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Oswalt gets bulldozed for NLCS win
12/19/2005 4:02 PM ET
HOUSTON -- In baseball, it's generally understood that a pitcher is off limits on the day he's scheduled to start. That means reporters and other non-uniformed folks stay away from him in the hours leading up to the game, as a courtesy.

Fortunately for the Houston Astros, club owner Drayton McLane either didn't know about that unwritten rule or just decided to disregard it completely prior to one of the most important games his team would play.

As the Astros took batting practice prior to Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis, McLane wandered into the clubhouse, where he found a mostly empty room. Only Roy Oswalt was there, sitting by his locker and preparing for what turned out to be the game of his life.

McLane wanted to offer an encouraging word or two and make sure his ace right-hander wasn't uptight after the heartbreaking loss the Astros suffered in Game 5, thanks to Albert Pujols.

McLane said, "Roy, this is a key game. We need to win tonight and we'll do something that hasn't been done in 43 years."

Nothing like reminding a pitcher an hour before he takes the mound that four decades of pennant hopes rest on his shoulders.

Oswalt didn't have much of response. Like a typical starting pitcher, he offered a grunt.

McLane wasn't deterred. He remembered the 30 or so conversations he had with Oswalt over the years about bulldozers -- yes, bulldozers -- and decided to use that as a little ammo.

After all, during Oswalt's rookie year in 2001, McLane asked Oswalt what his goals were, expecting the youngster to mention a fancy home, a yacht, maybe a luxury car. But Oswalt told McLane his main goal in life was to own a bulldozer.

So on Oct. 19, McLane, still somewhat shell shocked from the Game 5 disaster, said to Oswalt, "You win this game tonight, and I'll buy you a Caterpillar D6." Oswalt, owner of 40 acres of land in his hometown of Weir, Miss., jumped from his chair and told McLane he had a deal.

For those not familiar with the lingo, a Caterpillar D6 is a bulldozer -- in this case, a mustard yellow bulldozer complete with well-placed Astros logos and a price tag of a cool $230,000. Oswalt flew to Houston on Monday to claim his new toy, parked in a lot adjacent to Minute Maid Park for all to see. And admire, if that's your thing.

So for those who wondered where Oswalt drew the bulk of his strength as he pitched his team into the World Series that chilly night in October...

"I was thinking that night in about the third inning, when we went up 3-0, if I can just shut these guys out the rest of the night, I'm going to hold [McLane] to the fire in front of the media that he was going to get me a bulldozer," Oswalt said.

When Phil Garner visited Oswalt on the mound in the seventh inning and asked if he wanted to stay in the game or let the bullpen take over, Oswalt was again overcome by images of 'dozers that danced in his head.

"I said [to Garner], 'I'll throw all night long if you want me to,' " Oswalt recalled.

The rest, of course, is history. The 'pen finished what Oswalt started, the Astros were on their way to their first World Series, and Oswalt was not only named the MVP of the NLCS, but he also completed a Monty Hall-type deal that gave him quite a doozy behind door No. 3.

"Today," McLane said on Monday to a parking lot full of reporters and front office staffers, "Is to celebrate that night again."

But wait, there's more. The Astros had to rework Oswalt's contract to include this expensive gift. So before the presentation, Oswalt had to sign off on something along the lines of "gargantuan mustard yellow farm equipment" added to the language of his $16.9 million contract.

"He had to sign an addendum to his contract that said we can give him a bulldozer," general manager Tim Purpura said. "This is the first time a player has ever had a bulldozer clause entered into his contract."

In addition to giving Oswalt a full-size bulldozer, McLane donated 44 toy bulldozers and other trucks -- in honor of Oswalt's uniform No. 44 and signed by the ace righty -- to the Star of Hope Mission.

The best part of owning a brand new bulldozer?

"Now I don't have to borrow my dad's," Oswalt said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.