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Lance Berkman: Baseball Career

Updated on November 23, 2014
Lance Berkman, Baseball Player
Lance Berkman, Baseball Player | Source

Lance Berkman: Resurgence of a 'Killer B'

Lance Berkman, once a part of the very productive Houston Astros lineup known as "The Killer Bees", spent the 2011 baseball season buzzing around the outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals. And Cardinals fans were mighty glad to have him. When Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, the 2012 baseball season opened with Berkman playing the position he perfected with Houston - that of First Basemen!

On January 7, 2013, Berkman, a Texan through-and-through, signed a one year deal with the Texas Rangers. Lance was quoted as saying that playing for a Texas team was a "natural fit" and that he looked forward to "looking down and seeing TEXAS displayed on his jersey".

UPDATE: After a 2013 season fraught with injuries, Lance Berkman has decided to retire from baseball. We will dearly miss him as a player, but look forward to his continuing contribution to baseball in the future. (See update at bottom of page)

Berkman 2010 to 2012

Berkman's 2010 season was split between Houston and the New York Yankees, and his stats were way below average. He'd been plagued by injuries throughout the season, and naysayers were remarking that, at 35, Berkman's baseball career was no doubt over.

But, In the offseason, Berkman got himself in shape and it paid off in a big way. The St. Louis Cardinals signed him to a one-year deal, and the veteran played right field for St. Louis and was among the league leaders in batting average, as well as home runs and runs batted in (RBIs). In fact, on July 5, 2011 Berkman hit his 350th career home run, the farthest home run ever hit in the new Busch Stadium. Berkman had a comeback year with the Cardinals and St. Louis signed him to another one year contract! Us Lance Berkman fans looked forward to having our favorite "Killer Bee" back in the First Base Position! But, after experiencing an injury-riddled season, Berkman left the Cardinals to return to Texas and the 2013 baseball season found him in the Designated Hitter (DH) position for the American League Texas Rangers.

Lance Berkman as a Houston Astro
Lance Berkman as a Houston Astro | Source

Berkman's Baseball Beginning . . .

Through High School, College, and the MLB Draft

A Texas boy born February 10, 1976, Berkman attended (and played baseball for) Rice University in Houston, where he was named National College Player of the Year in 1997. Throughout college, he batted a collective .385 with 67 home runs and 272 RBI's (Runs Batted In). His 41 home runs in 1997 ranked third-most in NCAA history.

Drafted by the Astros in the 1st round in 1997, Lance Berkman spent just two-and-one-half years in the Astro's minor league system before his major league debut on July 16, 1999. During that short time, Berkman hit 44 home runs and had 173 RBIs, with an overall batting average of .307.

Lance Berkman as a Houston Astro
Lance Berkman as a Houston Astro | Source

Berkman as a Houston Astro

Part of the Astros' "Killer B" Lineup

Lance Berkman's entire baseball playing in high school, college, and minor league was as a first baseman, but with Jeff Bagwell the Astro's solid First Baseman when Berkman arrived, Lance began his major league playing in the outfield as a way to get him into the starting lineup.

When first baseman, Jeff Bagwell, was injured in 2005, Lance began playing the first base position. He ended the 2005 season with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. In Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Berkman hit a grand slam in the 8th inning, a feat he describes as his most exciting baseball moment. The Astros went on to the World Series, where they were 'swept' in 4 games by the Chicago White Sox. But, Berkman's six RBIs during that series were the most of any of the Astros' hitters.

Berkman is a switch hitter, and by September, 2006 he became only the second switch hitter in Major League history to hit 40 or more homers in multiple seasons (Mickey Mantel was the first). He taught himself to 'switch-hit' by swinging from both sides of the plate against a tire hanging from a tree in his backyard.

In 2006, Berkman hit 45 home runs and had 136 RBIs, breaking the Astros single season record, (135 set by Jeff Bagwell in 1997).

Houston Astros Logo
Houston Astros Logo | Source

More Berkman/Houston Astro Highlights ...

