As part of the Astros' 50th anniversary, the weekly "Game to Remember" series features a former Astros/Colt .45s great discussing his favorite game while playing for the Houston franchise. This week: Richard Hidalgo.
Richard Hidalgo was on fire. He was in the zone. He was, at least for one day, the most dangerous hitter in baseball.
But when you ask the former Astros Most Valuable Player about what he was feeling deep inside during the day he etched his name into the team's record book by hitting three homers in a game, Hidalgo uses quite a different description.
"The way I felt that night," he said, "I felt so sexy."
Hidalgo then laughed and smiled, and who could blame him? The Venezuela native had a solid career and was a fan favorite during his time in Houston.
And on Sept. 16, 2003, at Coors Field in Denver, he became one of only nine different players in Astros history to hit three home runs in a game. It's been done only twice since by a Houston player -- Morgan Ensberg in 2005 and Carlos Lee in 2007.
"It was one of those days," Hidalgo said. "It's not easy. I'm glad I hit three home runs that night. I felt really happy about it."
Hidalgo can't remember much about the game, other than rounding the bases three times. Starting in right field, he went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and five RBIs in the Astros' 14-4 win over the Rockies. He hit a solo homer in the second inning, a three-run shot in the fifth inning and a solo homer in the seventh.
Game to Remember
Game to Remember: Richard Hidalgo
Richard Hidalgo Facts and Figures
Full name: Richard Jose Hidalgo.
Game to Remember: Sept. 16, 2003 (Astros 14, Rockies 4)
Jersey number: 15.
Primary Position: RF
Born: June 28, 1975.
Birthplace: Caracas, Venezuela.
Major League debut: Sept. 1, 1997.
Years in Major Leagues: Nine.
Years with Houston: 8 (1997-2004).
Other teams: Mets (2004) and Rangers (2005).
Key stats with Houston: .278 batting average, 134 home runs, 465 RBIs.
Claim to fame: Hidalgo, who made his Major League debut at the age of 21 in 1997 and hit safely in 13 of his first 17 games, was one of the Astros' most prolific home run hitters. He still ranks ninth on the Astros' all-time home run list.
Did you know? Hidalgo tried to make a comeback in 2007, coming to Astros' spring camp as a non-roster invitee, but was cut the team at the age of 31, ending his career.
What's he doing now? Hidalgo is retired and living in Orlando and teaching baseball to his three sons.
The Astros, who featured a star-studded lineup with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent, hammered six homers that day, led by Hidalgo's three clouts.
"The way I feel sometimes and I know I'm going to hit," he said. "My legs felt good at the time and I know I was going to let the ball come to me and hit it. When you feel that way, you feel so good. You see the ball so good and you're body's in control. You know it's going to be a good day."
And he says he knew it during batting practice, too.
"Sometimes you have good batting practice and in the game you don't do well and sometimes you do bad in batting practice and you have a big game," said Hidalgo, who was named the team's MVP in 2003. "It all worked out that day."
Hidalgo actually came to the plate in the ninth inning that day in Denver with a chance to be the first player in Astros history to hit four homers in a game, but he struck out. It didn't matter. With three mighty swings, his place in team history was set.
"I just know I hit the ball hard," he said. "I don't remember the pitches. I don't know if it was a fastball, slider, curve ... "
Those were three of 171 career homers Hidalgo hit in his nine-year career, which peaked in 2000 when he clubbed 44 home runs for Houston. He was actually second on the team in homers that season behind Bagwell's 47, which at the time ranked as the top two single-season homer totals in club history (Berkman hit 45 homers in 2006).
Hidalgo, who last played in a Major League game in 2005, has nothing but fond memories from his free-swinging days in the Astros heyday of the late 1990s, early 2000s.
"It was a lot of fun years," he said. "I got to play with some great guys and got to be happy every day and laugh. It was a good thing."