COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Jeff Bagwell has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The former University of Hartford player took the dais to an extended applause from the hundreds of Astros fans who made the trip.
“You know I don’t like attention,” Bagwell said with a tinge of nervousness. “I’m so humbled to be here. I’m just really trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Bagwell, who grew up in Killingworth, started his speech by thanking his family, singling out his parents and wife.
“Mom, you are just the most amazing person in the world,” he said. “You’ve been a pillar for me. I can’t tell you how much I love you and what you mean to me. My father, Bob. There’s something about a dad. You brought me to love this game of baseball. Something my father instilled in me was to never quit. Deep inside, I just never gave up. That drive got me a long way.”
The 48-year-old Bagwell, who played his entire 15-year career with the Houston Astros, was elected in January in his seventh year on the ballot. He’s the only first baseman in history with 400 career home runs and 200 stolen bases.
“I tried to do everything well,” he said. “I wanted to score for my team and for my other players. I enjoy the stolen bases more than anything else. For a little guy with not much speed, I truly appreciate that. I could help us win in different ways.”
Bagwell ended his career with 449 home runs, was 1991 NL Rookie of the Year and in the strike-shortened 1994 season hit .368 with 39 homers and 116 RBIs in just 110 games to unanimously capture MVP honors.
From 1996-2001, Bagwell had at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs per season, only the sixth player in major league history to reach those marks in at least six straight years.
On Saturday, former Hartford Courant sportswriter Claire Smith’s baseball career came full circle on Saturday at Doubleday Field when she accepted the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
“Like a pebble in a pond, the honor … sent out the most beautiful ripples, which are now washing up on the shores of Lake Otsego,” Smith said. “And they magically carried my family and me to the most memorable moment of my career.”
Rachel Robinson, the widow of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, was honored with the John J. “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I’m honored to receive the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award,” Robinson said. “Buck O’Neil was a staunch champion of baseball and worked to promote inclusiveness within the sport, so I’m truly gratified to be associated with your recognition of Buck in this way.”
The late Bill King was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. It was accepted by his stepdaughter, Kathleen Lowenthal.