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  • Jeff Bagwell elected to Baseball Hall of Fame



    Bagwell, Pudge, Raines elected to Hall of Fame

    Astros slugger makes it on 7th try, backstop enters in 1st year, leadoff man in final year


    By Andrew Simon / MLB.com
    Premier leadoff man Tim Raines, Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell and strong-armed backstop Ivan Rodriguez have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Results of the balloting of the Baseball Writers' Association of America were revealed on Wednesday. Raines, Bagwell and Pudge, along with Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, will be inducted July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    At long last it was time for Raines, who got in on his 10th and final year of BBWAA ballot eligibility. Over a career spent with six franchises between 1979-2002, including 13 seasons with the Montreal Expos, the multitalented left fielder became an underrated star. Perfectly cast as a leadoff man, Raines posted a .385 career on-base percentage, ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and tops the list in success rate among those with at least 400 attempts. Factoring in walks and hit-by-pitches, Raines reached base safely 22 more times than Tony Gwynn (in 127 more plate appearances).

    Bagwell had to wait until his seventh year on the ballot after an injury-shortened career in which he played his final game at age 37 and finished with 2,314 hits and 449 homers. The four-time All-Star first baseman, who played his entire career with the Astros, was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year and the '94 NL Most Valuable Player. Out of his intimidating crouched stance, Bagwell produced nine seasons with 30-plus homers and eight with 100-plus RBIs despite spending the majority of his career at the cavernous Astrodome. His adjusted OPS+ of 149 ranks 21st since 1901 (minimum 8,000 plate appearances), and he also stole more bases (202) than any other first baseman in the past 90 years.

    Rodriguez joins Johnny Bench as the only catchers voted in on their first try, following a decorated 21-year career for six teams. The Puerto Rico native made 14 All-Star teams -- including 10 in a row for the Rangers from 1992-2011 -- won a record 13 Gold Glove Awards and was the 1999 American League MVP. Known most of all for his strong-armed defensive prowess, Rodriguez stopped 46 percent of stolen-base attempts, leading his league in that category nine times. He ranks first among those who were primarily catchers in hits (2,844) and doubles (572) and smacked more than 300 homers, and helped lead the Marlins to a championship in 2003.
    If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

  • #2
    Name 2017 votes (percent) Years on ballot
    Jeff Bagwell 381 (86.2) 7
    Tim Raines 380 (86.0) 10
    Ivan Rodriguez 336 (76.0) 1
    Trevor Hoffman 327 (74.0) 2
    Vladimir Guerrero 317 (71.7) 1
    Edgar Martinez 259 (58.6) 8
    Roger Clemens 239 (54.1) 5
    Barry Bonds 238 (53.8) 5
    Mike Mussina 229 (51.8) 4
    Curt Schilling 199 (45.0) 5
    Lee Smith 151 (34.2) 15
    Manny Ramirez 105 (23.8) 1
    Larry Walker 97 (21.9) 7
    Fred McGriff 96 (21.7) 9
    Jeff Kent 74 (16.7) 4
    Gary Sheffield 59 (13.3) 3
    Billy Wagner 45 (10.2) 2
    Sammy Sosa 38 (8.6) 5
    Jorge Posada 17 (3.8) 1
    Magglio Ordońez 3 (0.7) 1
    Edgar Renteria 2 (0.5) 1
    Jason Varitek 2 (0.5) 1
    Tim Wakefield 1 (0.2) 1
    Casey Blake 0 1
    Pat Burrell 0 1
    Orlando Cabrera 0 1
    Mike Cameron 0 1
    J.D. Drew 0 1
    Carlos Guillen 0 1
    Derrek Lee 0 1
    Melvin Mora 0 1
    Arthur Rhodes 0 1
    Freddy Sanchez 0 1
    Matt Stairs 0 1
    If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

    Comment


    • #3
      Baseball Hall @baseballhall
      You'd recognize that stance anywhere. Check out @astros Jeff Bagwell's inductee case, recently installed at HOF leading up to #HOFWKND!

      If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

      Comment


      • #4

        Jeff Bagwell played for the Astros from 1991 to 2005. AP Photo/Brett Coomer Jan 18, 2017


        With Hall of Fame election, deep wounds closing for Jeff Bagwell

        Jerry Crasnick/ESPN Senior Writer
        As Jeff Bagwell exhales from the rigors of a seven-year wait and wraps his mind around his newfound Hall of Fame status, it's only natural for historians and fans to reflect upon the contributions that made him such a force in his prime. Bagwell's 449 home runs and .540 slugging percentage are testament to his value as a hitter. But he was also a superb baserunner, skilled defender and instinctive player who could help his team win games in a variety of ways.

        Among the former Houston Astros who took the field with Bagwell each day, a less decorated chapter of his career provides insight into what made him tick. In his waning seasons with the Astros, Bagwell soldiered on through an arthritic right shoulder that caused him excruciating pain. During Houston's run to the 2004 postseason, Bagwell clenched his teeth and hit 27 homers and drove in 89 runs while appearing in 156 games. Whoever coined the word "gamer" could have had precisely this scenario in mind.

        "When I tell you he couldn't lift his hand above his shoulder, that's no joke," said former Astros outfielder Lance Berkman. "He was probably the best one-armed player in the history of the game."

        Ultimately, the various signposts in Bagwell's career, from his rookie year through his grand finale at age 37, heralded his arrival in Cooperstown. He broke in with the Houston organization as a shell-shocked New England transplant, struck up a bond with his fellow "Killer B," Craig Biggio, and earned the admiration of Astros fans who treasured every interaction and two-out RBI single to right.

        Then came the unsettling postscript: From his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010, Bagwell was waist deep in PED allegations. He has consistently denied any use of PEDs, but he spent years under the same cloud of suspicion that followed Mike Piazza before his induction last summer.

        But that torturous stint in limbo finally ended when the voters gave him his golden ticket to Cooperstown on Wednesday.


        Jeff Bagwell's batting stance is one that wasn't repeated by many. Getty Images


        A style all his own

        In an alternate universe, Bagwell could just as easily have been wearing a Boston Red Sox cap on his plaque. In the summer of 1990, Bagwell hit .333 with a .422 OBP for Boston's Double-A affiliate in New Britain, Connecticut. He was born in Boston and raised in Middletown, Connecticut, and the entire Bagwell clan embraced the idea of him playing a corner infield spot for the Sox one day.

