It was a significant moment but, at the time, most people assumed it would be a stepping stone to bigger milestones. Jeff Bagwell still seemed indestructible. Having endured one of the longest slumps in his career, Bagwell was back in the groove.
With a pair of homers on July 20th in Cincinnati, the steady first baseman drilled his 20th homer of the season and 400th as a big leaguer. Both came off righthander Danny Graves, a former closer trying to resurrect his career as a starter.
Charting The Journey
After spanking his first homer on April 15, 1991, Bagwell blasted his 100th in Montreal on June 20, 1995. Home run number 200 came three years later in Colorado on June 24, 1998 in another multi-homer assault. The 300th homer was hit on August 19, 2000 against Milwaukee in another two-homer game.
So it should have come as no surprise that Bagwell would waste no time swatting number 400 after starting the afternoon unloading #399.
Sitting in first place in the National League Central, The Astros were riding a four-game winning streak as they faced the Reds in Cincinnati on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Craig Biggio led off the game with a double to left and scored on Bagwell's sacrifice fly. In the top of the fourth, after Morgan Ensberg beat out an infield hit, Bagwell unloaded Graves' first pitch into the left field seats for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
In the sixth, with two outs and nobody on, Bagwell smoked a high fastball on a 2-1 pitch out into the stands in left-center for a 4-0 lead and the big 400 milestone. All four runs in the game had come from Bagwell's bat.
The Reds Hit Back
Wade Miller had coasted through the first five innings but an error by Jeff Kent opened the door for a Reds comeback. After Sean Casey singled, Aaron Boone drove a liner into the left field seats to narrow the margin to 4-3. Jimy Williams took out Miller in favor of Mike Gallo.
An RBI single by Eric Bruntlett gave Houston some breathing room and Kent finished the scoring in ninth with a blast off Scott Williamson for a 6-3 Houston victory. Ricky Stone, Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner followed Gallo with scoreless relief. Wagner notched his 28th save.
Bagwell finished the season with 39 homers and 100 RBIs, his last year with such lofty numbers. The effects of his arthritic right shoulder grew worse in 2004 and became intolerable in 2005 when he chose to have surgery done which essentially ended his career at 449 homers.
As for the 2003 Astros, they would be caught by the Cubs in the season's final week and miss the playoffs, putting heat on Williams who was fired the following year.
CINCINNATI - At every turn, Jeff Bagwell downplays home run stats. He is more concerned about runs batted in and runs scored, and he grudgingly accepts being viewed as one of the elite power hitters of his time.
After collecting the 399th and 400th home runs of his career Sunday to spark the Astros to a 6-3 victory and a four-game sweep against the Reds, Bagwell reluctantly acknowledged the achievement.
"They're nice things to happen, and it's great," Bagwell said after his third multihomer game of the season and 29th of his career. "But the game still goes on."
Whether Bagwell admits it or not, his two homers were why the Astros defeated the Reds for the 10th consecutive time.
"Home runs are not my stat," said Bagwell, who became the 35th major-leaguer to reach the 400 mark. "I'm not a big proponent of the home run. Yeah, it's great, but run production is what matters. Driving in runs and scoring runs, that's what I'm supposed to do. Those are the things that I really concern myself with."
If that's the case, Bagwell accomplished his goals while going 2-for-3 with four RBIs.
"Certainly (Bagwell) had a big game for us," manager Jimy Williams said. "We needed it. He gets a sac fly, then he hit a two-run homer and a solo. We needed all those runs because (Aaron) Boone came back with a three-run shot."
Bagwell moved past Dale Murphy (398) and Hall of Famer Al Kaline (399) on the career list. Next up is Hall of Famer Duke Snider, who is in 34th place with 407 homers.
Bagwell chuckled when he found out the boy who caught his 400th home run in the sixth inning didn't know anything about him. Sitting with his parents in the left-field bleachers at Great American Ball Park, Justin Warrick, 9, was handed the ball by his stepfather, David Jobe.
Urged by many in the crowd of 32,062 to throw the ball back, Justin refused. When an usher offered Justin $100 for the ball, Jobe realized they had something special.
"It bounced off somebody's arm," Jobe said, "and I had already given the ball to him."
Bagwell had previously retrieved only his first and 300th home run balls, but he wanted to add the 400th to his collection. His bats were already locked up and packed in a cart outside the clubhouse headed to the team bus when Bagwell was told Justin and his stepfather were waiting outside.
A deal was struck relatively easily. In exchange for the home run ball, Bagwell gave Justin an autographed bat and ball.
"Justin," Bagwell said, "nice to meet you. Thanks for getting the ball. Thank you very much."
With a dozen family members wearing Reds caps, Justin merely nodded and smiled when Bagwell offered to take a picture with him. After Bagwell went back into the clubhouse, the youngster admitted to not having a clue about Bagwell.
