Bagwell remains in awe of Hall of Fame honor

January 19th, 2017

NEW YORK -- In the 15 years he spent on a Major League field, Jeff Bagwell never seemed overwhelmed by any situation presented to him -- not his big league debut, not his first postseason game, not the World Series, not even his number retirement ceremony in 2007, when 42,000 fans packed Minute Maid Park to salute him one final time.

But as soon as he was announced as part of the Hall of Fame class of 2017, Bagwell, quite frankly, has seemed a little over his skis.

:: 2017 Hall of Fame election coverage ::

Apparently, it took receiving the highest individual honor in Major League Baseball to finally rattle the sure-handed former first baseman, widely considered the greatest player in Houston Astros history.

"This is unbelievable," he said during the Hall of Fame's formal news conference Thursday at the St. Regis hotel in Midtown Manhattan. "I don't even know what the [heck] I'm doing here. This is crazy."

Well, it's not that crazy. Bagwell logged 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs during a long career with the Astros that began in 1991 and concluded with the club's only World Series appearance in 2005. During his tenure, Bagwell posted eight seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Those accomplishments have been matched by only Willie Mays and Jim Thome.

So Bagwell's resume has been loaded with Hall of Fame credentials for quite some time now. This week's announcement just made official what Astros fans have known for years -- Bagwell's accomplishments put him among the greatest first basemen in history.

It's just going to take him a while to get used to all of this.

"To be in the Hall of Fame, it's crazy, man," Bagwell said. "I couldn't be more happy to be here. I'm just trying to take this all in."

Wearing a blue checkered blazer, crisp white shirt and a shiny new Hall of Fame pin, Bagwell strode into the ballroom at the St. Regis flanked by his fellow Hall of Fame electees, Tim Raines and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, in addition to Hall of Fame president Jeff Idleson, Hall of Fame chairwoman Jane Forbes Clark and Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The electees' jackets were soon replaced by the official cream-colored Hall of Fame jerseys, which sparked some jokes from Bagwell about how the sizes were a tick or two bigger than what they were during their playing days.

"You have to be able to laugh and make fun of each other," Bagwell said. "How much we weigh, how to get this jersey on … we're having a lot of fun together."

Bagwell has a few months to come up with more measured comments before he has to deliver in front of tens of thousands of revelers during the official ceremony in Cooperstown on July 30. For now, Bagwell has chosen to use his time in the spotlight to do what he did hundreds of times during his playing career -- shift the focus away from him, and to the teammates around him who made his job more enjoyable.

Having been to the postseason six times in his career, Bagwell was as well-known for his team-first approach as he is for his franchise-record 449 home runs. His basic philosophies resonated throughout the Astros' clubhouse, especially to the many young players who credit him with helping them navigate through the ups and downs that go along with being a Major League player.

"That was a big part of our team -- appreciating other people making you better," he said. "I was very fortunate that Craig Biggio did that for me. I'm sure 'Hawk' [Hall of Famer Andre Dawson] would say the same thing about [Raines]. That's what makes this game great.

"This is what we play for. We play to win, we play to make other people feel better about their day. We do play 162 games. That's a long time, man."

Fifteen years and nearly 450 homers later, clearly it was time well-spent.