HOUSTON -- The crowning achievement in Roy Oswalt's terrific career with the Astros came in Game 6 of the 2005 National League Championship Series, when he pitched Houston past the Cardinals in St. Louis and into the World Series for the first time.
Oswalt and the Astros were on top of the baseball world, and the soft-spoken right-hander from Weir, Miss., was named the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS, earning him a tractor promised to him by then-owner Drayton McLane.
Only a couple of weeks after Lance Berkman announced his retirement, Oswalt followed his longtime teammate into the sunset Tuesday by saying he was hanging up his spikes. He played 10 of his 13 seasons with the Astros, going 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA.
"Last year I had a down year, as far as I got hurt six games into it and sat there for two months and didn't really get to do what I wanted to do," he said. "I decided this offseason that it's time to try to start something else. My girls are growing up, and I'm trying to be around home a little more."
Oswalt, 36, and Berkman both plan to sign one-day contracts and retire with the Astros. Owner Jim Crane said Monday the team had chose a date to honor one of the best pitchers and best hitters in franchise history, but no date has been released.
"Lance and I were teammates for 10 years in Houston," Oswalt said. "He's a tremendous guy, and getting to retire with Lance, a good quality guy and the type of person he is, just adds that much more. We talked about it one time a couple of years back, about signing one-day contracts and trying to retire with the Astros. We made a lot of friends and had a lot of memories together."
Oswalt was drafted by the Astros in the 23rd round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft and made an unlikely rise through the system. He made his Major League debut in 2001, going 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 28 games (20 starts). That began an eight-year run where he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
A three-time All-Star, Oswalt won 20 games in back-to-back seasons, helping the Astros reach the NLCS in '04 and World Series in '05. He finished third in the Cy Young voting in '04 and fourth in '05 and '06.
His 143 wins with the Astros are second in franchise history behind Joe Niekro's 144.
With the Astros floundering in '10, Oswalt requested a trade and was dealt to the Phillies at the Trade Deadline. He won nine games for the Phillies in '11 and four for the Rangers in '12 before going 0-6 with an 8.63 ERA in nine games with the Rockies a year ago.
"When I first got to the big leagues, my goal was to play 10 years and win 100 games at least," he said. "I got to do that and then some. It's one of the greatest things ever to experience is Major League Baseball. As a kid growing up, there's a lot of kids that want to play in the big leagues and only a few of us get the chance to do it.
"I was blessed and fortunate enough to catch some breaks here and there, and when guys went down, I got to move up a little faster than other guys. Being able to perform with the athletes they have in the big leagues is tremendous. The proudest thing about the whole experience is I did it with natural talent, and that sits with me really well."
His crowning achievement came on Oct. 19, 2005, when he started and held the Cardinals to three hits and one run in seven innings to clinch the NL pennant in the final game at the old Busch Stadium. The win lifted the Astros, who only two days earlier were stunned by a ninth-inning, game-winning homer by Albert Pujols in Houston, into the World Series for the first time.
"I think pitching in the playoffs to get us into the World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis kind of made the whole career there," Oswalt said. "To get a team to the World Series that had never been, for a city that really supported us. When I came up, we were drawing 40,000 people almost every night in Houston and letting them experience a World Series was great. We came up short, but getting there for the first time was one of my greatest moments in baseball."
As for what's next for Oswalt, he plans to assist his agent, Bob Garber. He also recently got his pilot's license.
"I'm going to try to go farther than that and try to fly jets and stuff," Oswalt said. "I'm helping my agent out some. We're signing kids out of college, so that ought to be good. Since I've been through the Minor Leagues and the big leagues and stuff, I can tell them what to expect coming through."