"That's the quote of the day," Bagwell said. "He had no idea who I was, but that's OK. I don't blame him. The most important thing is for kids to come to the ballpark and enjoy themselves."
Bagwell stole most of the fun from the Reds and their fans while giving teammate Wade Miller enough support. The Astros took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning on Bagwell's first sacrifice fly of the season.
After Morgan Ensberg led off the fourth with an infield single, Bagwell sent Danny Graves' first pitch over the wall in left field for a two-run homer.
The Reds threatened to jump on Miller in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with a one-out single by Jose Guillen and consecutive walks to Sean Casey and Boone. Miller induced a pop to second from former New Caney High School star Adam Dunn and struck out Jason LaRue to end the threat.
"For myself to get out of that jam, it was good," Miller said. "That was the game for me right there to be able to win."
Bagwell gave the Astros a 4-0 lead in the sixth with his second home run of the afternoon, his 20th of the season and the 400th of his career.
"It was great to even be here, let alone just be able to pitch in the same game and get a victory in a game that (Bagwell) gets his 400th," Miller said. "It has to be special for him, and it was great to see it."
With the help of an error, the Reds countered authoritatively in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Guillen reached on second baseman Jeff Kent's error. Casey followed with a single to center.
Boone worked the count to 3-2 before sending a three-run homer over the wall in left field. Lefthander Mike Gallo took over and defused the rally by retiring Dunn and LaRue. Ricky Stone handled the seventh, Brad Lidge worked the eighth, and Billy Wagner retired the side in the ninth for his 28th save.
Eric Bruntlett's RBI single gave the Astros a 5-3 lead in the seventh, and Kent's leadoff home run in the ninth capped the scoring. But Bagwell was the story, even if he preferred to dwell on his striking out in his last at-bat.
"Four hundred is a nice number," he said. "But I'm not (lying to) you when I'm telling you that when I play baseball, I'm the type of guy who looks at it as, `Oh, yeah, I hit my 400th home run, but I struck out on three pitches on my last at-bat.'
"This game is so hard that it's hard to get caught up with what you're doing as far as stats. When I'm done playing and I look back at my career and look at my numbers on the back of a bubble gum card, that's going to look great."
By hitting his 400th career home run Sunday, Jeff Bagwell solidified his spot as one of baseball's most consistent sluggers:
He's the 35th player in major-league history to reach the 400 mark.
He has hit at least 20 home runs in 11 consecutive seasons.
He has 201 career home runs at home and 199 on the road.
Bagwell ranks seventh in career home runs among active players:
1. Barry Bonds 644
2. Sammy Sosa 518
3. Rafael Palmeiro 511
4. Fred McGriff 488
5. Ken Griffey Jr. 481
6. Juan Gonzalez 429
7. Jeff Bagwell 400
8. Frank Thomas 398
9. Andres Galarraga 393
10. Gary Sheffield 364
Bagwell ranks 11th among players who hit all their home runs with one team.
Game data courtesy of Retrosheet
Houston Astros 6, Cincinnati Reds 3
Game Played on Sunday, July 20, 2003 (D) at Great American Ball ParkHOU N 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 1 - 6 9 1 CIN N 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 - 3 5 0BATTINGHouston Astros AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Biggio cf 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 Ensberg 3b 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 Bagwell 1b 3 2 2 4 0 1 3 1 Kent 2b 4 1 2 1 0 0 3 2 Berkman lf 3 1 1 0 1 0 2 0 Hidalgo rf 3 0 0 0 0 1 5 0 Ausmus c 4 0 1 0 0 0 12 0 Bruntlett ss 4 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 Miller p 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 Gallo p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Merced ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Stone p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Lidge p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Wagner p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Totals 32 6 9 6 1 4 27 6FIELDING - E: Kent (7).BATTING - 2B: Biggio (29,off Graves); Berkman (17,off Graves). HR: Bagwell 2 (20,4th inning off Graves 1 on 0 out,6th inning off Graves 0 on 2 out); Kent (12,9th inning off Williamson 0 on 0 out). SF: Bagwell (1,off Graves). HBP: Hidalgo (6,by Graves). Team LOB: 2.Cincinnati Reds AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Jimenez 2b 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 3 Taylor cf 4 0 0 0 0 3 4 0 Guillen rf 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 Casey 1b 2 1 2 0 2 0 10 0 Boone 3b 3 1 1 3 1 0 0 3 Dunn lf 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 Reitsma p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Branyan ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Williamson p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 LaRue c 4 0 0 0 0 2 4 0 Castro ss 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 4 Larkin ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Graves p 