        When Houston general manager Bill Wood swung a deal to acquire Bagwell from Boston for Larry Andersen in August 1990, Bagwell and his then-81-year-old grandmother, Alice Hare, were both knocked off-kilter emotionally. "I was one of the saddest guys you'll ever see," Bagwell said in a 1993 interview with Sports Illustrated's Leigh Montville.

        Lou Gorman, then Boston's general manager, punted on long-term thinking for pennant race expediency. The Red Sox were pushing for a postseason berth, and Gorman needed to fortify a bullpen that was in desperate need of help when closer Jeff Reardon went down with a back injury.

        Statistical guru Bill James quickly observed that the trade might come back to haunt Gorman and the Red Sox in an Ernie Broglio-for-Lou Brock kind of way. "You never know how good a young player will be," James wrote at the time, "but, with some luck, Lou Gorman will hear about the Jeff Bagwell trade until the day he dies."

        Even James might have been surprised over the spot-on accuracy of his analysis. Andersen threw 22 innings of relief for Boston before signing with the San Diego Padres as a free agent. Bagwell, meanwhile, went on to make four All-Star Games, win an MVP award during the strike-shortened 1994 season and become Houston's franchise leader in homers, RBIs, WAR and several other categories. From the day he broke camp with the Astros in April 1991, he showed a maturity and self-awareness beyond his years.

        "He was straight out of central casting. He just came and played and never popped off," said Jim Deshaies, Bagwell's former Houston teammate and the Astros' TV color man from 1997 through 2012. "One thing I remembered him saying was, 'I won't hit a lot of home runs, but every now and then I'll get into one, and it will go a long way.' He hit an upper-tank home run in Pittsburgh his rookie year, and we were like, 'Wow, where did that come from?' You kind of knew it was in there."

        While the great Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s were awash in future Hall of Famers, Houston served as a pit stop for several players who either reached the promised land or are part of the Cooperstown debate. Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte all passed through the Astros' rotation at some point. Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran were central figures on a 92-win playoff team in 2004, and Billy Wagner spent his first nine big league seasons throwing heat out of the Houston bullpen.

        The Astrodome, a pitcher's haven, could be death on a hitter's self-esteem, but Bagwell quickly learned to coexist with the place. Through long hours in the cage with hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo, he became adept at generating backspin and clearing fences. He also found a lot of gaps along the way; Bagwell led the majors with 48 doubles in 1996 and made the most of his middling speed with his great anticipation and deft hook slides.

        Bagwell attracted special attention with his novel stance and approach at the plate. He hit from an exaggerated crouch with his feet set 4 ˝ feet apart, and his backside went along for the ride. "It looks like he's sitting on the John," the late Ken Caminiti said in a Sports Illustrated interview in 1999. "He's the one guy who can work on his stance in the bathroom."

        Over time, Bagwell's oddball stance and Popeye forearms became synonymous with his impact in the Houston batting order.

        "I always felt sorry for the youth league coaches around the Houston area," Deshaies said. "Kids always like to mimic their favorite players. So you could kind of envision all these 10-11 year olds in Little League, squatting like Bagwell and trying to hit and the coach saying, 'No, that's not going to work for you, son.'"

        Middle- and back-of-the rotation starters were roadkill for Bagwell, and elite pitchers weren't immune from his wrath. Bagwell hit .415 in 41 at-bats against 1990 World Series hero Jose Rijo and .442 in 64 plate appearances against former 20-game winner John Burkett. He also posed a major challenge to Atlanta's Big Three. Bagwell hit .301 in 103 career at-bats against John Smoltz and .293 in 102 ABs vs. Greg Maddux, while logging a career .333/.506/.545 slash line against Tom Glavine.

        "You look at that stance, and you never in a million years would teach it," Glavine said. "If you had a kid trying to do it, you'd change everything about it. But for Jeff, it worked. When push came to shove, he got himself in a hitting position and a contact position as well as anybody. That's why he had the success he had."

        Bagwell's combination of power and plate discipline made him an especially daunting challenge for pitchers. From 1996 through 2002, his 834 walks ranked second in the majors to Barry Bonds. His .408 career OBP is 39th-best in baseball history.

        "Jeff was kind of a Moneyball guy before a lot of people were talking about Moneyball," Deshaies said.

        Bagwell's in-game proficiency was even more impressive given the hilarity that preceded it. During batting practice, he was renowned for hitting pop flies off the top of the screen or topping weak grounders to the right side. The issue became even more noticeable late in his career because of his shoulder problems. Bagwell would grumble about his 5 p.m. ineptitude, and Berkman occasionally jumped in the batting cage and imitated him for the benefit of the other Astros.

        "It never failed to elicit a chuckle from the fellas," Berkman said, laughing.

        Berkman, whose .406 career on-base percentage and 366 homers as a switch-hitter might earn him a few Hall votes when he appears on the ballot in 2018, expects to make the trip to Cooperstown and be in attendance when Bagwell joins Biggio as part of the fraternity July 30.

        "I love Jeff," Berkman said. "It did me a great service as a young player to watch how he conducted his business in the clubhouse and on the field. I think a lot of guys who played with him will make the effort to get up there and see him go in. We're all thrilled to death."


        Craig Biggio, left, and Jeff Bagwell played 2,029 games together. Brian Bahr/Getty Images


        They came to play

        Bagwell and Biggio, forever linked, were notable for their geographic synergy and disparate demeanors.

        Biggio, a Long Island, New York, native and Seton Hall University product, was type A all the way. He was methodical about game preparation and made sure his uniform and spikes were just so, even as he wore a batting helmet caked in pine tar. Bagwell, in contrast, had a more wry and approachable side. While Biggio might try to motivate a teammate by getting in his face, Bagwell was more inclined to throw his arm around the teammate's shoulder and quietly offer a pep talk or some advice.

        "It was kind of like a good cop and a bad cop, if you want to say it that way," Biggio said. "You knew one thing: When you came through those clubhouse doors, it was time to drop your ego and prepare yourself to play baseball the right way. If you didn't, you were going to hear about it from me or Jeff."

        Houston's marquee players walked the walk while setting a workmanlike tone. From 1991 through 2004, Bagwell ranked second in the majors with 2,111 games played, and Biggio was third with 2,075. Only Rafael Palmeiro, with 2,153 games, was more durable during that 14-year span.

        The message that Bagwell and Biggio conveyed to their teammates: If it's strictly a matter of playing through pain or discomfort and not risking further injury, everyone was expected to suck it up and take their four at-bats.

