It took 15 seasons in a Houston Astros uniform for Jeff Bagwell to reach the World Series. After much debate, he was in the starting lineup for Saturday night's Game 1.
Manager Phil Garner kept everybody waiting before finally revealing that Bagwell would hit sixth as the designated hitter, which is used in the American League park during the Series.
"This is what I worked hard to get to; I'm looking forward to it," said Bagwell, who met with Garner for several minutes prior to the game. "This cannot be a charity case or a sentimental pick."
Astros General Manager Tim Purpura said that starting Bagwell was not an act of charity.
"If he didn't think he could play," Purpura said, "he wouldn't want to be in the lineup."
This year had been particularly difficult for Bagwell, who had arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right shoulder in May and was expected to miss the rest of the season.
"I think there was probably some conversation about maybe to just take the rest of the year off and rehab his shoulder and get it strong over the winter and coming back and making his best efforts aimed at the beginning of the season next year," Garner said.
But Bagwell worked quickly through his rehabilitation and was able to return to the team on a limited basis in September. He had three hits in 10 at-bats but was still put on the Astros' roster for the Division Series and the National League Championship Series.
"We think he's been a big lift and it's really exciting to be able to put him in the lineup as the DH," Garner said.
In the playoffs, Bagwell has one hit in just three at-bats. Bagwell said he isn't sure where his timing at the plate might be but doesn't think that multiple at-bats will take a toll on the shoulder.
"I can't foresee that happening," Bagwell said. "Adrenaline is going to take over anyway."
Houston owner Drayton McLane said he was thrilled that Bagwell could be in the lineup.
"This is a culmination," McLane said. "He's been the heartbeat of the Astros for the 13 years I've owned the team."
McLane said he has continued to receive support from the Bush family, including President Bush, who sent the Astros owner a congratulatory e-mail after the Astros' victory over St. Louis in Game 6 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
"Having lived in Houston and having gone to a lot of games, he's been a fan of the Astros," McLane said.
McLane's relationship with the president goes back several years. McLane lovingly calls former president George H. Bush "41" -- he was the 41st president -- and refers to President Bush as "43."
"He encouraged me to buy the Astros and to get involved," McLane said of President Bush.
McLane said he expects "41" to attend Series games in Houston -- Games 3 and 4, and Game 5, if necessary -- but said while "43" would like to attend, he likely won't be able to.
Reinsdorf's New Look
As owner of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf -- with a little help from a guy named Michael Jordan -- brought his city six memorable championships. But as owner of the Chicago White Sox, Reinsdorf has been known primarily as one of the "hawks" whose hard-line stance helped bring about the 1994 players' strike.
Now, with the White Sox earning their first World Series appearance in 46 years, Reinsdorf may have finally won over fans -- and media members -- who perpetually accused him of focusing on the Bulls at the White Sox' expense.
"Maybe it's changed [the perception in] the media. The people who were writing bad things about me are writing good things now," Reinsdorf said. "But as far as the fans, I've always had a good relationship with them."
For Guillen, Bunting Is a Hit
Despite a growing body of evidence, eagerly supplied by baseball's sabermetrics crowd, that the sacrifice bunt in most instances is a low-percentage play, White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen remains one of its most fervent advocates. The White Sox led all American League teams with 53 sacrifice bunts this season, and successfully executed six sacrifices in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Guillen's explanation for his reliance on the bunt is simple: "The only reason why I played 16 years in baseball [was] because I could bunt."
Like many in baseball's old- school, pro-bunt crowd, Guillen deplores the bunting ability of today's major leaguers.
"In the '90s, when we started making a lot of money, we forgot how to play baseball the right way," Guillen said. "I don't know -- maybe it's the agents [who] told the kids [if] you don't get RBIs or home runs you're not going to make any money."