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 Mateo lf 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 Totals 33 3 5 3 3 12 27 12FIELDING - DP: 2. Jimenez-Castro-Casey, Jimenez-Castro-Casey.BATTING - HR: Boone (18,6th inning off Miller 2 on 1 out). Team LOB: 6.BASERUNNING - SB: Boone (13,2nd base off Miller/Ausmus).PITCHINGHouston Astros IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP Miller W(7-9) 5.1 3 3 2 3 9 1 23 Gallo 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 Stone 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 Lidge 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 4 Wagner SV(28) 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 Totals 9 5 3 2 3 12 1 36Cincinnati Reds IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP Graves L(4-10) 6.1 8 5 5 0 1 2 26 Reitsma 1.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 Williamson 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 5 Totals 9 9 6 6 1 4 3 35WP: Williamson (8). HBP: Graves (7,Hidalgo).Umpires: HP - Phil Cuzzi, 1B - Jerry Crawford, 2B - Brian O'Nora, 3B - Larry PoncinoTime of Game: 2:37 Attendance: 32062Starting Lineups: Houston Astros Cincinnati Reds 1. Biggio cf Jimenez 2b 2. Ensberg 3b Taylor cf 3. Bagwell 1b Guillen rf 4. Kent 2b Casey 1b 5. Berkman lf Boone 3b 6. Hidalgo rf Dunn lf 7. Ausmus c LaRue c 8. Bruntlett ss Castro ss 9. Miller p Graves p ASTROS 1ST: Biggio doubled to left; Ensberg grounded out (second to first) [Biggio to third]; Bagwell hit a sacrifice fly to left [Biggio scored]; Kent lined to center; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. REDS 1ST: Jimenez grounded out (first to pitcher); Taylor struck out; Guillen was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. ASTROS 2ND: Berkman flied to left; Hidalgo flied to center; Ausmus lined to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. REDS 2ND: Casey walked; Boone forced Casey (third to second); Boone stole second; Dunn was called out on strikes; LaRue grounded out (third to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. ASTROS 3RD: Bruntlett flied to center; Miller was called out on strikes; Biggio grounded out (third to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. REDS 3RD: Castro struck out; Graves struck out; Jimenez lined to left; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. ASTROS 4TH: Ensberg singled to shortstop; Bagwell homered [Ensberg scored]; Kent singled to right; Berkman grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first) [Kent out at second]; Hidalgo flied to left; 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. REDS 4TH: Taylor struck out; Guillen singled to right; Casey walked [Guillen to second]; Boone walked [Guillen to third, Casey to second]; Dunn popped to second; LaRue struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 3 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. ASTROS 5TH: Ausmus singled to right [Ausmus out at second (right to shortstop)]; Bruntlett grounded out (third to first); Miller grounded out (pitcher to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. REDS 5TH: Castro flied to right; Graves grounded out (second to first); Jimenez struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. ASTROS 6TH: Biggio lined to shortstop; Ensberg grounded out (third to first); Bagwell homered; Kent flied to right; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 0. REDS 6TH: Taylor struck out; Guillen reached on an error by Kent; Casey singled to center [Guillen to third]; Boone homered [Guillen scored (unearned), Casey scored]; GALLO REPLACED MILLER (PITCHING); Dunn popped to second; LaRue flied to right; 3 R (2 ER), 2 H, 1 E, 0 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 3. ASTROS 7TH: Berkman doubled; Hidalgo was hit by a pitch; Ausmus popped to first; Bruntlett singled to center [Berkman scored, Hidalgo to third]; MERCED BATTED FOR GALLO; REITSMA REPLACED DUNN (PITCHING); MATEO REPLACED GRAVES (PLAYING LF); Merced grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first) [Bruntlett out at second]; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Reds 3. REDS 7TH: STONE REPLACED MERCED (PITCHING); Castro flied to right; Mateo grounded out (shortstop to first); Jimenez singled to right; Taylor forced Jimenez (second to shortstop); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Reds 3. ASTROS 8TH: Biggio grounded out (shortstop to first); Ensberg flied to left; Bagwell struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Reds 3. REDS 8TH: LIDGE REPLACED STONE (PITCHING); Guillen flied to right; Casey singled to right; Boone flied to right; BRANYAN BATTED FOR REITSMA; Branyan struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Reds 3. ASTROS 9TH: WILLIAMSON REPLACED BRANYAN (PITCHING); Kent homered; Berkman walked; Williamson threw a wild pitch [Berkman to second]; Hidalgo struck out; Ausmus grounded out (shortstop to first) [Berkman to third]; Bruntlett struck out; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 6, Reds 3. REDS 9TH: WAGNER REPLACED LIDGE (PITCHING); LaRue struck out; LARKIN BATTED FOR CASTRO; Larkin flied to left; Mateo struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 6, Reds 3. Final Totals R H E LOB Astros 6 9 1 2 Reds 3 5 0 6