added 3/14/2006 by Steve Cutchen
So we've seen Hakeem Olajuwon for the last time in a Rocket's uniform.
It hasn't really sunk in yet. That it is really over. Was this guy great, or what? Bringing the first major championship to Houston. And then coming from a 6th seed to repeat. Who can forget the way he made the Admiral look just plain silly in the playoffs? David said, shaking his head, "I know this sounds stupid, but I think I played pretty good defense on him." Then dominating Shaq in the finals.
This guy was a rock. We rode him game after game, year after year.
"Kenny has the ball out front. 15 seconds, Rockets down by one. Left side to Ellie, open for the jumper, no.
He kicks it low to Hakeem, left side of the paint. Patrick's on him, Dream's got the ball, 6 seconds.
He puts it on the floor, he fakes left, he turns, Dream-shake, fade awaaaaay, YEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!
Dream with the fade away at the buzzer!
Right over Ewing!
HOW SWEET IT IS!"
And now, that's gone.
If that doesn't put a lump in your throat...
When a special athlete finally quits, especially a home-town hero, it is sad. Sure we miss Drexler. And Smith. And Barkley... Whatever. Hey, Chuckie Brown played his butt off for us. And he's got a ring, too! But these guys were not the Team. Hakeem was. Hakeem was the Rockets like Jordan was the Bulls.
It got me to thinking about Bagwell and Biggio. For so many years, we have thought of the Astros and Bagwellandbiggio as synonymous. It really seems like a single word... Bagwellandbiggio. But times are not that far off when the Astros will be without the Dynamic Duo.
When I hear the supposed criticism that the veterans had toward Meluskey (and you know veterans meant Bagwellandbiggio), I wonder how much of it was due to Mitch being a jerk versus how much of it was a recognition that a window is closing. How many more years do we have for Bagwellandbiggio before the inevitable decline sets in? Ausmus is now. Mitch wasn't.
Really watch these guys this year, Houston Fan. Pay attention to the little things you see them do on the field. Burn these images into your memory so that you can tell folks.
"Yeah, I was there when Bagwell and Biggio were in their prime. Man, those guys were great.
You should have seen how Bagwell would move up in a sacrifice situation and get the lead runner at second. I bet the guy was 90 percent at that play! Maybe it was just a routine sacrifice, but Bagwell didn't play that way. By the time that the pitch was at the plate, it seemed like he was even with the mound. He'd field the bunt, whirl and fire to second... Geez. You think that's easy? For a right hander? He's got to pivot his body just to make that throw to second! But he had the skill, the guts and the trust in his ability... he'd make it look routine.
And could that guy mash! What a weird stance. My son said he looked like he was taking a dump... But geez could he generate torque! His were not the 'it looks like an easy swing, but I'm so strong who gives a damn" home runs like Mark McGwire hit. These were 'I'm freaking coming out of my shoes and beating the living crap out of the ball 'til it's over the wall!!' home runs.
And Biggio. I wonder how many times I saw him just hauling ass out to right field and making a catch over his shoulder that should have dropped in. And the pivot on the double-play. You could tell it was Biggio by the throw. You didn't need to see his number or his face or whatever... That straight overhand throw to first. Right over the top.
And you should have seen his batting helmet! Shoot, one year they couldn't even keep the Astros Star on it, it was so crudded up with pine tar! The decal would just fall off! I remember seeing him on second with that star not just falling off, but upside down! He'd picked it up off the ground and just stuck it back up there. They made him wear a new helmet in the All-Star game. Didn't hit worth a damn with it...
I remember in '98... The guy had 50 steals and 51 doubles! And he set an Astros record 210 base hits. Think about those numbers a second... Almost one of every four hits was a double! And he still found the opportunities to get 50 steals?! Roll over Tris Speaker, tell Harry Hooper the news!
Yeah... those were great times to be an Astros fan."
The Rockets will now finish the transition to the Steve Francis era. And eventually they will establish an identity. Like the Moses Malone Rockets did. And the Hakeem Olajuwon Rockets.
The Astros will transition, too. Maybe it will become the team of Berkman and Hidalgo. Or Ginter and McNeal. Or two guys we don't even know yet. It's too early to tell. And you just never know what's going to happen in this game. Ask Dwight Gooden. Ask Dickie Thon.
But for now? It is the team of Bagwellandbiggio.
You know how some folks tell you about Caesar Cedeno and Mike Scott and Jimmy Wynn and J. R. Richard?
Well, it is YOUR responsibility to tell folks about Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
Don't let these guys down.
That's my Knuckleball. Try to hit it.