Jeff Bagwell was one of three players voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, joining Tim Raines and Pudge Rodriguez in Cooperstown’s class of 2017. That news gave ESPN’s Darren Rovell an opportunity to share an amusing story about an unexpected connection between the two.
Bagwell, then a rookie for the Houston Astros, was a guest at Rovell’s bar mitzvah on June 15, 1991. As Rovell explained in a story for ESPN.com, he wanted a baseball player at his bar mitzvah, preferably a member of his favorite team, the New York Mets. Rovell’s father had the budget for a minor leaguer (and Rovell had a surprising knowledge of prospects for a kid in 1991, thanks to Baseball America), but getting a player there in the middle of the season on short notice was highly unlikely.
Yet it occurred to Rovell’s father that getting a young player from the Astros, who were in town to play the Mets, might accomplish his objective. But the original request for Craig Biggio couldn’t be accommodated and that led the Astros’ PR department to suggest a fledgling young star who just joined the team.
Here is Rovell telling the story to ESPN’s David Lloyd on SportsCenter:
“My bar mitzvah was 13 miles away from Shea Stadium,” Rovell explained, “got the car services going, was there for an hour and a half during the cocktail hour, had a mini hot dog, had a soda and signed some autographs. Kids were a little disappointed at the time. They were expecting Dwight Gooden or Gary Carter. I was a Mets fan.”
Hopefully, everyone in attendance held onto that autograph. It’s an especially prized collectible now. Depending on the item that was signed, maybe it’s worth more than the $500 Bagwell was paid for appearing at Rovell’s bar mitzvah.
Here's the 1st Hall of Fame inscription ball Jeff Bagwell has signed. Bagwell is an exclusive of Tristar, who is selling these for $159 pic.twitter.com/MXIP21OTrY
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 18, 2017
As it turns out, one of the best players in baseball history ended up coming to the celebration. Could anyone have guessed that at the time? No one knew who Bagwell was back then, though Mets manager Bud Harrelson — who was a neighbor’s friend and also in attendance — informed everyone in attendance that they were in the room with future baseball greatness.
People love to make fun of Rovell, especially on Twitter. But this is a fun, endearing story of an amazing coincidence that he shared with readers and viewers. Sharing the photos makes the recollection even more entertaining. Maybe ESPN can arrange a reunion, perhaps around the time of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The real hero of this story is Rovell’s father, who worked hard to grant his son’s wish of having a baseball player at his bar mitzvah. He was the one doing the legwork to get a Mets minor leaguer and adjusted on the fly to get an Astros player instead. He met Bagwell at the team hotel beforehand to pay him, and even bought him a blazer to wear, in addition to getting some bats, balls and a jersey signed in advance, all of which are surely even more prized possessions now.
UPDATE: Rovell does indeed still have all the stuff Bagwell signed at the bar mitzvah.
26 1/2 years have gone by but I kept the roughly 50 items Jeff Bagwell signed for me at my bar mitzvah pic.twitter.com/51HGVbI1Pa
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 19, 2017