managers Leo Durocher, Preston Gómez and Bill Virdon. On August 10, 1982, he succeeded Virdon as manager with the club in fifth place in the National League West Division. Lillis led the team to 28 wins in 51 games and was rehired for full seasons from 1983 to 1985. But Houston never climbed above second place, and even though Lillis compiled a winning 276–261 (.514) record during that period, he was replaced by Hal Lanier at the close of the 1985 campaign.
He then joined the coaching staff of a former Dodger teammate, Roger Craig, with the San Francisco Giants, and remained with the team for 11 years (through 1996).
By Dean Hanley
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