Biggio and Bagwell's long wait ends
Longtime Astros relieved to reach World Series for first time
ST. LOUIS -- One showed up to Spring Training in 1988, a cocky blond-haired, blue-eyed kid with a hellacious sunburn, having driven all the way from New Jersey to Florida in a convertible, with the top down and wearing no sunblock.
The other, a soft-spoken kid from small-town Connecticut, came along three years later, shell-shocked after being dealt from his beloved Red Sox to this crazy Texas town he'd never been to, sure he was going to see horse-drawn carriages and cowboy boots from the airport all the way to that massive Astrodome.
Who could have known, more than a decade and a half ago, that Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell would soon hop into the history books as the two greatest baseball players the city of Houston has ever known?
Biggio and Bagwell, Bagwell and Biggio. Rarely is one mentioned without the other. They've played side by side from 1991 until now, and for different reasons, they were both in the Astros' dugout when the final out was made that clinched the franchise's first National League pennant on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
Biggio, replaced by defensive whiz Eric Bruntlett in the bottom of the ninth, stood next to Bagwell, whose repaired -- yet still gimpy -- right shoulder forced him into an exclusive role as a pinch-hitter this postseason.
When Jason Lane caught Yadier Molina's fly ball for the last out, Bagwell and Biggio turned to each other, hugged, and said, "Finally."
"When that last out was made, I thought about Craig and I, the organization and the city," Bagwell said. "All the things we've been through. Good and bad. Now we have an opportunity. I'm especially happy for Bidge. He has an opportunity now to play for the ultimate goal -- to play for the World Series."
Said Biggio: "He and I, we've been through a lot here. We've dedicated our careers and everything to the city and the organization, with the hopes of having the opportunity to go to the World Series. Nothing needed to be said, except for a big old bear hug."
Between the two, Biggio and Bagwell own nearly every offensive category in club history. They helped the team win three consecutive division titles from 1997-99, and were part of the record-setting club of 1998 that won 102 regular season games.
But despite playing in four postseasons from 1997-2001, the duo never advanced past the Division Series. Last year, the Astros made it to the seventh game of the NLCS before losing to the Cardinals. Again, they fell short of the ultimate prize.
Bagwell admitted that after the '01 season, when they were swept by the Braves in the Division Series, he started to wonder if his playing in a World Series just wasn't meant to be.
"When you win like we did in '97, '98, '99, you kind of get used to having a chance to win," he said. "But a lot of things change. A lot of circumstances arise and you don't have that opportunity.
"My career is coming to an end. I don't know if we're going to get back. I certainly didn't feel in the beginning of this year that this was going to be the year. It's amazing what a whole bunch of pitching and a whole bunch of guys who believe in each other will do for you."
Biggio, an 18-year veteran, has played in more games -- 2,564, not including postseason -- than any other Astro in history. A firm believer in those "baseball gods," Biggio asked more than once over the years, 'Please, let me play in a World Series, just once.'
"I'm not greedy, I'm not selfish. I just want to go one time. For the city of Houston, the organization, my family.
"My kids were devastated the other night [after the Game 5 loss]. They felt the pain. I told them we're going to come here and get it done. We did."
As teammates celebrated after the Game 6 win, select players mentioned that Bagwell and Biggio were in the forefront of their minds when that final out was made.
"I was 23 when I went to my first World Series, so I can't even imagine what it's like for Baggy and Bidge to finally get to go to one," said Andy Pettitte, who won four rings during his nine-year Yankees tenure. "I'm just thrilled for them and the city of Houston."
"They set the tone for the organization," manager Phil Garner said. "[Roger Clemens is] bigger than life. Pettitte's right behind him. Roy [Oswalt] is becoming that way. But it's those guys, Bagwell and Biggio. This is their clubhouse."
"I can't say enough about it," Lance Berkman said. "I can tell you that it means more to me that they get to go than it does myself."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.