        Berkman developed an appreciation for the organizational credo when he showed up at the Astrodome to take batting practice as a first-round draft pick out of Rice University in 1997. He arrived the same day the team had a plastic baseball giveaway, and the promotions department placed the souvenirs in the players' lockers so they could give them to their kids or the neighbor's kids. Berkman was taken aback when he saw Biggio angrily hurling the whiffle balls in the direction of manager Larry Dierker's office.

        "I was like, 'What in the world is going on?'" Berkman said. "I found out that Dierk had given him a day off, and he was pissed because he wanted to play. I saw him and Baggy both play when they were sore or sick as dogs. They played in 160-something games, and they expected you to do the same thing."

        According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bagwell and Biggio were together for an MLB record 2,029 games -- more than Ron Santo and Billy Williams (2,015), Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker (1,918) and George Brett and Frank White (1,915). Through all those spring training games, homestands and road trips, they developed a synergy like that of John Stockton and Karl Malone with the NBA's Utah Jazz.

        In 12 seasons as Houston's second baseman, Biggio knew he could rely on Bagwell turning the right side of the infield into a bunt-free zone. At the plate, Bagwell routinely eyeballed close pitches and ran deep counts to give Biggio the opportunity to steal bases and get into scoring position. And late in their careers, when Bagwell's right shoulder was in tatters, the Astros improvised and made Biggio handle relay throws typically assigned to the first baseman.

        "We knew each other as well as two teammates could know each other," Biggio said.

        Both Astros waited longer for the call from the Hall than they might have preferred. Despite 3,060 career hits, seven All-Star appearances and five Silver Slugger Awards, Biggio lingered on the ballot for three years. Enough voters attributed his success to longevity to test his patience and make him sweat the process.

        Bagwell's wait came under more shadowy and controversial circumstances. "So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it's kind of taken some of the valor off it for me," Bagwell said in a 2010 interview with ESPN.com. "If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, 'He took steroids,' then it's not even worth it to me. I don't know if that sounds stupid. But it's how I feel in a nutshell."

        Hall of Fame voting is a messy process, and history shows that time can soften perceptions, change minds and heal wounds. Bagwell's journey has finally taken him to the doors of Cooperstown. And when he walks through next summer, nobody will ask or care how long it took him to arrive.


        2017 HALL OF FAME WEEKEND

        The 2017 Hall of Fame Weekend will be held July 28-31, with the annual Induction Ceremony scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 30 at 1:30 p.m. ET at the Clark Sports Center. Admission to the Ceremony is free and the Ceremony will be broadcast live on MLB Network, which has televised the event every year since its launch in 2009, and will be shown via webcast at www.baseballhall.org. More than 50 Hall of Famers are scheduled to return to Cooperstown to honor the Class of 2017 - which includes Jeff Bagwell, TIm Raines, Iván Rodríguez, John Schuerholz and Bud Selig - at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

        Induction Ceremony

        The Sunday, July 30 Induction Ceremony will take place on the grounds outside of the Clark Sports Center, which is located on lower Susquehanna Avenue, just one mile south of the Hall of Fame. The Ceremony is held rain or shine, unless severe weather forces the cancellation of the event. Professional interpreters will be provided for the hearing impaired. The Induction Ceremony historically lasts two-to-three hours.

        Lawn seating for the event is unlimited and free of charge. A blanket or lawn chair is recommended for comfortable viewing. As the weather in Cooperstown can be warm in July, it is recommended that visitors bring a cap and sunscreen. The Induction Site and lower Susquehanna Avenue will close to all traffic and pedestrians at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 29 and re-open at 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 30. No coolers will be allowed at the Induction Site prior to 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 30. No alcohol is permitted at the Induction Site and all bags and coolers are subject to search. No drones are allowed at the Induction Site, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum or on or above Hall of Fame property. Merchandise and Museum membership packages are available for purchase at the Induction site. Refreshments are sold at the site. For information on reserved seating options granted to Museum members, please call 607-547-0397.
        If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

        Comment


        • #5
          My interest in baseball lived and died with Bagwell's career. Dude was just awesome. I was so into the Astros' runs in 2004-2005, those were great times, some great games. After we got swept in that World Series I didn't watch baseball again really(except for the Astros recent playoff games). Now that they are doing so good I really need to check them out again, heard they were pretty dominant this year.

          Comment


          • #6


            Hall of Fame awaits first baseman Bagwell


            Feared slugger spent entire 15-year career with Astros

            By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
            HOUSTON -- The wait is nearly over for former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell.

            Bagwell, who played his final game in the big leagues for the Astros in the 2005 World Series, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30, the culmination of a terrific 15-year career in which he's remembered as one of the most feared sluggers of a generation.

            It took Bagwell seven years on the ballot before he was elected in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but the past few months leading up to the induction have flown by, he said. He will leave for Cooperstown, N.Y., next week, marking the final leg of his baseball journey.

            "It's coming quick," Bagwell said Friday. "It was nice when it was three months, then it got to two and one, and now all of a sudden I'm here talking to you guys on Friday. It's sneaking up on me really quick. It's been a great process. I know once I get there and the culmination of the entire event, it will be special."

            Bagwell will be enshrined alongside Tim Raines, who played most of his career in Montreal, former Rangers, Astros, Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, longtime Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig. He'll join longtime teammate Craig Biggio as having the only two plaques in the Hall of Fame with Astros caps.

            The induction is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT July 30 and will be broadcast by MLB Network.

            Biggio, who was inducted in 2015, will be on stage with Bagwell and the rest of the 55 Hall of Famers who are expected to attend the ceremony. A huge contingent of Astros fans made the trip to Cooperstown two years ago, but Bagwell isn't sure what to expect this time.

            "Baseball has become so big in Houston and people travel," he said. "If I watch the games nowadays, you can see Astros fans in every city they go to. That's very exciting. I hope they show up. A lot of people, when I walk the city say they're going to be there and stuff like that.

            "I don't want to put expectations, but if they come, I'm very, very grateful for that. I also know if they can't come, they'll support me here, too. It's not that easy to get to Cooperstown and get hotels and all that kind of stuff."

            Bagwell's induction comes at a time when the Astros are in the midst of one of their best seasons in history. Houston entered Friday at 63-32 with a 16-game lead in the American League West and the best record in the AL. Bagwell, who admitted he hasn't watched much baseball since he retired, has become hooked.

