Bag­well in­ducted into Hall of Fame

For­mer Xavier star thanks fam­ily, coaches in in­duc­tion speech for help along the way

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By David Borges dborges@nhreg­is­ter.com @DaveBorges on Twit­ter

COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK » Rich Mag­ner watched with pride, and a lit­tle amaze­ment, from a few hun­dred yards away on Sun­day as Jeff Bag­well — the kid he used to coach, used to teach, may have even helped learn to drive — took his place among base­ball’s im­mor­tals.

“He’s a kid we had in class,” Mag­ner, the for­mer Xavier High base­ball coach, said while hold­ing his hands about chest-high to il­lus­trate Bag­well’s short stature at the time. “(Now), he’s Joe DiMag­gio, he’s Babe Ruth, he’s Cal Rip­ken, he’s Sandy Ko­ufax. That’s mind-bog­gling.”

That’s the com­pany Bag­well now keeps, af­ter be­ing in­ducted into the Base­ball Hall of Fame in a cer­e­mony along with Ivan “Pudge” Ro­driguez, Tim Raines, Bud Selig and John Schuer­holz. He’s the first Con­necti­cut prod­uct of the mod­ern era to be so hon­ored.

“You all from Hous­ton, you know I don’t like all this at­ten­tion,” Bag­well said at the start of a 23-minute speech that, in typ­i­cal fash­ion, was more about the peo­ple who helped shape his life and ca­reer than it was about him­self. “I’m hum­bled and grate­ful.”

Bag­well mixed in some hu­mor­ous anec­dotes in his usual even-keeled style. Per­haps the most poignant mo­ment came when he ad­dressed his par­ents, Bob and Jan­ice — both of whom were in at­ten­dance.

“You brought me to love this game of base­ball,” he said to his fa­ther, who is 89. “I know that this means a lot to you. We’re in this to­gether, my friend.”

Bag­well thanked his coaches from Xavier and Middletown Amer­i­can Le­gion, as well as the Uni­ver­sity of Hartford. He ref­er­enced how sur­prised he was about get­ting drafted by his fa­vorite team, the Red Sox (“I never thought about a draft,” he noted, “we’re not at war”), and his sub­se­quent trade to Hous­ton a year later for re­liever Larry An­der­sen.

“Larry used to al­ways get on me when I went to Philadel­phia,” Bag­well re­called. “He used to say, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to step it up. Peo­ple aren’t talk­ing about me any­more.’”

“I did the best I can,” Bag­well said, be­fore jok­ingly adding, “I’m here, Larry. Is that good enough for you?”

Bag­well spent all of his 15-year ma­jor-league ca­reer with Hous­ton. Born in Bos­ton, raised in Killing­worth, Bag­well has been a fix­ture in Hous­ton since his rookie sea­son in 1991 and had an in­deli­ble im­pact on the com­mu­nity. That was ev­i­denced by the large swaths of Astro or­ange vis­i­ble in the crowd on Sun­day, and through­out Cooperstown all week­end — far sur­pass­ing the sup­port for Ro­driguez and Raines.

“You would have had to be there for his ten­ure to ap­pre­ci­ate Bag­well, not just as a player but as a guy,” said Ge­orge Ro­mano, a life­long Hous­ton res­i­dent, who made the trip with his son, Jason, and grand­son, Nick. “He was re­ally in­volved in the com­mu­nity.”

Ro­mano, 71, said he’s a Bag­well fan be­cause of the way he car­ried him­self, on and off the field.

“He hunted down in south Texas with some peo­ple I know very well,” said Ro­mano. “I un­der­stand, he was as good a team­mate on the field as he was a hunt­ing part­ner.”

Henry Saur grew up an Astros fan in sub­ur­ban Beau­mont, Texas be­fore mov­ing to St. Louis three years ago. He made the trip this week­end with his daugh­ter, Carly.

“He’s been a guy who’s char­ac­ter­ized hard work, ef­fort, do­ing the right things, loy­alty, stayed with the city the whole time, still very ac­tive with the club,” said Saur. “We’ve fol­lowed him for a long time, from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park and still to­day.”

Saur said he made the trip for Craig Big­gio’s in­duc­tion two years ago as well. Af­ter that cer­e­mony, he saw Bag­well in a nearby restau­rant eat­ing din­ner.

“We’ll be back for yours,” Saur told Bag­well.

“I don’t think I’ll get in,” Bag­well replied.

“You’ll get in,” Saur promised, “and we’ll be here.”

Mag­ner knows Bag­well doesn’t en­joy the spot­light, but was im­pressed by the speech.

“I thought it was from the heart,” said Mag­ner, who was an as­sis­tant base­ball coach when Bag­well was at Xavier but also coached him in bas­ket­ball as a se­nior. “It was pretty nice. He spoke from his heart and he had good things to say. He talked about fam­ily be­ing a mean­ing­ful tool. His mes­sage to kids was ‘work hard.’ I thought it was good. He was a lot more com­fort­able than I thought he might be.”

At the end of his speech, Bag­well ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to Astros fans, in­ter­twin­ing it with a story about his fa­ther. Bag­well noted that his dad would get home from work at 6 p,m. and go out­side to play catch with Jeff. At 7 p.m., they’d turn on the TV to watch their beloved Red Sox to­gether.

“If you en­joyed me play­ing and it brought fam­i­lies to­gether,” he said to the thou­sands of Astros fans in at­ten­dance on Sun­day, “then I did my job.”

HANS PENNINK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jeff Bag­well de­liv­ers his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion speech in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sun­day.

HANS PENNINK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jeff Bag­well, right, stands with newly-in­ducted Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Famers, from left, Bud Selig, Ivan Ro­driguez, John Schuer and Tim Raines in Cooperstown.

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