Craig Biggio

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Craig Biggio
Craig Biggio.jpg
Second baseman / Catcher / Outfielder
Born: (1965-12-14) December 14, 1965 (age 48)
Smithtown, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 26, 1988 for the Houston Astros
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 2007 for the Houston Astros
Career statistics
Batting average .281
Hits 3,060
Home runs 291
Runs batted in 1,175
Stolen bases 414
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Craig Alan Biggio (born December 14, 1965) is a former American professional baseball player. Biggio spent his entire 20-year baseball career, from 1988 through 2007, as a second baseman, catcher, and outfielder for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB). Considered to be one of the best all around position players in club history, the Astros retired the number 7 in his honor the year following his retirement. He is currently the head varsity baseball coach for St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas.

Biggio is a seven-time MLB All-Star and won four Gold Glove Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards during his career. He ranks 21st all-time with 3,060 career hits, and is the ninth player in the 3,000 hit club to get all his hits with the same team. A member of the Astros Hall of Fame, he is one of only four members of the 3,000 hit club not to be inducted into the Major League Hall of Fame (of the remaining three, Pete Rose is currently banned for life for gambling on baseball games and Derek Jeter is still an active player, making them both ineligible for their respective reasons, and Rafael Palmeiro has not been voted in after testing positive for anabolic steroids late in his career). He holds the modern record for most times hit by a pitch in a career with 285.

Early life[edit]

High school[edit]

Craig Biggio graduated from Kings Park High School on Long Island, New York, where he excelled as a multi-sport varsity athlete. Most notably, after the 1983 season, Biggio was awarded the Hansen Award, which recognized him as being the best football player in Suffolk County.[1] However, Biggio's passion lay with baseball, such that he turned down football scholarships for the opportunity to play baseball for Seton Hall University.

College career[edit]

An infielder in school, Seton Hall coach Mike Sheppard switched him to catcher because the team needed one. Biggio was an All-American baseball player at Seton Hall, where he played with other future Major League Baseball stars Mo Vaughn and John Valentin. Biggio, Vaughn and Valentin, along with Marteese Robinson, were featured in the book The Hit Men and the Kid Who Batted Ninth by David Siroty which chronicled their rise from college teammates to the major leagues. Biggio was drafted by the Houston Astros in the first round (22nd overall) in 1987.

Major League career[edit]

Early career: Conversion from catcher to second base[edit]

Biggio was called up as a catcher midway through the 1988 season, having batted .344 in his minor league career. In 1989, his first full season, Biggio became the Astros' starting catcher. He won the Silver Slugger award in 1989. Biggio was a very speedy runner, and an adept base stealer. Astros' management, in an attempt to keep the rigors of catching from sapping Biggio's speed, tried him in the outfield part-time in 1990, as he had played 18 games there in the minors. Yogi Berra, when asked about Biggio being short for a catcher, said "Short catchers are better, because they don't have to stand up as far."[citation needed]

The Astros finally convinced Biggio to convert to second base in spring training 1992, even though Biggio had made the National League All-Star team as a catcher in 1991. Biggio made the All-Star team for the second time in 1992, becoming the first player in the history of baseball to be an All-Star at both catcher and second base. It is remarkably rare for a major league catcher to make a successful transition to middle infielder. If a catcher changes positions, it is usually to first base, or occasionally to outfield or third base.

Biggio became known as a reliable, hustling, consistent leadoff hitter, with unusual power for a second baseman. He holds the National League record for most home runs to lead off a game, with fifty. His statistics reflect this, having consistently good marks in hitting, on-base percentage, hit-by-pitch, runs, stolen bases, and doubles throughout his career. Biggio was also known for intentionally keeping his batting helmet dirty.

Career setbacks: Injury and the outfield[edit]

Biggio played 1,800 games without a trip to the disabled list until August 1, 2000, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. In the play in which Biggio was injured, the Florida Marlins' Preston Wilson (who would later become Biggio's teammate) slid into second base, trying to stop a double play, and hit Biggio's planted left leg, tearing the ACL and MCL in Biggio's knee. Biggio rebounded with a good season in 2001, but had a lackluster performance in 2002, with only a .253 average, his lowest since entering the league.