            "They have so much talent, and young talent," he said. "What I've seen is the city has really taken to this team, and everywhere I go, even when they lose, people are like, 'What happened last night?' They're not going to win every game. They're really, really special. I walk into the clubhouse and I see the guys, and they all seem to enjoy each other's company.

            "They've got a really good thing going on, and our main thing now is just to get everybody healthy and this is a great opportunity for us. ... I am truly just a fan, and to see the city so excited about them and me going into the Hall of Fame, it's a good vibe in the city, and I'm proud to be a part of it."
            If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by OG 2002 View Post
              My interest in baseball lived and died with Bagwell's career. Dude was just awesome...
              Yep, loved me some Baggy.

              Originally posted by OG 2002 View Post
              Now that they are doing so good I really need to check them out again, heard they were pretty dominant this year.
              I quit the Astros and sold our season tickets when Drayton wouldn't pony-up for Beltran. Carlos was, for his time here, the best baseball player I'd ever seen and his power zones perfectly matched Minute Maid Park. I was so disgusted.

              ~10 years later one of my guys was hitting me hard with what he thought was a future HOF'er prospect in Astros system. I didn't budge... until Carlos Correa's debut with the Astros. One game, and I was sucked all the way back in. 6'4" SS who hadn't even grown into his body, yet, with a very solid swing. This is a really good group of personalities, with a very sharp GM and a good manager. If Crane follows through financially, these guys will contend for years.


              They might have been more fun last year. This year with veteran additions, they're a bit more serious an 17 games up in their division.

              I'll strongly suggest giving this team a re-look. They're a fun, likable group who can flat out put big numbers up.
              If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by H2O4me View Post

                Yep, loved me some Baggy.



                I quit the Astros and sold our season tickets when Drayton wouldn't pony-up for Beltran. Carlos was, for his time here, the best baseball player I'd ever seen and his power zones perfectly matched Minute Maid Park. I was so disgusted.

                ~10 years later one of my guys was hitting me hard with what he thought was a future HOF'er prospect in Astros system. I didn't budge... until Carlos Correa's debut with the Astros. One game, and I was sucked all the way back in. 6'4" SS who hadn't even grown into his body, yet, with a very solid swing. This is a really good group of personalities, with a very sharp GM and a good manager. If Crane follows through financially, these guys will contend for years.


                They might have been more fun last year. This year with veteran additions, they're a bit more serious an 17 games up in their division.

                I'll strongly suggest giving this team a re-look. They're a fun, likable group who can flat out put big numbers up.
                I'm going to start checking them out for sure. Heard a lot of great things about them, pretty good considering they were the laughing stock of the league there for a little while not too long ago. If they can win a championship that would be pretty amazing. Time to break out my old Astros hats from 2004! I think I still have a couple in the attic for real.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by OG 2002 View Post
                  I'm going to start checking them out for sure.
                  It's a shame you'll miss seeing Correa until September at the earliest.

                  But Jose Altuve is all of 5' 5" and leads both leagues in batting average at .352. MVP type player, and super fast on the bases.
                  If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by H2O4me View Post

                    It's a shame you'll miss seeing Correa until September at the earliest.

                    But Jose Altuve is all of 5' 5" and leads both leagues in batting average at .352. MVP type player, and super fast on the bases.
                    If I remember right, Altuve is there AFTER a bad start to the season. Imagine the numbers if he hadn't.
                    https://tse3.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.M...0&h=300Adopter of #98 D. J. Reader

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26
                      From the Baseball Hall of Fame: Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame plaque will be on display at Minute Maid Park August 5. #Astros
                      If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Before life as Killer B, Jeff Bagwell part of Hartford's Crunch Bunch

                        By Jake Kaplan
                        HARTFORD, Conn. - Before the Killer B's, there was the Crunch Bunch.

                        As the star sophomore third baseman for the University of Hartford in 1988, Jeff Bagwell headlined a quartet of hitters who terrorized Eastern College Athletic Conference pitchers. The late George Smith of the Hartford Courant coined the group's moniker, now synonymous with Bagwell's tenure at the school from 1987-89.

                        They batted third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Three would be drafted, and the other, those connected to the program argue, should have been. At a Northeast school with a losing track record in baseball, they powered the team to a 29-12 mark and advanced to the conference championship before losing to Fordham.

                        Bagwell was the team's quiet leader. So lightly recruited out of high school that he received only a partial scholarship to Hartford, he quickly emerged as a force after arriving on campus in the fall of 1986. He batted .413 with 31 home runs and 126 RBIs over his three collegiate seasons, formative years for the Astros legend who will be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

                        "We're up there taking batting practice trying to hit it over the trees. Jeff had a professional approach," said Brian Crowley, Hartford's right fielder during Bagwell's three collegiate seasons. "He would hit the ball to right. He'd hit the ball to right center. He'd hit the ball to left.

                        "If you go to a major league ballgame and you go watch batting practice, that's sort of what Jeff did as a college player."

                        Bagwell, who grew up in Killingworth, Conn., was a two-time conference player of the year and a two-time All-American in his three seasons at Hartford, from where the Boston Red Sox plucked him the fourth round of the 1989 draft.

                        To this day, his No. 27 is one of just two numbers retired by the school. The No. 42 worn by former four-time NBA All-Star Vin Baker is the other. In one corner of the second-floor foyer of the Reich Family Pavilion on campus, the hub of the school's athletic department, a locker commemorates Bagwell's career.

                        A locker commemorating Jeff Bagwell's career, with jerseys from his days in college and the majors, can be found on the second floor of the University of Hartford's Reich Family Pavilion, the hub of the school's athletic department.

                        Two jerseys - one from his 15 seasons with the Astros and another from Hartford - hang above the top shelf, on which rests a black Louisville Slugger and a sweat-stained black Astros cap. Other mementos include a pair of his old cleats, a certificate acknowledging one of his two years as an All-American, and a 1987 media guide, which lists the 6-foot, 190-pound freshman as the team's projected starting shortstop.

                        According to Bagwell, his tenure as a collegiate shortstop lasted one game.

                        "I hit for the cycle and hit another home run, and I made two errors at short," he recalled. "The next day I was playing third."

                        Bagwell played third base from then on until his first spring training with the Astros in 1991, when he made the switch across the diamond. The partial scholarship from Hartford was the only one he was offered coming out of Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn., where he also starred in soccer. His grades weren't good enough for the University of Connecticut, he said. Thinking back more than 30 years, he also remembers a letter from Stetson University.

                        "It was great for me because I was the starting shortstop as a freshman," he said of attending Hartford. "If I went to Texas or the University of Miami or whatever, I probably would've had to wait two or three years (to play), and who knows how my career would've changed?"