During his Ten Years with the Same Team

Lance Berkman had some impressive records established while a member of the Houston Astros.

* He was a 5x All-Star.

* Hit his 300th career home run on June 13, 2009.

* Astros 'Player of the Week' twice.

* ASTROS MOST VALUABLE PLAYER 6x between 2001 and 2008.

* Participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby 4x while with Houston.

* Was 'First' in the National League in RBIs in 2002.

A Houston Astro Memory - Lance Berkman Houston Astro Art Print Poster

A 22" x 34" art print of Lance Berkman batting for the Houston Astros. Terrific memory addition for Astros fans collectors.

Houston Astros 'Killer Bees' as portrayed by fans.
Houston Astros 'Killer Bees' as portrayed by fans. | Source

The Houston Astros "Killer Bees" . . .

Fans really got into the 'mood'!

The Killer Bs were a group of Houston players who all had names starting with the letter "B" and outstanding playing performances. The original Killer Bs were nicknamed in the '90s, and consisted of Craig Biggio, Derek Bell, Jeff Bagwell, and Sean Berry. Other players have been added and some have been dropped as they have left the Astros. Other players of mention are Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Chris Burke, Brandon Backe, Eric Bruntlett, Michael Bourn, and Geoff Blum.

The truth is former Houston general manager Gerry Hunsicker coined the phrase Killer B's in December 1994 when he acquired Derek Bell. Bell was key to the deal for the Astros. The outfielder would hit second behind leadoff man Biggio and ahead of Jeff Bagwell.

The killer bee scare was in the news in those days. Hunsicker, at the press conference to announce the deal, said Bell would "give the Astros a Killer B lineup," and he was proven right.

*Read more about the "Killer B's" at: Wiki Answers

Lance Berkman as a New York Yankee
Lance Berkman as a New York Yankee | Source

Berkman Becomes a New York Yankee

For the Second Half of the 2010 Season

Lance Berkman began the 2010 baseball season, with the Astros, on the 15-day disabled list, recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee performed in March. He virtually missed Spring Training altogether. After a couple rehab appearances, he returned to Houston.

Berkman had a few playing highlights, such as collecting five RBIs in the Astros June 1st. win vs. the Washington Nationals, providing the walk-off two-run single in the bottom of the ninth, and homered and tripled in the 4th of July loss at San Diego. That home run was to be his only one of the entire 2010 season. Whether due to injuries or age, the 'Berkman of the Killer B's' era was sadly lacking.

Berkman was acquired by the Yankees on 7/31 and continued to be plagued by injuries (15-day disabled list in August for a sprained right ankle). He batted .299 (20-for-67) in 25 games following his return from the D.L., hitting safely in 11 of his 17 starts over the remainder of the season. In the Postseason, he played in just one game of the Division Series where he was 2-4 with a double and HR in Game 2, as the DH, in a 5-2 NY win over MIN.

At the end of the 2010 season, New York declined to exercise their option for Berkman for 2011. At the time, it had appeared as though the Yankees made the smart choice. Berkman was a 34 year old player who had just had the worst season of his career. Paying $15 million for an out-of-shape role player didn't appear to be a good choice.

Lance Berkman as a St. Louis Cardinal
Lance Berkman as a St. Louis Cardinal | Source

Lance Berkman has Gone from a 'Bee' to a 'Bird'

The St. Louis 'REDBIRDS' welcome Berkman!

When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Berkman to a one-year deal for the 2011 baseball season, I don't think anyone foresaw the resurgence of his playing ability he would show from Opening Day onward. Berkman had 8 home runs and 22 RBI's in April alone. And that was just the beginning! During his short tenure thus far as a 'Redbird'. Berkman's stats have included "Player of the Week" twice, 2011 All-Star (6th time in his career), and, as of the end of July, 2011, a batting average near .300, with 88 hits, 28 home runs, and 73 RBIs.