However, he improved slightly for the 2003 season, averaging .264 with 166 hits despite being asked by management to move to center field after the signing of free agent All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent. In 2004, he put up numbers more typical for his career, batting .281 with 178 hits, including a career high 24 homers. Biggio moved to yet another new position, left field, midway through the 2004 season to accommodate Carlos Beltrán, who was acquired in a trade to help bolster the Astros' struggling offense.

Late career: Return to second base and milestones[edit]

For the 2005 season, Biggio moved back to second base after Kent left for the Dodgers. Biggio set a new career high by hitting 26 home runs and during the season hit his 1000th RBI becoming the second Astro with 1000 RBI for Houston (the first being Jeff Bagwell). Biggio played in the World Series in 2005 for the first time in his eighteen-year career. On May 23, 2006, Biggio became the 23rd player in MLB history with 10,000 at-bats.

Biggio's hit counter, prior to the start of the 2007 season.

On June 28, 2007, Biggio became the 27th player in the history of Major League Baseball to join the 3000 hit club, with a single against Colorado Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook, even though he was tagged out on the play as he tried to stretch it into a double to draw a throw and allow a run to score. The game action paused while Biggio shared the moment with his wife and children. Longtime friend and former teammate Jeff Bagwell emerged from the Astros clubhouse to congratulate him. Biggio became the first player in Astros history to accumulate 3,000 hits. It was Biggio's third hit of the game, and he went on to accumulate two more later in the game, one in the ninth inning and one in the eleventh inning. Interestingly enough, Biggio's 3,000 hit came on the same day that Frank Thomas hit his milestone 500th career home run, both marks which are considered to guarantee one's induction into the Hall of Fame.

In anticipation of Biggio's reaching 3,000 hits, the Astros installed a digital counter just left of center field displaying his current hit total.

With 668 doubles, he ended his career in 5th place on the all-time list. Biggio also holds the record for the most doubles by a right-handed hitter. Biggio is the only player in the history of baseball with 3000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases, and 250 home runs. Biggio ranks 20th on the all-time hits list, though of those 20 players he ranks 19th in career batting average.

Biggio fell nine home runs short of joining the career 300–300 club (300 homers and 300 stolen bases). He would have become only the seventh player to achieve the feat. Incidentally, this also caused him to fall short of the 3,000 hits, 300 homers and 300 stolen bases mark; he would have been only the second player in history to reach that club, the other being Willie Mays.

Retirement[edit]

Jeff Bagwell (left) and Craig Biggio (right).

On July 24, 2007, Biggio announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season (his 20th season with the club, a franchise record). Hours later, with the Astros locked in a 3–3 tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Biggio hit a grand slam in the 6th inning. The Astros went on to win the game 7–4.

In the penultimate game of his career, Biggio started as a catcher and caught 2 innings for the Astros. He also hit a double in his first at-bat of the game.[2]

A sellout, record-breaking crowd packed Minute Maid Park on September 30, 2007, to witness Biggio's final game. He recorded his final career hit, a double in the first inning, and scored his final career run that same inning. In his final career at-bat, he grounded the ball to third baseman Chipper Jones, who threw out the hustling Biggio by half a step. He left the field to a standing ovation from the fans, and when he was replaced defensively in the top of the 8th inning he shook hands with umpires and teammates and left to another standing ovation as he waved to the fans. The Astros won the game 3–0.

Biggio finished his career with 3,060 career hits, 668 doubles, 291 home runs, 1175 RBI, 414 stolen bases, and a .281 batting average.

Hit by pitch[edit]

Over his career, Biggio gained a reputation for being hit by pitches. Some have even gone so far as to proclaim him the "king of hit batsmen."[3] On June 29, 2005, Biggio broke the modern-era career hit-by-pitch record, previously held by Don Baylor with 267. He is second to only Hughie Jennings on the all-time list with 287. Despite being hit by a record number of pitches, Biggio never charged the mound,[4] and had no serious injuries as a result of being hit by a pitch.

In his final season, however, Biggio was only hit three times. He was hit fewer times total between 2006 and 2007 (9 times in 2006, total of 12) than he was in 10 of his previous 11 individual seasons. In August 2007, the satirical online newspaper The Onion referenced this in the article, "Craig Biggio Blames Media Pressure For Stalling at 285 Hit-By-Pitches".[5] Biggio sent an arm guard to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of his high hit-by-pitch total.

