The Big Puma was drafted 16th overall by the Astros in 1997 out of Rice University. During his first season on the Astros (1999), Berkman was forced to switch from his long-time first base spot to the outfield. Bagwell was still playing first and Berkman needed to adapt if he wanted to play. The young slugger really broke on the scene in 2001 when he hit .331 and drove in 126 runs. That season, he also hit 34 home runs and led the league in doubles with 55. He made the All-Star team in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 and was in the MVP discussion numerous times throughout his career. Berkman’s best season was in 2006 when he hit .315 with 45 home runs and had 136 RBIs, breaking the Astros single season record. He played two years with St. Louis and spent one season with both the Yankees and Rangers before retiring in 2013.
I will never forget the year he had in 2005 when he fueled the Astros offense to the World Series. I was at NLDS Game 4 when the Astros were down 6-1 to the Braves in the 8th inning and Berkman hit a grand slam. That game was the infamous 18-inning affair that ended on a Chris Burke home run. All that could have never happened without Berkman. In the World Series that year, Lance hit .385 with two doubles and 6 RBI’s. He is in the Top-10 in almost every Astros’ category and in the Top-5 in many (only Bagwell and Biggio rank higher than Berkman in almost every offensive categories.) I will always remember Berkman as one of the greatest switch-hitters of all-time and an Astros legend. In 12 seasons with the franchise, he hit .296/.410/.549 with 326 home runs, 1090 RBIs, 1648 hits, 1049 walks, 1121 strikeouts, and 375 doubles. Berkman is my pick as the next players to get his jersey retired.