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Astros Great Biggio On His Way To Cooperstown

On Sunday, former Houston Astros great Craig Biggio will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’ll be the first player to go in as an Astro. It’s been a long road that started on high school fields on Long Island and included countless dirt-stained uniforms. It will now culminate with Major League Baseball’s highest honor.

 

If you had to pick a play that exemplified Craig Biggio’s 20-year career, it might have been one of his last. On June 28th, 2007 at Minute Maid Park, he tried to stretch a single into a double. It was his 3,000th hit, a rare milestone, but instead of stopping at first to enjoy the moment, he dug for second.

Milo Hamilton described the moment.

“2-0 pitch. Swinging. There it is! Bigg wants to make it a double. And he’s going to be out. He didn’t get the trademark, but he did get 3000 hits.”

That was Biggio in a nutshell, a guy who had 668 doubles in his career, but a player who was never satisfied. That mind-set started at Kings Park High School in New York, made a stop at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and landed in the Astrodome in 1988.

Former Astros pitcher and broadcaster Larry Dierker also managed Biggio from 1997 to 2001.

“I think you’ll find very few players that are in the Hall of Fame that didn’t have that combination of mental intensity, focus and determination and raw ability,” Dierker said.

You hear the phrase “coach on the field” from time to time in professional sports, for players who make others around them better. Biggio was that kind of ballplayer. He and teammate Jeff Bagwell not only led on the field, but also ruled the locker room, and it wasn’t always pleasant.

Richard Justice is a reporter for the MLB network and covered the Astros as a baseball writer for the Houston Chronicle.

“Jeff was the guy that if a guy was having trouble in the middle of the night he knew he could call Jeff and Jeff would be there no questions asked,” said Justice. “Craig just had more of an edge to him and he was not afraid to rub people the wrong way. He would whisper to a guy, “that’s not how we do it here”

Biggio played 2,850 games in his career, was a 7-time All-Star and had 3060 hits, one of 29 players who have achieved the 3000-hit milestone. What’s remarkable is that he started his career as a catcher, even making the All-Star game at that position. Biggio said his move to second in 1992 wasn’t an easy transition.

“As a catcher, when a ball was hit no matter what the situation was, I knew where everyone had to be. Then all of a sudden, you’re at second base. You have to know where you have to go line up,” said Biggio. “The thinking part of the game, not just the physical part of the game, but the thinking part of the game, was the biggest transition with being moved to second.”

Biggio played his entire career in Houston, a rarity in the modern era of free agency. After his last game in 2007, he was reflective.

“It’s always a difficult day for any player who’s put on a uniform of some sort, but I think I said in Spring Training that this year was about my family and the fans and that I was going to enjoy it and enjoy them and take it all in,” he said.

Outside Minute Maid Park this week before a game against the Red Sox, Astros fans Danielle Reed, Mirto Alaniz and Bob Taylor of Sugar Land couldn’t wait to talk about what made #7 a Houston icon.

“It wasn’t just how he played, but he just showed so much sportsmanship. He was a good role-model for younger kids,” said Reed.

“He was always hustling. He would stretch a single into a double, no fear, you couldn’t stop rooting for that. He was always an Astro,” Alaniz said.

“Irrepressible spirit, always trying and succeeding most of the time,” Taylor said.

On Sunday, Biggio will join the other members of this year’s Hall of Fame class, on a stage in Cooperstown. His speech has already gone through a few revisions.

“I think we have all the bases covered, hopefully. Obviously, you never know until you get there and have to present it,” said Biggio. “There’s a lot of people that I’m very grateful, because I didn’t get to the Hall of Fame on my own. There’s a lot of people who helped me along the way.”

Since his retirement, Biggio has been a coach on his two son’s high school baseball team and is a special advisor to the Astros. He’s also now one of a little over 200 players in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony begins at 12:30 CT on Sunday.

 

Craig Biggio – Hall of Fame Election Interview

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