Bagwell hits for cycle against Cardinals

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Steven Walters

He instilled fear into pitchers with a wide crouch, a menacing goatee and power to all fields. By 2001, slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell already had established himself as one of the game’s best hitters.

And on July 18, 2001, Bagwell added to his resume again when he hit for the cycle in the Astros' 17-11 win over St. Louis.

That year, the Astros featured future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio hitting leadoff and switch hitter Lance Berkman hitting clean up. Hitting third in the lineup was Bagwell. In his first at-bat he lined a single to center field to score Biggio. Bagwell would later score on a three-run home run by Moises Alou.

The Boston, Mass., native would fly out to center in his next at-bat in the second.

The Cardinals took an 8-6 lead by scoring six runs in the top of the fifth, but it would be short-lived as the Astros came roaring back. Bagwell, facing Luther Hackman, led off the inning with a double to deep left-center field and scored on a Berkman double. The Astros batted around and Bagwell, this time facing Gene Stechschulte, launched a three-run home run in his second at-bat of the inning.

The right-handed hitting Bagwell secured the cycle by legging out a triple in the seventh inning. It was just the fifth cycle in Astros franchise history and the first since Andujar Cedeno did it on Aug. 25, 1992. It would also be the second cycle in the history of Enron Field, now known as Minute Maid Park.

“It’s cool,” Bagwell told the Associated Press about his cycle. “But it’s not something I put much stock into.

“I’ve been around too long to get too high about one game. Because I know tomorrow I can be on the other end.”

Bagwell finished the game 4-for-5 with four runs scored, five RBI and a walk. His four hits came off of four different pitchers as the Cardinals used five pitchers on the day.

“I’m jealous,” Alou told the AP about Bagwell’s performance. “I’ve never even hit for the cycle when I played softball.

“But that’s just the kind of player he is. Anything he does doesn’t surprise me.”

The 33-year-old Bagwell finished the season with a .288 average, 39 home runs, 43 doubles and 130 RBI. He finished seventh in the MVP voting as teammates Berkman (fifth), Alou (14th) and Roy Oswalt (24th) all received votes. In his career, Bagwell finished Top 3 in MVP voting three times.

Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round of the 1989 MLB Draft, Bagwell was dealt to the Astros in 1990 in exchange for relief pitcher Larry Andersen. Boston’s bullpen benefitted from Andersen’s 1.23 ERA down the stretch, but the righty left for San Diego after the season. Meanwhile, the trade for Bagwell turned out to be one of the best transactions in Astros Franchise history.

Bagwell won the 1991 Rookie of the Year Award the year following the trade and quickly established himself as a fan-favorite in Houston. In the strike-shortened season of 1994, Bagwell took home the NL MVP Award, a NL Gold Glove Award and a NL Silver Slugger Award for his work at first base.

A model of consistency over his 15-year career, the four-time All-Star led the league in games played four times and played in 155-or-more games 10 times. The University of Hartford product hit .297 and accumulated a .408 OBP for his career. He led the league in runs three times, totaled nine seasons of 30-or-more home runs and eight seasons of 100-or-more RBI. He also reached double-digit steals in 10 seasons.

“He was a really tough out,” Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox told USA Today at the time of Bagwell’s Hall of Fame induction in 2017. “He could beat you with one swing of the bat, but he was also one of the best baserunners in the game. And when he got on base, if you didn’t watch him, he’d steal second and third.”

Bagwell spent his entire big league career in Houston and retired after the 2005 season as the Astros all-time leader in home runs (449), RBI (1529) and walks (1401).

In 2017, Bagwell received the call to Cooperstown, receiving 86.2 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Steven Walters was a public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series