COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A humble and gracious Jeff Bagwell spent much of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech Sunday afternoon at Clark Sports Center thanking his family and friends while recalling how a young Red Sox fan from Connecticut became an Astros icon.Bagwell, who grew up idolizing Carl Yastrzemski and
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A humble and gracious Jeff Bagwell spent much of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech Sunday afternoon at Clark Sports Center thanking his family and friends while recalling how a young Red Sox fan from Connecticut became an Astros icon.
Bagwell, who grew up idolizing Carl Yastrzemski and joined with fellow Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in defining an era of baseball in Houston, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame before hundreds of orange-clad Astros fans on a picturesque afternoon.
"This is actually, really an unbelievable day," Bagwell told the crowd. "I'm so humbled to be here, to be surrounded by some of the greats that ever played the game."
It was the culmination of a tremendous 15-year career for Bagwell, who delivered a 23-minute speech that mixed humility, humor and sincerity -- a speech he admitted he winged quit a bit. He joins Biggio -- a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee -- as the only players to have Astros caps on their Hall of Fame plaques.
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"I am glad that it's over," Bagwell said after the speech. "I woke up this morning at 9:30 and went, 'Oh God, it's here.' It's been a great ride. I had some great moments with my family with the other Hall of Famers, some funny stories I have from them. It's been a great trip. I can't imagine anything better."
Never comfortable talking about himself, Bagwell spoke about the support his family gave him through good times and bad. His parents, Robert and Janice Bagwell, had a front-row seat as the former slugger told a huge crowd how much they meant to him. His 89-year-old father beamed.
"You brought me to love this game of baseball," Bagwell told his father from the stage. "You used to say you gave me your right arm throwing me batting practice."
Bagwell said his father taught him to never give up on his dream, which was playing for the Boston Red Sox. That nearly became a reality when he was drafted by Boston and his father threw him a Red Sox shirt across the room. But he was traded to the Astros for veteran reliever Larry Andersen in 1990 and quickly became a Houston legend.
"For a kid that was a Red Sox fan my entire life, I dreamed of playing for the Red Sox," he said.
The trade for Andersen is considered one of the most lopsided in history, and Bagwell took an opportunity to salute Andersen, who joked he wanted Bagwell to succeed to keep him relevant.
"I did the best I can and played my entire career, Larry, and OK, I'm here," Bagwell said. "Is this good enough for you?"
Bagwell thanked all the general managers and owners he played under, including former owner Drayton McLane, who was in attendance. He thanked longtime Astros trainers Dave Labossiere and Rex Jones for "spending hours and hours grinding on my shoulder to get me out there to play."
He poured out thanks to the clubhouse staff, his agent, Barry Axelrod, and former coaches Rudy Jaramillo and Matt Galante. He recalled teammates who have since passed away -- Andujar Cedeno, Ken Caminiti, Jose Lima and Darryl Kile.
"There's not one day that goes by I don't think about Darryl Kile," he said. "DK, you are sorely missed, and I know you're down here somewhere."
And, of course, Bagwell recalled his relationship with Biggio, with whom he will be forever linked. And when Bagwell's Hall of Fame plaque went up in the gallery on Sunday night, it was just a few feet from Biggio's plaque. Biggio and Bagwell are in the Hall of Fame.
"It's still strange to me," Bagwell said. "When I see it in the gallery, that's when it will hit me."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.**.