Jeff Bagwell's greatest game is a tough one to pick out -- he didn't really have a single game that stood out among the rest. He had three homers in a game three times. Bagwell hit for the cycle once in 2001, and he came a single short of the
Jeff Bagwell's greatest game is a tough one to pick out -- he didn't really have a single game that stood out among the rest. He had three homers in a game three times. Bagwell hit for the cycle once in 2001, and he came a single short of the cycle once in 1997. He drove in seven RBIs in a game twice, scored four runs in a game three times. Bagwell did tie a Major League record with four doubles in a game against the Giants in 1996.
Then, Bagwell had multiple extra-base hits in a game 152 times, three more than Carl Yastrzemski and three more than the man he's most connected to, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Bagwell and Thomas were born on the same day, played at the same time and both won MVP Awards in 1994.
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See, the thing that made Bagwell a Hall of Famer was the consistency, the fact that one year was like another ... save 1994, when Bagwell was about as hot as any hitter ever.
"Every pitch that I was looking for, I got," Bagwell would tell Sports Illustrated years later. "And when I got it, I didn't miss it."
That year, Bagwell hit .368/.451/.750 with 104 runs and 116 RBIs in just 110 games. That was, of course, the strike season, but he would not have been able to finish off that crazy year and put up otherworldly stats even if there had been no strike. Bagwell injured his hand when he was hit by an Andy Benes pitch.
Getting hit by pitches is another part of the Bagwell story. He unabashedly crowded the plate. Three straight years in his prime, Bagwell's season was halted when he was hit in the hand by a pitch.
And so, let's pick an odd game for Bags -- Aug. 13, 2000. It was a thoroughly unmemorable game. The Astros were terrible, the Phillies were terrible, and August games between terrible teams rarely seem to bring the best out of the great players. If you watch the video highlights you can feel the sheer lack of energy in the park.
But Bagwell was Bagwell … that's the point of the guy's career. He was always there to do something to beat you, no matter the situation.
In the first inning, with Julio Lugo on second base, Bagwell rifled a ground-ball single up the middle to drive in a run.
In the second inning, with Lugo on third base, Bagwell hit a run-scoring ground ball. Two at-bats, two RBIs.
In the fourth, he smashed a classic Bagwell home run -- pulling it to left with that frighteningly short swing. That scored three more runs. He could not have looked less excited or less impressed with himself.
In the fifth, Wayne Gomes hit Bagwell with a pitch -- it wouldn't be a true Bagwell game without a hit-by-pitch. He was hit by 128 pitches in his career, top 50 in baseball history.
But then Bagwell did what he loved to do -- he promptly stole second base. He was a staggeringly good baserunner. It is the most underappreciated of Bagwell's many talents. He stole more than 200 bases in his career, but more to the point, Baseball Reference has him worth 31 extra runs just for his baserunning, most for any first baseman ever.
In the eighth, Bagwell smashed his second home run of the game, this one a blast to right-center field. Bagwell was not a particularly big player. He was listed at 6 feet, 195 pounds, and it was always stunning to see him standing next to his Hall of Fame teammate Craig Biggio. Bagwell's immense power gave this impression that he was a giant. And Biggio's scrappy play at second base left you thinking he was small. Then they would stand next to each other, and they were almost exactly the same height and weight.
In the ninth, Bagwell singled again, driving in another run. In all, he had four hits, two homers, scored three runs, drove in seven and stole a base. It was Bagwell at his best, but he was his understated best that entire season. In that year, 2000, Bagwell scored 152 runs, the most runs for any player in the past 80 years.
"Our lineup can score anywhere, anytime," Bagwell said after the game. "All I do is play my part."
MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- begins with MLB Tonight on Sunday at noon ET, followed by the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Prior to Sunday's live coverage, MLB Network will televise the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 11 a.m., featuring Rachel Robinson (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award), Claire Smith (the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers), and the posthumous honoring of Bill King (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters). The presentation will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film "A League of Their Own."
Joe Posnanski is an executive columnist for MLB.com.