                        Bagwell played for two coaches in his three seasons at Hartford. Bill Denehy, a former major league pitcher, recruited Bagwell to the university but was fired in April of his star's freshman season after making inflammatory comments about a UConn assistant following a game in which the teams brawled.

                        After the 1987 team finished 11-27, Hartford brought in Dan Gooley, who straightened out the program. Gooley hired Moe Morhardt, a former Chicago Cub who pinch-hit in the first game at the Astrodome, as his hitting coach. Under their leadership, the Crunch Bunch took off.

                        "Offensively, we just mashed the ball," Crowley said.


                        The University of Hartford's Crunch Bunch: Jeff Bagwell, from left, Pat Hedge, Brian Crowley and Chris Petersen.Photo: Brian Crowley


                        Bagwell, Crowley, first baseman Chris Petersen and center fielder Pat Hedge made up the '88 quartet. In Bagwell's draft year of 1989, Hedge was a 22nd-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Crowley a 30th-round pick of the Texas Rangers.

                        Petersen's last year of playing was the 1988 season. In 1989, he served as a graduate assistant. He and Bagwell remain best friends. Peterson and his successor at first base for Hartford, Greg Centracchio, will be guests of Bagwell at this weekend's induction ceremony.

                        Bagwell, Petersen and Centracchio were also part of a self-proclaimed sub group called the Hawgers (a spinoff of Hartford's Hawks nickname), who prided themselves on playing an old-school, hard-nosed brand of baseball.

                        "Being a good teammate is the most important thing to him," Petersen said of Bagwell. "People say that all the time, and they don't mean it. He meant it. And he was. You talk to any of his teammates, and they're going to tell you that: that he was one of the best teammates they ever had."

                        Centracchio echoed the sentiment. He transferred from the Community College of Rhode Island to Hartford ahead of his and Bagwell's junior season in 1989 and played across the diamond at first base.

                        To illustrate Bagwell's dominance, Centracchio references an old program with the team's individual stats from 1989. Centracchio ranked second in batting average that year with a .330 clip. Bagwell hit .429.

                        "In baseball, you've got to believe you're the best guy on the field, or you're dead," Centracchio said. "That's the first guy I stepped on a field with, and I said, 'He is so much better a hitter than I am.'"

                        In the post-Bagwell years, Hartford baseball dropped back off until recently. While resurrecting the program, now sixth-year coach Justin Blood, who coached the Hawks to their first 30-win season in 2014 (31-23), has also sought to reconnect Bagwell with his alma mater. Amid seemingly constant turnover, Hartford athletics had somewhat lost touch with its most accomplished alumnus before Blood's hire.

                        In mid-May, while in Connecticut to visit his mom for Mother's Day, Bagwell surprised this year's Hartford team by stopping by. He watched batting practice, spoke to the hitters and gave a speech. The topic: the importance of teammates.

                        "To be honest with you, it's the only thing I care about," Bagwell said. "If I can leave this game and they think of me as a good teammate, then I did something right. You can have a bunch of numbers and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, it's 'Did your teammates respect you, and did they know that you had their back and that you guys were all pushing in the same direction?' If I did that, then I was successful at what I did."
                        If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

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                        • #13


                          Tom Mooney knew he'd scouted special player in Jeff Bagwell

                          By Jake Kaplan
                          LENOX, Mass. - Not much gets Tom Mooney off the golf course these days. The 63-year-old retired longtime professional baseball scout embarked on this year with a goal of playing 200 rounds. He's not only the senior champion at the Country Club of Pittsfield in his hometown in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts but also its overall champion.

                          A conversation about Jeff Bagwell does the trick, though. On a late afternoon in June, with 18 holes already behind him, Mooney bypassed another round to recount his nearly three-decade-old memories of scouting the Astros legend, who Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., will become the 55-year-old franchise's second Hall of Fame inductee.

                          As an Astros area scout for New England, Mooney filed the reports that prompted then-general manager Bill Wood to hold out for Bagwell in trade negotiations with the Boston Red Sox in the summer of 1990. As Wood told Mooney in January after the former slugging first baseman earned election to the Hall: "There would have been no Jeff Bagwell in Houston without Tom Mooney."

                          Mooney, also the Seattle Mariners scout responsible for signing 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Ken Griffey Jr. as the top pick in the 1987 draft, was bullish in his opinion of Bagwell after following him in the Eastern League in 1990. Even during a cold, damp spring, Bagwell squared up balls and smoked line drives to the gaps "like a machine," Mooney recalled.

                          Bagwell, then a third baseman, had only four home runs that season in Class AA for the Red Sox's affiliate in New Britain, Conn., which played in a cavernous ballpark. His swing at the time produced a lot of topspin, which made for a lot of sinking line drives. It wasn't until he played for the Astros and worked with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, Bagwell says, that he learned how to create backspin.

                          Despite the underwhelming Class AA home run totals, Bagwell had 34 doubles and seven triples with New Britain. He hit .333, just narrowly missing out on the Eastern League batting title, and drew 73 walks against only 57 strikeouts.

                          Years before Bagwell would produce nine seasons with 30 or more homers, including three with 40-plus, Mooney forecasted elite power potential. The first time he scouted Bagwell, in 1989 during the player's junior season at the University of Hartford, he marked down a rare 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale under the future power column of his report.

                          "Any time a player can hit the ball on the screws that often, the other stuff will come," Mooney said. "You've got to go with your gut, go out on a limb and say it's going to happen."
                          .


                          Tom Mooney's scouting report of Jeff Bagwell when Bagwell was at the University
                          of Hartford.Photo: Tom Mooney


                          Mooney's first report that year was far from perfect, he pointed out. On his first look, he vastly underestimated Bagwell's overall athleticism. After the first game he saw of Bagwell's, in a tournament in Florida on March 28, 1989, Mooney marked down 30s for baserunning and fielding. He questioned whether Bagwell could stick at third base, as did others.

                          But while not even Bagwell could have predicted 449 career homers, Mooney had no doubt the bat would play. In '89, he compared Bagwell's righthanded power stroke to that of Steve Balboni, another New Englander who by then had slugged 20-plus homers in five straight seasons for the Kansas City Royals. Bagwell "can really excite you with his pop," Mooney typed in the summation of his first report.

