Bag­well calls Hall ex­pe­ri­ence ‘sur­real’

For­mer Xavier stand­out joins base­ball’s im­mor­tals to­day

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By David Borges

COOP­ER­STOWN, NEW YORK » It took Jeff Bag­well seven years to be voted into the Base­ball Hall of Fame, so there are cer­tainly peo­ple who ques­tioned whether he’s wor­thy.

One of those peo­ple, it seems, is Jeff Bag­well.

Dur­ing a pri­vate tour of the Hall with his wife, Rachel, on Fri­day, Bag­well no­ticed an ex­hibit ded­i­cated to Hank Aaron.

“You take a lit­tle peek at what Mr. Aaron did in his ca­reer,” Bag­well said, “then look at your num­bers, you kinda go, ‘What am I do­ing here?’”

In­deed, Bag­well, who has spent some time with cur­rent Hall of Fame mem­bers over the past cou­ple of days, is seem­ingly in awe of the com­pany he’ll soon be keep­ing.

“It’s sur­real,” he said on Sat­ur­day. “I see Ge­orge Brett, I’m like, ‘Re­ally, I’m in the same place Ge­orge is?’ I can’t com­pare my­self to Ge­orge Brett in my mind. Or Carl Yas­trzem­ski — all the guys I see here.”

And yet that’s ex­actly where Bag­well’s plaque will for­ever re­side, fol­low­ing a cer­e­mony that will also see Pudge Ro­driguez and Tim Raines, along with for­mer MLB com­mis­sioner Bud Selig and ex­ec­u­tive John Schuer­holz, in­ducted.

Jeff Bag­well, the kid from Killing­worth, Xavier High and the Univer­sity of Hart­ford, will be a base­ball im­mor­tal.

“It kinda makes me chuckle a lit­tle bit,” he said. “‘Im­mor­tal.’ I guess, if I make it to Mon­day morn­ing when they put my plaque up, it’ll be there for­ever. That’s pretty cool. It’s some­thing I never set out to do. It’s just kinda weird, man. I don’t know how to say it any dif­fer­ent.

It’s a crazy feel­ing.”

With 449 ca­reer homers, 202 stolen bases, an MVP and a Rookie of the Year award on the man­tel­piece, Bag­well is cer­tainly a wor­thy in­ductee. He’s one of only 11 play­ers in MLB his­tory with at least 440 homers and 200 steals. He’s one of just 50 of the Hall’s 220 for­mer play­ers to play his en­tire ca­reer with one team.

For all of his 15 bigleague sea­sons with Hous­ton, Bag­well’s team­mate was Craig Big­gio, who was in­ducted two years ear­lier. Among Hall of Famers, Bag­well and Big­gio are only the fourth pair of team­mates to play at least 15 years to­gether. The oth­ers: Roberto Cle­mente and Bill Maze­roski (17 sea­sons, Pi­rates), Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott (16 sea­sons, Giants) and Whitey Ford and Mickey Man­tle (15 sea­sons, Yan­kees).

As with Big­gio’s 2015 in­duc­tion, the streets of Coop­er­stown were lined with orange on Sat­ur­day as Astros fans made the long trip to Coop­er­stown in droves.

“I think this is a cul­mi­na­tion of our era,” Bag­well said. “For Craig and I to be in the Hall of Fame to­gether, it means a lot to the city. It means a lot to Craig and I, as well. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of the fans of Hous­ton, the love they’ve shown me and my fam­ily. This is a neat thing. Hope­fully, it brings them some joy. It brings me a ton.”

Bag­well was born in Bos­ton, but his fam­ily moved to Killing­worth when Jeff was 1 ½ af­ter his fa­ther, Robert, took a job with IBM. Robert Bag­well in­stilled in Jeff a love for the Red Sox; Jeff’s fa­vorite player grow­ing up was Yas­trzem­ski.

His par­ents, wife, daugh­ters, brothers and other fam­ily mem­bers will all be at Sun­day’s cer­e­mony. So will many of his for­mer team­mates from Xavier.

“That’s when I was a bet­ter soc­cer player than a base­ball player,” he re­called. “I’m so happy they’re gonna be here. Xavier High School is such a big part of my life. Our soc­cer team was a great team, we had a lot of fun, had some great play­ers. That’s the fun thing. Th­ese peo­ple have been in my life for a long, long time, and they’re still here, so it means a lot.”

A bus trip from the Univer­sity of Hart­ford cam­pus will bring many other old friends and team­mates from col­lege. Bag­well, who noted he doesn’t en­joy talk­ing about him­self, said he’s not too ner­vous about his speech.

“I can talk about base­ball and I can talk about my friends,” he said. “I speak from my heart about that.”

And when it’s all done, Bag­well will add “HOF” af­ter his name every time he signs an au­to­graph. He’ll be a Hall of Famer. An im­mor­tal, if you will.

“It’s kinda weird. I’ve done some things in my ca­reer to get some awards, but there is no higher award in­di­vid­u­ally that you can get than this. That’s the kind of thing that takes me back a lit­tle bit.”

His plaque will be just a few over from Big­gio’s, and just around the cor­ner from the 1936 “First Class” of Ty Cobb, Honus Wag­ner, Christy Mathew­son and Babe Ruth.

Bag­well just shakes his head in amaze­ment once again.

“It’s a great club to be in.”


Jeff Bag­well talks to the me­dia gag­gle dur­ing his press con­fer­ence in the Clark Sports Cen­ter Sat­ur­day in Coop­er­stown, New York.

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