By Jose de Jesus Ortiz
The Houston Chronicle
Roy Oswalt, arguably the greatest pitcher in Astros history, always took pride in being a top-of-the-rotation starter. He always wanted to be an ace, saw himself as an ace, and aspired to be the man teammates wanted on the mound when it mattered most.
Whether as a quiet rookie in 2001 or an ace in his prime on a staff that included Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on the Astros’ greatest teams in 2004 and 2005, Oswalt made it clear he was the one worthy of the opening-day start.
The hard-throwing righthander never lost the small-town values or work ethic he developed on his grandfather’s watermelon farm in Weir, Miss. At 36, Oswalt still thinks he could compete in the majors. Competing, however, was never enough for the youngest son of Billy and Jean Oswalt.
Oswalt always wanted to dominate and lead the rotation. With that no longer a probability, Oswalt is officially retiring to work with his longtime agent, Bob Garber, while also devoting time to his wife Nicole and their three daughters.
“I kind of thought that idea around for the last year,” Oswalt said of retiring. “I always told you that when I got to the point where I couldn’t be a top-of-the-line guy, I would retire. I didn’t want to go out there and just pad numbers.”
Oswalt was 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA over 365 career games. He was a 20-game winner in 2004 and 2005 and led the National League with a 2.98 ERA in 2006. If he hadn’t been traded to the Phillies in July 2010, he would have finished as the Astros’ all-time leader in career victories. But he was traded one victory shy of Joe Niekro’s 144.
Regardless, he finished with a 143-82 record over 10 seasons with the Astros. Second in the 2001 National League Rookie of the Year race to Albert Pujols, Oswalt recorded the biggest victory in franchise history when he won Game 6 of the 2005 NL Championship Series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium to send the Astros to their only World Series appearance.
He held St. Louis to one run and three hits over seven brilliant innings to win Game 6. He earned the 2005 NLCS MVP trophy by holding the Cardinals to two runs over 14 innings while winning Games 2 and 6.
“My No. 1 moment is pitching us to the World Series in 2005,” Oswalt said. “It was pretty special. It was the team that drafted me. To get them to the World Series was pretty special.”
Oswalt built a mansion in his hometown of Weir, but he gave that home to his parents after he moved to Starkville in 2010 so his three daughters could participate in more activities.
When not working as a player agent, he will devote his attention to daughters Arlee, 9, Ainslee, 6, and Aubree, 3. He’ll start coaching Arlee’s fast-pitch softball team this month.
Because Oswalt played most of his career in Houston and had his greatest success here, he plans to officially retire on a one-day contract with the Astros, along with former teammate Lance Berkman.
Oswalt called Berkman a few days before Christmas and asked his friend about his plans for 2014. When each said he was leaning toward retirement, Oswalt suggested they retire together as Astros.
“We actually got together at the first of the year and called the Astros to see if we could retire with them,” Oswalt said. “We wanted to retire together in Houston. I’m pumped.
“It means a lot. Houston drafted me and gave me a chance from the very beginning. You don’t see a lot of guys who are six-foot, 175 drafted to pitch. For them to give me a chance means a lot.”