                          However, Mooney's overall assessment still wasn't strong enough for the Astros to draft Bagwell that June, when the Red Sox took the Boston native (who moved to Killingworth, Conn., when he was a year old) in the fourth round. After seeing him in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the Florida State League to finish the '89 campaign, Boston regarded Bagwell highly enough to assign him to Class AA for his first full pro season in '90.

                          Scouting Bagwell the following fall during Boston's instructional league in Winter Haven, Fla., and especially that next summer in the Eastern League only improved Mooney's opinion. The extended looks allowed Mooney to develop a better sense of Bagwell's innate baseball instincts and his revered work ethic. When Wood phoned him that summer for a rundown of the prospects in New Britain, Mooney recommended Bagwell.

                          "Tom was very firm in his conviction about this being the individual that he endorsed and recommended that we acquire," said Dan O'Brien, the Astros' scouting director at the time. "He never wavered on that."

                          Mooney lauded Bagwell's "off the charts" makeup. His first dealings with the future National League MVP came during the pre-draft process when they spoke on the phone. As the story goes, the Astros scheduled a workout with Bagwell in Connecticut, but he didn't make it because the engine of his Mazda blew out on the side of the highway.

                          A day or two after his call with Wood, Mooney arrived at the Red Sox's Class AAA ballpark in Pawtucket, R.I., for his next stop on the scouting trail. He stopped in the press room, where the ticker reported the Astros had acquired Bagwell from the Red Sox for relief pitcher Larry Andersen. He rushed to a pay phone to call his office.

                          "It sounds like prehistoric times," he joked in his retelling of the story.

                          Among the players on the Red Sox's two upper-level minor league teams, the Class AA affiliate scouted primarily by Mooney and the Class AAA affiliate scouted primarily by the late Stan Benjamin, Mooney's reports on Bagwell stood out. Wood, the Astros' GM from 1987 to 1993, recalled that based on the reports filed by the two scouts, Bagwell was "clearly the best prospect on those two ballclubs."

                          "If he was pitched in, he would pull it to left. If they pitched him away, he'd hit a line drive to right center," Mooney said. "Always on balance. Always in control."

                          Wood and then-Red Sox GM Lou Gorman completed the trade on Aug. 30, 1990, a day before the deadline for traded players to be eligible for postseason rosters. While Andersen joined the Red Sox for their playoff push, Bagwell was too late to catch the minor league season. The Astros sent him to instructional league in Kissimmee, Fla., where the organization's coaches fell in love with him.
                          .


                          Photo: Tom Mooney

                          Scout Tom Mooney, left, whose strong recommendation helped prompt the Astros to trade for Jeff Bagwell, shares a moment with the first baseman during the winter after Bagwell won the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award.

                          Mooney, who scouted for the Astros until 1999, developed a friendship with Bagwell as the years went on. They would catch up annually in spring training when the team's scouts descended on Kissimmee for meetings. Mooney, who retired last fall after 34 years of scouting, most recently for the Milwaukee Brewers, cherishes a baseball Bagwell signed for him on which the slugger wrote: "To Tom, Thanks for all your help!"

                          "I owe him a lot," Bagwell said last week.

                          The spring when Mooney first saw Bagwell was his first season scouting for the Astros. He spent 1984-88 scouting the Midwest for the Mariners, for whom he scouted and signed Griffey out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati.

                          Last July, Mooney spent a weekend in Cooperstown celebrating the induction of Griffey, whom he hadn't seen in at least a decade. This weekend will make it two induction years in a row for him, a feat he downplays as being in the "right place at the right time."

                          "The Astros passed over (Bagwell) as an amateur. My reports weren't that strong coming out of the University of Hartford that year. We liked him, but he went in the fourth to Boston," Mooney said. "So it's not like I'm the greatest scout that ever lived. But the more I got to see him play and the more I got to know him, the more conviction I had that this was a special guy."
                          If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

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                          • #14
                            Larry Andersen can laugh at being lesser half of Jeff Bagwell trade

                            By Jake Kaplan
                            PHILADELPHIA - When called into his manager's office on Aug. 30 1990, Larry Andersen figured news of a trade loomed. The journeyman reliever, then 37, had pitched well for an Astros team going nowhere. A contender required his services.

                            So after Art Howe notified the righthander he had been dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Andersen asked, "Who for?"

                            Some Class AA player named Jeff Bagwell, he was told.

                            "I'm coming off of two sub-2.00 ERA years, and I was like, 'Really? That's all they got? All they got for me after the years I had was the Double A guy?' " Andersen recalled recently.

                            "It's funny because in retrospect and in talking to Baggy, I'm sure he's thinking, 'You've got to be kidding me? I'm a Hall of Famer, and I got traded for this old reliever?'"

                            In addition to his slider, Andersen, who pitched in parts of 17 major league seasons from 1975 to 1994, is known for his zany sense of humor. He's long been able to laugh about his distinction as the other half of one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, undoubtedly the best deal in Astros history.

                            Andersen would joke about it when Bagwell was still playing. Now the radio color analyst for the Philadelphia Phillies, Andersen broke into broadcasting with the team in 1998, when the Astros' first baseman was still in the prime of his Hall of Fame career.

                            A friendship even formed over the move that will forever link them.

                            "He used to always give me a hard time," said Bagwell, who won't forget Andersen when he makes his induction speech Sunday in Cooperstown. "When I'd see him, if I wasn't doing that well, he'd starting yelling at me. He'd say, 'Hey, man, people are going to start forgetting about me if you don't start picking it up.' We've always had that relationship.

                            "He's such a great guy. He's hysterical. He's really, really funny. He's just a good person, and I couldn't be more proud to have been traded for him."

                            As Bagwell's support from Hall of Fame voters grew in the last seven years, the only man for whom he was ever traded rooted for his election. If nothing else, Andersen joked, it would boost his stock. He can say he was traded straight up for a Hall of Famer, not simply a player who almost made it to Cooperstown.

                            "Major league athletes in any sport, they've got egos, and I do too," Andersen said on a recent afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. "For me, I looked at it like, 'Hey, if nothing else happens, at least I'm going to be in the news for the next five or 10 years after the trade.

                            "And here we are almost 30 years later, and I'm talking about it again still. I was fine with it. Whether you're part of trivia in that respect or people saying (it's) 'the worst trade of all time' or 'one of the worst,' that's fine with me. I don't live my life based on what other people's projections are or what they think. I'm OK with it, and I have fun with it."
                            .