Number retirement[edit]

AstrosRet 7.PNG
Craig Biggio's number 7 was retired by the Houston Astros in 2008.
Craig Biggio's retired number 7 at Minute Maid Park

On May 23, 2008, during a pre-game ceremony in which Biggio received an award for MLB.com's This Year in Baseball 2007 Moment of the Year award for his 3,000th hit on June 28, the Astros announced that they would retire Craig Biggio's jersey.[6] The Houston Astros retired his No. 7 jersey on August 17, 2008, prior to the start of a game versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. Biggio was the ninth player in Astros history to have his number retired.

Hall of Fame candidacy[edit]

Biggio first appeared on the writers' ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013 the earliest possible year of consideration. He led all Hall of Fame vote-getters by being named on 68.2% of ballots cast, however this was still 39 votes shy of reaching the 75% threshold that is required by the BBWAA for induction. The following year he once again failed to garner enough votes to be inducted, finishing two votes shy with a voting percentage of 74.8%. This ties him with Nellie Fox (1985) and Pie Traynor (1947) for smallest margin not to get into the Hall.[7]

Work in the community[edit]

Biggio has received awards from various organizations, including the Hutch Award (2005) and being named one of Sporting News' Good Guys (2004). The Hutch Award is given to a player that shows competitiveness and never gives up. Part of the reason Biggio was given the award was for his multiple position changes, but also because of his work in the community and inspiring other teammates to participate as well. He also received the Roberto Clemente Award in 2007. The Roberto Clemente Award "recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."[8]

Biggio has been a supporter and lead spokesperson for the Sunshine Kids Foundation for over a decade and almost the entirety of his playing career. The organization supports children fighting cancer with exciting activities for themselves and their families. Biggio helps the organization by raising awareness of the organization by wearing a small yellow sun on his cap for interviews, batting practice, and spring training games and by holding a celebrity golf tournament in Houston each spring. Biggio hosts an annual party at Minute Maid Park for about 100 Sunshine Kids to play baseball with Biggio and some of his teammates.

With the 2006 annual golf tournament, Biggio has raised over $2 million for the organization. During 2007 spring training, MLB informed Biggio that he would no longer be allowed to wear the small yellow sun on his cap during interviews, photo shoots, or spring training. Biggio had worn the Sunshine Kids pin for over a decade. This edict was big news in Houston, and Houstonians, long known for their charitable nature and unconditional love of Biggio, reacted very negatively to MLB. After the public uproar, MLB relented and Biggio was allowed to wear the Sunshine Kids pin as he had done since becoming a spokesperson.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Biggio signs autographs at a Houston sports collectors show in 2014.

Biggio and his wife, Patty (Egan), have three children: son Conor Joseph (born January 7, 1993); son Cavan Thomas (born April 11, 1995); and daughter Quinn Patricia (born September 27, 1999). They currently live in Houston, Texas, where Craig is head varsity baseball coach at St. Thomas High School.[10] Biggio coached St. Thomas to back-to-back Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Class 5A state baseball titles in 2010 and 2011.

Both of Biggio's sons played for the St. Thomas baseball team. Cavan hit a home run in the team's 2011 championship game, while older brother Conor provided the winning offense in St. Thomas' semi-final victory.[11] In Summer 2012, Conor played left field for the North Adams SteepleCats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League; in Summer 2013, he played outfield and second base for the North Shore Navigators of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. When asked by the Houston Chronicle about the success, the elder Biggio replied

I don't get too caught up in that...it's not about me its about these kids, and win or lose we're trying to turn these kids into men. That's the thing that's most important to me.

Biggio and his family had a home in Spring Lake, New Jersey that they named "Home Plate".[12] Biggio's father-in-law is Assemblyman Joseph V. Egan, a member of the New Jersey legislature.[13]

Biggio, a fan of the musical group U2, often had their song "Mysterious Ways" played as he stepped up to the batter's box.