The 'talk' around baseball at the beginning of the season of Berkman being 'too old' [at 35] or 'all washed up' in baseball is being silenced by a consummate baseball player who believes in who he is and what he does on the ball field.

Lance Berkman Batting for the St. Louis Cardinals
Lance Berkman Batting for the St. Louis Cardinals | Source

Update to Lance Berkman's 2011 St. Louis Cardinals Season...

Last Two Months of the Season

August Stats

In the month of August, Berkman had 25 hits, including 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 more home runs, with 9 runs batted in (RBIs). This brings his 2011 season totals to 30 home runs and 84 RBIs. Way to go, Berkman!

September Stats

In September, 2011, Lance Berkman had 34 hits, including 5 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run, with 13 runs batted in (RBIs).

Lance Berkman's season totals for his first year as a Cardinal Right Fielder is: 147 Hits, 23 doubles, 2 triples, 31 home runs and 94 RBIs. Not bad for a player some said was at the tail end of his baseball career. Berkman has had a fantastic 'comeback' year!

ALERT!

On 9/22/2011 Lance Berkman & the St. Louis Cardinals agreed on a one-year extension to his contract.

Berkman is Coming Back to the Redbirds for the 2012 Baseball Season!

Puma Cat Poster
Puma Cat Poster | Source

Berkman's Baseball 'Nickname'

Early in his baseball career, Berkman was given the nickname 'Fat Elvis' by a fan. During a radio interview with a local Houston sports station, Lance joked "I'm more like a puma so I'm not sure why people call me Fat Elvis He also stated that the nickname Puma is simply logical. "Agile, athletic, sleek ... all the things that describe my game." So Berkman became known throughout the baseball world as "The Big Puma".

A Collage of Cardinals (with Berkman) in 2011.
A Collage of Cardinals (with Berkman) in 2011. | Source

Lance Berkman's 2011 Post-Season Stats!

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for winning the 2011 World Series! Lance Berkman played a pivotal role in the Cardinals' post-season play, having 20 hits (11 of them in the World Series), 11 RBIs (runs batted in) and 2 Home Runs! Berkman and the 'Redbirds' combined to show us baseball-at-its-best!

Lance Berkman Finished 7th in the Balloting

For the National League MVP for 2011

Perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals fans would rather have a World Series championship than a player be named MVP, but they came close to having both!

This year the Cardinals had two players in the top 10 in the MVP voting. First baseman Albert Pujols finished 5th and outfielder Lance Berkman finished 7th in the balloting.

Berkman Highlights

Lance Berkman was been named the National League

'Comeback Player of the Year'

for the 2011 Baseball Season!

The Texas Rangers New Designated Hitter (DH) for the 2013 Season

Berkman has signed a one-year contract to play for the Texas Rangers as their Designated Hitter.

Lance Berkman Retires!

After 15 years as a player, Lance Berkman (38) has announced his retirement from baseball. He retires as a Houston Astro (where he played for 12 seasons) and was honored in Houston on April 5, 2014 in an Astros' pre-game ceremony, along with retiring pitcher Roy Oswalt.

Thanks for 15 fabulous years of entertaining us with your baseball feats, Lance, and we wish you well in your future endeavors. You will be missed!

Lance Berkman begins a new career!

After having one of the best seasons in college baseball history with 41 home runs and 134 RBIs in 1997, leading Rice University of Houston to their first College World Series appearance, Berkman returns to Rice – this time in the dugout. He is currently a 'student assistant' for his former baseball coach, Wayne Graham while he attends classes to complete his degree. Berkman has long had a dream to coach for his favorite school when he retired. A perfect way to 'stay' in Baseball.

Back to School

As a retired baseball All-Star, Lance Berkman has returned to school at Rice University where he will graduate with a degree in kinesiology next summer (2015). His future plans in his 'second career' may include coaching at the college level.

Baseball Player Silhouette Print
Baseball Player Silhouette Print | Source

This has been my Tribute to Baseball Player, Lance Berkman!

