SABR Bio Project
Greatest 21 Days
Baseball Hall of Fame
Born: May 27, 1968
The Houston franchise had never had a pure slugger. They had flirted with the idea before: Jim Wynn, Lee May, and Glenn Davis are examples. Besides, playing in the cavernous Astrodome, the point almost seemed moot. Houston was a small-ball club; everyone knew that. Some called it the "Chinese water torture" offense.
The 1990 August trade of middle-relief pitcher Larry Andersen to Boston for minor-league prospect Jeff Bagwell changed all that. Bagwell exploded onto the NL scene in 1991, earning Rookie of the Year honors. In 1994, he won the NL MVP award with a .368 average, 39 homers and 116 RBIs in what was basically a four-month season due to a broken hand and the baseball strike. He set career highs in homers (47 in 2000) and RBIs (135 in 1997) in later years.
Defensively, he had to move to first base from his natural third base position because Ken Caminiti was already established at the hot corner, and the recent departure of Davis created a vacancy at first. Bagwell grew into the role and became one of the best first basemen of his generation.
He and fellow stalwart Craig Biggio became the cornerstones upon which the Astros clubs of the 1990s and early 2000s would be built, forming the nucleus of the "Killer B's". Together, they set the no-nonsense, hard-nosed, style of play, yet with respect for the game, that would personify Astros baseball for that decade and beyond.
After sitting out the final year of his final contract with the Astros, owing to his chronically-arthritic right shoulder which rendered him unable to throw, Bagwell announced his retirement December 15, 2006. For his 15-year career, all in Houston, he batted .297 with 449 homers and 1529 RBIs; the latter two are franchise records.
On Sunday, August 26, 2007, the Astros retired Bagwell's #5 jersey in a pre-game ceremony.
Bagwell donned the uniform once more in 2010, serving as the team's hitting coach for the latter half of the season.