The ball went high into the air and the two Houston Astros icons stood next to each other in the dugout and watched it land softly in the glove of right fielder Jason Lane.

Jeff Bagwell walked slowly and gingerly out of the dugout. He is far from healthy; his body has been battered this season, his shoulder aches, or he would have been on the field with his teammates when they gathered at the pitching mound to celebrate their franchise's first World Series berth. He did not jump onto the traditional pile of players. He simply exhaled.

"I have a chance to go to the World Series toward the end of my career and I'm ecstatic," Bagwell said.

Craig Biggio jogged to the mound and shook hands but avoided the pile as well. Those demonstrations are for younger, healthier players. Biggio, 39, is not young anymore, in baseball terms. He has been in Houston for 18 years, played in 2,600 games as an Astro, 36 in the postseason, but none of them felt like this 5-1 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

"We're going to the World Series," Biggio said, almost in disbelief. "It sounds weird to say if off my lips. Finally the baseball gods shined on us."

Bagwell, 37, had surgery on his arthritic right shoulder earlier this year so that he would be able to return if the Astros made the playoffs. He did not want to miss one bit of all the postseason joy.

Prior to Game 6 Bagwell, an Astro for 15 seasons, spoke to the team and told them it was time for this series to end. They had worked too hard for their dream to end because of one ninth-inning home run, no matter how far that ball had been struck by Albert Pujols on Monday night in Houston.

"We're ready to go and beat them," Bagwell said.

Perhaps they would have won anyway without the speech. But it certainly had an effect on owner Drayton McLane, who was in the clubhouse. He intently watched both Biggio and Bagwell during that speech.

"They are the heartbeat of the Astros," McLane said.

After the game they both celebrated though it was Biggio, who had two hits on the night and batted .333 in the series, who appeared most effusive. He grabbed the NLCS trophy and posed for pictures. Both were soaked in champagne. Both paused during the celebration several times to embrace.

"They have labored long and hard and suffered so much," Astros Manager Phil Garner said. "They are the reason fans in Houston have gotten into baseball so much."

It was only natural that both stood next to each other in the dugout as the game ended. Bagwell was on the postseason roster but had one hitless at-bat. Biggio had started at second base but came out of the game in the ninth inning, replaced by defensive specialist Eric Bruntlett.

"The first thing I thought about when the ball went into the air was Craig," Bagwell said.

Biggio said he thought of Bagwell.

"I just gave him a big ol' hug," Biggio said.

"Finally the baseball gods shined on us," said Houston's Craig Biggio, 39, headed to the World Series for the first time.