Houston Astros Manager Larry Dierker collapsed in the dugout after a grand mal seizure during the eighth inning of today's game with the San Diego Padres.

Dierker's condition stabilized in an ambulance as it drove him from the Astrodome to Methodist Hospital, Astros General Manager Gerry Hunsicker said.

Dierker, 52, will be hospitalized several days for tests. Bench coach Matt Galante will take over as interim manager until Dierker returns.

A grand mal seizure is a condition that can be associated with epilepsy.

"The good news is there was no heart or cardiac damage," Hunsicker said. "This may be one of those strange and unexplained situations where the body reacts violently to something and [it] then goes away."

The game was suspended with the Astros ahead 4-1 on Derek Bell's grand slam. It will be resumed July 23, when the Padres return to Houston.

Coincidentally, former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch. On July 30, 1980, Richard collapsed while working out in the Astrodome. Doctors said he had a stroke.

Astros owner Drayton McLane said Dierker had a seizure three seasons ago in San Diego, when he was an Astros broadcaster. "The one out there was much milder," McLane said. "This one was really bad."

Jeff Bagwell had just gone to the plate, taking his first pitch for a ball. Dierker then collapsed.

"I was getting ready to step in, and the umpire said, `Hold on,' " Bagwell said. "I looked around, and everybody was running to the dugout. Larry had collapsed. He couldn't talk. He was shaking violently."

Houston players huddled around the end of the dugout with concerned looks on their faces.

"They couldn't get him under control, and they had to fight to hold him down," said Padres pitching coach Dave Smith, a former Astro and one of Dierker's golfing buddies. "I was concerned yesterday that something was not quite right. Usually, he's upbeat and laughing but for some reason, he was kind of quiet."

Paramedics in an ambulance rushed to the dugout from center field. Dierker's wife, Judy, left the stands and went to the dugout. Dierker was put in the ambulance, which was driven off the field accompanied by a motorcycle escort. Astros players huddled in group prayer.

An announcement then was made to the crowd of 39,773 at the Astrodome that the game was being suspended.

Dierker was beside Galante when the seizure occurred, and Galante rushed to assist. Bell and outfielder Carl Everett held down Dierker until help arrived.

Houston has been beset by health problems this year. First-base coach Jose Cruz left the team May 10 for treatment of an irregular heartbeat, and hitting coach Tom McCraw left six days later for treatment of prostate cancer. Cruz is expected back later this month.