Awards[edit]

All-Star[edit]

  • 1991 (Catcher)
  • 1992 (2nd Base)
  • 1994 (2nd Base)
  • 1995 (2nd Base)
  • 1996 (2nd Base)
  • 1997 (2nd Base)
  • 1998 (2nd Base)

Gold Glove[edit]

  • 1994: National League Gold Glove (2nd Base)
  • 1995: National League Gold Glove (2nd Base)
  • 1996: National League Gold Glove (2nd Base)
  • 1997: National League Gold Glove (2nd Base)

Other Awards[edit]

  • 1989 NL Silver Slugger Award (C)
  • 1994 Baseball America NL All-Star 2B
  • 1994 NL Silver Slugger Award (2B)
  • 1995 NL Silver Slugger Award (2B)
  • 1997 NL Silver Slugger Award (2B)
  • 1997 Branch Rickey Award in recognition of his exceptional community service.
  • 1998 Houston Astros Player of the Year
  • 1998 NL Silver Slugger Award (2B)
  • 1998 Baseball America First-Team Major League All-Star 2B
  • 2004 Texas Baseball Hall of Fame inductee
  • 2004 Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee
  • 2005 Hutch Award (honors baseball great Fred Hutchinson and is given annually to a Major League baseball player who best exemplifies his fighting spirit and competitive desire)
  • 2006 Heart & Hustle Award
  • 2007 Heart & Hustle Award
  • 2007 Roberto Clemente Award

Highlights[edit]

  • Led the Majors in runs scored in 1995 and 1997 and in doubles in 1998 and 1999.
  • In 1997, became the first player in baseball history not to hit into a single double play while playing an entire 162 game season.[14] Two players, Augie Galan (1935) and Dick McAuliffe (1968), had previously played an entire season with the same feat, but did not play in as many games in their respective seasons.
  • In 1997, scored 146 runs, which is the most of any National League player since the Phillies' Chuck Klein scored 152 runs in 1932.
  • Tops the Astros' career list in games played, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles and extra-base hits.
  • Holds the record for most regular season games played before his first World Series appearance with 2,564.
  • In 1998 he became the second player to have 50 stolen bases and 50 doubles in the same season. The only other player to accomplish this is Baseball Hall of Fame member Tris Speaker for the Boston Red Sox in 1912.
  • Holds the National League record for most lead-off home runs in a career with 53. He is third in MLB behind Alfonso Soriano and Rickey Henderson.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Major League Baseball - Newsday - Baseball News, Notes, Results and more from MLB". Newsday. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  2. ^ By Alyson Footer / MLB.com (September 29, 2007). "Astros even series with Braves | astros.com: News". Houston.astros.mlb.com. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  3. ^ Berardino, Mike "Craig Biggio—king of hit batsmen". Baseball Digest, September 2005.
  4. ^ Carpenter, Les "Bruised and Battered, Biggio Nears Record". The Washington Post, June 15, 2005.
  5. ^ "Craig Biggio Blames Media Pressure For Stalling At 285 Hit-By-Pitches | The Onion - America's Finest News Source". The Onion. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Astros to retire Biggio's jersey Aug. 17", Krysten Oliphant, MLB.com, May 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Associated Press (8 Jan 2014). "Maddux, Glavine, Thomas to HOF". ESPN. Retrieved 8 Jan 2014. 
  8. ^ Footer, Alyson (October 27, 2007). "Biggio receives Clemente Award". astros.com. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ McTaggart, Brian, "Biggio's pin approved by MLB," Houston Chronicle, March 30, 2007, http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4676830.html
  10. ^ Mctaggart, Brian (May 19, 2008). "Biggio to become head baseball and assistant football coach at St. Thomas High School (Houston, Texas)|St. Thomas". Chron.com. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Craig Biggio leads team to two straight state titles". Rivals.com. May 27, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2011. 
  12. ^ Bamberger, Michael. "Second Effort: A work ethic instilled by his father helped the Astros' Craig Biggio convert from All-Star catcher to Gold Glove infielder ", Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1996. Accessed August 2, 2011. "Craig Biggio leads the sort of idealized life that one associates with black-and-white TV.... The house itself—in the charming, sea-battered town of Spring Lake, on the New Jersey shore—is a timeless, fixed-up beauty with an appropriate name, Home Plate, a view of the ocean and the comforting proximity of millionaires."
  13. ^ PolitickerNJ.com, first published October 25, 2005; Accessed December 2, 2011.
  14. ^ "Single Season Grounding Into Double Play Records". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 

External links[edit]