                            Astros pitcher Larry Andersen after the team's season-ending loss to the Mets in Game
                            6 of the 1986 NLCS in the Astrodome, Oct. 15, 1986. Photo: Steve Ueckert, Houston Chronicle


                            Naturally, mention of the trade surfaces on occasion in his current line of work, especially recently. Andersen, who rejuvenated his career while pitching for the Astros from 1986-90, has no issue playing along.

                            The former pitcher even owns an autographed baseball from Bagwell on which the Hall of Famer jokingly wrote, "Thanks for making my career."

                            Bagwell laughed when asked last week if he remembered signing it.

                            "That was a long time ago," he said. "We've always laughed about it. We met after games in Philly and stuff like that and had some fun with the clubhouse guys and Larry. That's the kind of guy he is, though, man. We've had a lot of fun with it, and I'm sure he's happy for me. I'll give him a shout out when I'm up there (at the podium on Sunday). I promise."

                            Two moments stand out for Andersen from his first two days as a member of the Red Sox. The first was getting called into Howe's office at the Astrodome. The other occurred while he was waiting at baggage claim at Logan International Airport on his way to joining his new team. The airline lost his luggage, so as he waited for it to be found, he picked up a copy of that morning's Boston Globe.

                            It featured a story about the previous day's trades.

                            "The Oakland A's get Willie McGee and Harold Baines. The Red Sox get Larry Andersen," it read. "Is it like countering a nuclear attack with a squirt gun?"

                            "It's like, 'Welcome to Boston,' " Andersen said with a laugh when retelling the story.

                            The Red Sox reached the 1990 playoffs but were swept by the A's in four games in the American League Championship Series. A free agent at season's end, Andersen signed that winter with San Diego, where he spent two seasons. He finished his career with two seasons in Philadelphia, his second stint with the Phillies.

                            At the time of the trade, Bagwell was a Class AA third baseman blocked in the Red Sox organization by Wade Boggs, Scott Cooper and Tim Naehring. He was batting .333 with just four homers but 34 doubles and 16 more walks than strikeouts in his first full professional season after being drafted the year before in the fourth round out of the University of Hartford.

                            Lost in the fact that then-Boston general manager Lou Gorman dealt a promising corner infield prospect for a month and change for a reliever is that Andersen pitched well in his short time with the Red Sox. He had a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings over 15 appearances and struck out 25 against just three walks.

                            "He was very good," Bagwell said. "People a lot of times forget how good he pitched when he was with the Red Sox. It just didn't happen to work out for them getting to the World Series (that year), and obviously, with my career the way it is, they think about that."

                            In the final four seasons of his career, Andersen faced Bagwell seven times. He limited him to one hit and two walks. Bagwell remembers only one of their battles specifically, one in which the former slugger said Andersen fed him slider after slider before catching him looking at a fastball right down the middle.

                            "When I would see him after games or if we were having a beer, it would be the same thing. I would say, 'Hey, c'mon, we need to get in that Hall of Fame.' We'd joke about it and laugh about it," Andersen said.

                            "I wouldn't say we were best friends, but I think we had mutual respect for each other and enjoyed our times. And for me, joking about it was all part of it, having fun with it. It's all part of the deal. But to see him get in, that was not a joke. I was literally thrilled when he got the news."
                            If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

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                            • #15
                              Jeff Bagwell fought off retirement long after shoulder gave in

                              By Hunter Atkins
                              Jeff Bagwell followed Phil Garner into the laundry room, where the sloshing and tumbling of the uniforms would prevent anyone else from hearing their tough talk.

                              It was the end of Astros spring training in 2006. Bagwell had arrived under pressure to retire because of his arthritic right shoulder. By then, everyone either knew the extent of his trauma or assumed it.

                              The soreness beat through daily painkillers, and the sting overwhelmed 20 cortisone shots. Bagwell could not muster more than a lob. He could not extend his Louisville Slugger with strength at outside pitches. He could not sleep through the night. He could not raise his arm high enough to put on a blazer or brush his teeth.

                              Owner Drayton McLane had made matters worse with an insurance claim that attempted to recoup $15.6 million of Bagwell's contract after the first baseman missed 115 games in 2005 and was rendered, according to general manager Tim Purpura, "a disabled player."

                              Bagwell held Astros records of 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI after showing admirable grit for 15 seasons. Trying for one more year threatened his legacy.

                              Garner, who became the Astros' manager in 2004, had imagined the unthinkable for a player of Bagwell's greatness: stumbling around the bases, botching a play at first, unable to lift the bat off his shoulder.

                              "He couldn't play anymore," Garner recalled. "A doctor (said) it looked like he'd been in a car wreck and that he'd been hit directly on the shoulder."

                              He confronted Bagwell over the hum of the washers and dryers.

                              "It's time," Garner told him.

                              "He knew it, too."
                              .


                              Portrait of Jeff Bagwell at the Houston Astros' Spring Training facilities, Thursday, March 2, 2006, in Kissimme, Florida. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle)

                              Hallmarks of greatness

                              On Sunday, Bagwell will be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It took him seven turns on the ballot to get elected because of speculation about steroid use and statistics hindered by his crumbling body.

                              "The overriding theme is you felt awful that an injury pulled this guy off the field," said Morgan Ensberg, Bagwell's teammate for six seasons. "It was tragic."

                              Bagwell later would blame his arthritis on genetics, but he committed to concealing the worst of his degenerative shoulder condition from the start, in 2001, when he played the entire season with a partially torn labrum. He hid the affects of the tear until they hampered his fielding.

                              "He's the greatest instinctive player I've seen since Willie Mays," said Larry Dierker, Bagwell's manager from 1997 through 2001.

                              A three-time Gold Glove winner, Bagwell was known for turning double plays and blitzing on bunts to throw out lead runners as well as any first baseman in history. Garner said opposing managers had to plan around Bagwell's fielding.

                              "He actually got so close to pitchers (on bunts) that he would freak them out," Garner said.

                              After Bagwell committed two throwing errors in an inning during the penultimate game of the '01 season, Dierker spilled the secret to reporters about the torn labrum.

                              "I'm fine," Bagwell told media. "All of a sudden I make two bad throws, and somebody wants to make an excuse."
                              .


                              Jeff Bagwell (center) shows he is still able to laugh in the face of hard luck. Here, Bagwell joins team medical director Dr. David Linter (left) and Astros owner Drayton McLane
                              to announce his forthcoming shoulder surgery in 2005. Photo: Kevin Fujii / Chronicle


                              Bagwell had the labrum surgically repaired a month later, but his shoulder damage lingered in subsequent seasons.