I've ALWAYS liked and admired Lance Berkman, no matter where he has played. There's just something so special about this player -- a gentleness and kindness shown always in a very positive way. I enjoyed watching him play as a Houston Astro, but since the St. Louis Cardinals are my favorite team, I was really delighted Berkman was a 'Redbird'. Then I happily watched him play in the 2013 season wearing Number 27 as the new DH for the Texas Rangers, and now wish him well in his retirement and look forward to his future plans.

© 2011 Wednesday-Elf

Are you a Lance Berkman Fan? - Did you like him best as a Houston Astro, or as a St. Louis Cardinal?

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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image
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      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      @CherylsArt: Thanks for visiting one of my favorite baseball players' pages. I've been a fan of Lance Berkman for his whole career and will miss seeing him play now that he has decided to retire.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      I don't know many individual baseball players, but am impressed by what you found out about Berkman.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image
      Author

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      @mbgphoto: I'm really going to miss Berkman. Loved watching him play. I hope my TV schedule will show that Astros game on April 5th so I can watch him being honored as he retires. :)

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 3 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I always enjoyed watching Berkman as a Cardinal! Thanks for this interesting history and update on his future!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image
      Author

      Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      @David Stone1: Thanks, Dave. I'd really like to see Berkman play at least one more year. Sorry he had so many injuries in 2013 with the Rangers, after doing so well with the Cardinals in 2011-12. I'll miss him when he no longer plays baseball.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      I enjoyed having Berkman on my team, the Yankees, but understood why it made sense not to exercise his option. He's such a good guy, it was nice to see his comeback. He lost a lot of weight and showed that, well taken care of, he still had a lot going for him. I hope he lands somewhere in 2014. The Yankees may need a lefty DH. I'd be happy to cheer for him.

    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      Bagwell, Biggio, Bell

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Fabulously written tribute to Lance Berkman! I have to admit, I do have a greater appreciation for the Big Puma :)

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 5 years ago from California

      Good to see Berkman's still going strong. It's shocking how quickly we lose pillars of a team these days! (I still haven't gone to Angel Stadium to see a certain Mr. P, although I live nearly close enough for him to put a ball through my window.)

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 5 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I'm not a baseball fan but I've seen enough good sports writing to appreciate this lens on Lance Berkman - Angel Blessed

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Incredibly entertaining lens! Especially loved the large font and photo in the intro, the photo of the fans dressed as killer bees, superb writing and format. All is all a class act tribute to Lance Berkman. Blessed by a killer bee squid angel! ;-) and linked to some more killer St.Louis Cardinals killer bees, I mean Cardinals lenses.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      You can always count on Lance to come through in a game when it was on the line. I always enjoyed watching him. Excellent coverage on him as a player and a person.

    • TheBaseballCoach profile image

      TheBaseballCoach 6 years ago

      I loved the killer bees

    • yano jl profile image

      yano jl 6 years ago

      I was very happy to see lance finally get the post-season rewards he has worked so hard for (for so long). Hall of Fame? if I had a vote, I'd cast it his way for sure.

      Great Lens - adding 1 SquidLike now.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I enjoyed reading about Lance Berkman on this great tribute page

    • Ownage1808 profile image

      Ownage1808 6 years ago

      Being Australian I don't know anything about baseball. Now I feel like I know all about one player. Thanks for teaching me something

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 6 years ago

      I'm afraid I don't know much about baseball, although I do enjoy watching a game, now an' then. Your writing style makes a person wanna' know more, though. Very contagious.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 6 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Lance Berkman sounds like a good guy and your admiration for him shines through here :)

    • littlelotus profile image

      littlelotus 6 years ago

      well, no, not a baseball fan even :).... but I'm sure Lance Berkman would appreciate this page very much..... :):)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image
      Author

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      @indigoj: Thanks, WordCustard. He is a great guy, very helpful to his teammates and wonderfully family-oriented. Just an all-round, decent, nice person!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Lance sounds like a great guy as well as a fantastic player. You've created the perfect tribute to him here.