By NEAL FARMER
Jeff Bagwell gave Houston everything he had. And it was on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Sunday.
Bagwell thought he would give his all for Boston. He grew up a Red Sox fan and was in the Boston minor league organization.
But Houston GM Bill Wood traded for him, so Bagwell came to the baseball wasteland from hardball heaven. Wade Boggs was playing 3B for the Red Sox, so Bagwell joked that he might not have been the first person that Houston wanted in a trade. But it was Bagwell who was traded to Houston by the Red Sox for relief pitcher Larry Andersen.
(Side story: More than one time, Andersen would try to screw up media interviews in the Astros clubhouse after games when I was covering as a sportswriter with the Houston Chronicle. One time, he turned up the sound from a boom box. Another time, Andersen set a club record for longest belches while teammates were being interviewed by making the low, obnoxious noise for more than 15 seconds at a time. It’s like he was using it as a breathing exercise to build up his lungs. It would have been really funny, but then he would break the record he had just set after taking a quick breath. It was hard to dislike Anderson).
Andersen takes ownership of the trade, saying he made more hay out of being the person traded for Bagwell than he did for his own career. Andersen became a radio announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies and would playfully taunt Bagwell when the Astros would play Philadelphia, saying that Bagwell had to play better so people would remember Andersen being part of the trade that brought Bagwell from the Boston organization to Houston.
“ ‘Hey, man,’ ” Bagwell on Sunday quoted Andersen as saying. “ ‘You’ve got to step it up. People are not actually talking about me any more.’ OK, I’m here, Larry. Is this good enough for you? You got enough props?”
He also thanked all of the GMs and owners in Houston, and called out owner Drayton McLane as a big reason he played for the same team in his 15 years in Major League Baseball.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everything you have done,” Bagwell said of McLane. “I know Craig (Biggio) talked about that earlier, about playing our entire career with one organization. That takes a lot for players to do that in today’s society. You know, it takes a lot from owners, too. And teams that want to keep you around. We were very fortunate to have a give-and-take with the organization. Drayton McLane was a big part (of that).”
Bagwell also thanks his trainers. It was injuries and questions that kept him out of the Hall until seven years after he was eligible because some writers suggested that he was a part of the steroid generation. I have talked to Hall of Fame voters who refused to vote for Bagwell because they said – without proof – that he took steroids. But his teammates never said anything about illegal substances.
Former teammates Brad Ausmus used to say Bagwell had a problem with the shoulder because Bagwell did not throw enough long-toss during practice. But then Ausmus saw the X-rays that of Bagwell’s shoulder – and the arthritis bone-spur formations in that shoulder.
“It was almost like stalactites and stalagmites,” Ausmus told the Houston Chronicle.
Bagwell mentioned the shoulder on Sunday, as well the trainers who helped him get ready for games.
“Those of you in Houston know that I played three years basically, like, with an arm and a half,” Bagwell said. Playing first base helped mask the throwing deficiency, as he received throws instead of delivering them.
The thing he enjoyed was not the numbers – and you have to have a ton of numbers to get into any Hall of Fame. But it was getting the job done the right way.
“What I do take pride in is that I thought I tried to do everything well,” Bagwell said. “It wasn’t just hitting home runs. Those are nice. You’ve got RBIs and runs scored. For me, runs-scored was very important to me because it was mindset. I wanted to score for our team and I wanted to score for my other players, to make their job a lot easier.”
Then there was one, non-hitting category he took great pride in: “Honestly, as I sit here, I enjoyed the stolen bases more than anything else. It was the only number I cared about toward the end of my career: was getting 200 stolen bases. For a little guy with not much speed, I truly appreciated that. That’s what I tried to be for my teammates. I could do everything, then I could help us win in different ways.”
His overall baseball numbers are good. And if he hadn’t played in the cavernous Astrodome for a while I think he would have had more homers and been in the Hall of Fame sooner. His speech was his 450th home run. I’ll have to admit that I was misty-eyed.
Bagwell ended his speech with a thought about his father and how baseball allowed them to be closer. When Bagwell was young, his dad would get home from work and immediately go out side and play catch or pepper with his son. It stopped when the Red Sox game would come on TV and the two would talk Red Sox baseball.
It was about spending quality time as a family, Bagwell said. And that was important. My sport was basketball, and my dad would shoot hoops in the driveway with me. I know I will never forget that.
“If I could have given you guys anything for being at the dinner table or going to a game, and to watch us play, or to watch me play, and I brought some joy, and I was help bringing you joy in a world that can be tough some times, but if you enjoyed me playing and it brought families together, then I did my job.”
Bagwell gave Houston everything he had.
BAGWELL’S HALL OF FAME ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: Bagwell in his own words.
BAGWELL ADDRESSES PEDs WITH BOB COSTAS: https://www.facebook.com/MLBNetwork/?hc_ref=ARTGfuHZm6g2ZMmtC6y2df6NHkrvYekeCk_mofdK6451KlwGQPmUG6w433PfSI0Xpvc
HUNTER AND SPRINGER: Torii Hunter sometimes would play catch with a youth in the stands before game as a part of his warming up process. It turns out that at one time, George Springer was the youth in the stands on the receiving end of Hunter’s benevolence. Ya neva know.
TEXANS CAMP REPORT: The Houston Texans released this report from West Virginia.
HEY, LOOK AT YOUR LANDMARK: Let’s give it up for embarrassing landmarks in each state.
PUTTING A TREE ON THE TURNTABLE – Weird science: This sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock soundtrack when you play a slice of wood on the turntable. I really enjoyed this, after at first being skeptical. The stylus had a laser and not a diamond.
CLASSICAL NOTES: Despite someone who thinks this sounds like a tree trunk on the turntable, enjoying Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. in G Major – played by Yo-Yo Ma – means you have arrived in enjoying classical music.