                              "I wished we would have checked him more thoroughly sooner," Dierker said recently. "The only thing that kept him from being a first-ballot guy was being able to play three more years and hit 500 home runs. If he would've been shut down early and his shoulder had been tended to, then he would've had a longer career."

                              Bagwell received adulation for suppressing agony and embracing extra work. He transformed the Astros' weightlifting culture with his manic devotion and earned the team its first $25,000 worth of equipment by posing for a photo shoot. No matter the daily workload, Bagwell lifted after games and on the road.

                              Gene Coleman, the Astros' strength and conditioning coach from 1976 to 2012, opened the gym for Bagwell on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.

                              "He wanted to be the last and the first workout of the year," Coleman said.

                              Bagwell liked to do three repetitions of 335-pound bench presses before a long break in the schedule. On the last day of the 2000 season, he exited his 159th game played and performed his ritual in front of Ensberg and Keith Ginter, two rookies.

                              "I need to make a good impression on the young kids," Bagwell said, according to Coleman.

                              Bagwell built and wrecked his body out of insecurity. He divulged to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that he pursued a bodybuilder's physique because Astros pitcher Mike Hampton ribbed him in 1995: "You're so skinny, you look like you're on crack."
                              .


                              As a rookie, Jeff Bagwell was so skinny, his teammates teased him about it.
                              Photo: Focus On Sport, Getty Images


                              Bagwell recently said lifting weights behind his neck exacerbated his arthritic shoulder.

                              "I was even told I shouldn't do that because it's really not good for throwing, but I enjoyed it so much that I continued to do it," he lamented in a conference call with media before his Hall of Fame induction. "I tell young kids don't do stuff behind your neck. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have done that."

                              Bagwell peaked in the 1990s, winning the National League MVP Award in 1994, and powered through the pain in his mid-30s. From 2001 through 2004, he averaged 159 games, 34 home runs, 104 RBI and a .907 OPS.

                              In interviews with the Houston Chronicle, Bagwell said in 1998 that he used androstenedione, a substance MLB banned six years later, and in 2004 that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Nonetheless, the timing of his performance and physical transformation inspired suspicion of steroid use.

                              "To say that chemicals were part of it or weren't part of it, nobody's been able to say that," Dierker said. "Everyone agrees about how manic he was about his strength."

                              From superstar to part-timer

                              Bagwell appeared formidable, but the Astros saw his increasing frailty. Catcher Brad Ausmus, who became best friends with Bagwell during their eight seasons together, argued with Bagwell that he did not long-toss enough. Then he saw X-rays of Bagwell's shoulder.

                              "It was almost like stalactites and stalagmites," Ausmus said, referring to the numerous bone spurs. "I was asking the doctor about it, and he told me that really, eventually, he'd probably need shoulder replacement. When you hear 'shoulder replacement,' you know that you're not going to be playing baseball."

                              As his locker mate, Ausmus eventually had to guide the sleeve of a blazer around Bagwell's right arm before road trips.

                              "If you were sitting in the stands, you couldn't tell," said Eric Bruntlett, who was with the Astros for Bagwell's final four seasons. "The talent and the will to overcome what he was working through was really amazing."

                              Bagwell stopped firing infield throws altogether. Between innings, he loosened his arm in the hallway connecting the clubhouse with the dugout. There, he threw one-hoppers against a staircase and a wall.

                              One of the lessons Bagwell passed on to teammates was to never reveal weakness on the field. When shortstop Adam Everett stepped in from the dirt to the infield grass to shorten the distance on warm-up throws, Bagwell glared back from first base.

                              "Back up!" Bagwell barked.

                              "Don't you ever do that to me again," Bagwell said, according to Everett's account, when they returned to the dugout. As an unyielding team-first player, he wouldn't let his pride wilt along with his arm. Basic baseball activities inflamed his pain, but he would not concede a warm-up throw.

                              "You need that as much as I do," Bagwell told Everett in the dugout. "I'm here to take care of you as well."

                              By 2005, the prolonged trauma forced Bagwell to the disabled list in May for capsule-release surgery.

                              "I really believe it will work," he said then.

                              But he did not give his body enough time to heal. On the verge of 15 years without a World Series ring, he rushed back in September for a shot at one, accepting his new role as a pinch hitter.
                              .


                              Bagwell and the Astros made it to the World Series in 2005, losing all four games to the Chicago White Sox. Photo: KAREN WARREN, CHRONICLE

                              His sacrifice paid off when he and Craig Biggio, his inseparable teammate for his entire career, got to share their first National League pennant. But Bagwell absorbed some disappointment in the World Series.

                              Although he served as the Astros' designated hitter in their games against the White Sox at Chicago, he did not hear his name announced with the starting lineups at Minute Maid Park. He waited at the end of the dugout as the last man to greet teammates coming off the field. He did not want to cross the lines between those in the game and out of it.

                              "You don't feel a part of it," Bagwell told media. "You feel like you're a fan. Yeah, you want them to win, but you really, really wanted to be there to do it with them."

                              He went 1-for-6 in Games 1 and 2 and was 0-for-2 as a pinch hitter in Games 3 and 4. The White Sox swept the Astros.

                              By spring training 2006, McLane expressed regret over letting Bagwell return for the World Series because it "complicated" the insurance claim, which Cigna Health Insurance rejected.

                              The contract tension, combined with Bagwell's apparent inabilities, shaped his awkward path to retirement. He started the 2006 season on the disabled list, did not return, took a $7 million buyout from the Astros, and officially announced in December that he was done.

                              "He was a warrior in my mind," Purpura said. "For me to proclaim that he's disabled, it was very difficult. It's still difficult to this day."

                              Bagwell went most of the next decade without close contact with the Astros, though he did serve as their hitting coach for half of 2010. Several times he entered the clubhouse and walked over to a locker that used to be his. Then his muscle memory gave way to mental clarity. He cursed and walked on to the coaches' offices.

                              Bagwell and the Astros rejuvenated their relationship under new ownership and manager A.J. Hinch. With the current team on pace for the most wins in franchise history, Bagwell recently said he has "watched more baseball than I probably have in my entire life." He texts broadcaster and former teammate Geoff Blum when he sees a player is not hustling.

                              The Hall of Fame induction improves Bagwell's place in baseball history and extends a legacy that had been cut off for his own benefit, muted inside a laundry room.

                              "I recall having tears in my eyes," Garner said.

                              They likely will return on Sunday.
                              If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

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