Houston Matters

Craig Biggio and ‘Falling Short’ in Baseball Hall of Fame Voting

I was a late bloomer, shorter than your average teenager when Craig Biggio’s big league career began in 1988. I wasn’t yet old enough to drive – and it’s a good thing – when I was 15, I could barely see over the steering wheel.  Biggio? He was driving the ball into the gaps at […]

I was a late bloomer, shorter than your average teenager when Craig Biggio’s big league career began in 1988. I wasn’t yet old enough to drive – and it’s a good thing – when I was 15, I could barely see over the steering wheel.  Biggio? He was driving the ball into the gaps at the Astrodome, in the first of 20 seasons in which he would collect more than three thousand hits, make seven All-Star games, win five Silver Slugger awards, and not just play but excel at three different positions on the field. It’s what many would consider a Hall of Fame resumé, yet in Biggio’s first two years of eligibility, he has fallen short in the collective eyes of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which conducts the annual Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting.

But enough about Craig Biggio, I was talking about me! And I know all too well what it means to fall just short. It took me twenty years to realize my dream, hosting a public radio talk show in a market this size. Along the way, I’ve been a runner-up for such jobs – the “finalist” who gets the interview, but not the gig. As for my late bloom, I topped out at 5’10¾” – just short of the inch that isn’t quite six feet. (And yes, I’m now old enough that I have begun shrinking from that peak height – they don’t tell you about that in health class).

When you’re used to falling a little short in various aspects of life, you have two choices: accept the lower standard, or dig in your heels and fight and scrape until you achieve that goal that’s been just short of your grasp. Even if it takes a while. Craig Biggio exemplified that during his playing career. While some have argued the usual automatic “in” to the Hall of Fame – three thousand career hits – should not apply to Biggio because it took him twenty seasons to get there, I say this: it took Craig Biggio twenty seasons to get there. Consider, for a moment, just how hard it is to play in the major leagues for twenty years? Few players pull that off. The ones that do are usually rubber-armed knuckleballers, or a first baseman-turned-DH who goes from stretching to catch a ball to sitting in the dugout most of the game. It’s the exceedingly rare ball player who puts in seasons excelling at second base on legs diminished by seasons running in center field on knees damaged by seasons catching every day. Points off for longevity? Really?

This week, we learned Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas all exceeded the 75% of votes needed for induction into the Hall of Fame. Biggio fell just short. 74.8 percent. A couple more votes would have done it.

Conventional wisdom suggests Biggio will likely be voted in next year, or soon thereafter. It’d be a shame if he peaked in this year’s vote totals, when we know one voter submitted a blank ballot, and another insisted he wouldn’t vote for anyone who played during the Steroid era, whether they used performance enhancing drugs or not. It should be noted there’s no evidence Biggio ever used PEDs, but in the eyes of at least that one voter – and probably some other voters – Biggio’s guilty just for playing in the wrong era. All the evidence does show is 20 seasons of gritty, determined, professional baseball at the highest level.

So, yes, it took him longer to get to three thousand hits. It will take him longer to get to the Hall of Fame. But it’ll be worth the wait, and reason for celebration. Not just for Biggio, but for any of us who have ever had to hang in there just a little bit longer, after falling just a little bit short.

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