The Epitome of An Astro: The Craig Biggio Story
Has there been a better Astro then catcher/second baseman Craig Biggio? I very much doubt it. In his career, he hit 291 home runs, drove in 1,175 runs, hit .281, recorded 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs and was elected to seven All Star games. He was very much deserving and though his hometown was Smithtown, New York, he will always be a native of Houston, Texas.
Biggio played from 1988 to 2007—every single season with his beloved Houston Astros. He is a likely Hall of Fame electee, but never reached 100 RBI's in a season—not once.
Craig Alan Biggio was born on December 14, 1965 in Smithtown, New York. In his high school days, he was enrolled at Kings Park in local Long Island, NY. He excelled in sports, which seemed to be a recurring theme throughout his life. As a senior, he earned the Hansen Award, a trophy given to the top football player in Suffolk County.
Biggio loved baseball, though. He turned down a number of football scholarships to play baseball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. At Seton Hall, he would be playing with first baseman Mo Vaughn and third baseman John Valentin, both future competent big leaguers. But Biggio outdid them both.
Biggio earned All American honors and his future was revealed when the Astros selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 1987 MLB first year player draft. In his first season in pro baseball, he hit .375 with nine home runs and 49 RBI for Level A Asheville. He walked more times then he struck out (39-33) and earned high praise throughout the Astros system. In 1988, he followed up the performance.
But this time, it was in Triple A! He had three homers, 41 RBI and a .320 batting average. On June 26, 1988, the Houston Astros called up Biggio. He struggled, though. He hit just .211 with five RBI in 50 games as a backup.
But Craig Biggio and the 'Stros had hope. The next year, 1989, he hit .257 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI in his first full season in the bigs. He even won a Silver Slugger award. What stands out to me is his ability to still steal bases despite having to squat and call the games all day.
He stole 21 bases and was caught just three times. Because of his great base running, Houston didn't want to waste his legs on catching, so they converted him to second base in 1992. He didn't slip up, hitting .277 with six home runs and 39 RBI. He played all 162 games, stealing 38 bases, recording 170 hits and 96 runs in 613 at bats.
Biggio was cheated out of better statistics in 1994. He had six homers and 56 RBI and a .318 batting average. He also was leading the league in doubles, with 44. This he did after just 114 games. Then, the season was shortened due to a players strike. Had he played 162 games like he did just two seasons before, he would have nine homers, 80 RBI, a .318 batting average and 62 doubles.
62 would have set a record, but now the record doesn't belong to Biggio. He did manage to win Gold Glove as an elite second baseman on his way to becoming the premier second baseman of the 1990's. In 1995, he discovered a new strategy. He started crowding the plate more and got on base more. How? Getting hit by pitches, 22 times as a matter of fact. He had a .406 on base percentage.
He led in 1996 and 1997, including 34 in the latter year, third most for a season in the 20th century. After 1999 was over, he'd been plunked 153 times, fourth in baseball history. And he'd only been in major league baseball for 11 seasons. But his ability to get on via the hit by pitch wasn't his only skill. From 1996 to 1999, he won two Gold Gloves, hit 73 homers, and posted a .304 batting average.
More importantly, he led the Astros to three divison titles. August 1, 2000, snapped a streak. After 1,800 games without a trip to the disabled list, he suffered a season ending knee injury. He was hurt when Preston Wilson slid into him, tearing Biggio's ACL and MCL. Biggio was disappointed, but knew the streak didn't mean a thing. "I'm not gonna say I'm not a little disappointed. We're here to win a division, not to keep streaks alive."
The next year, 2001, he redeemed himself by hitting .292 with 20 home runs and 70 RBI. Biggio began to slip over the years, but the Astros didn't. While Biggio and the Killer B's (Berkman, Bagwell and Biggio) carried the Astros early in his career, it was the pitching that carried them in 2004 and 2005. They were unable to earn World Series titles, though.
Biggio never hit above .280 after 2004, when he hit .281. He hit .264, .246 and .251 in '05, '06, and '07 before retiring from the game for good. Biggio is the epitome of a true loyal team player. He twice rejected free agency. He even rejected a deal to his hometown Mets. He would get more money and would be close to home. But Biggio was loyal.
"Not a lot of guys get to play their whole careers with one team because of the economics of this game. I can't think of a better time to be wearing an Astros uniform." Biggio is one of the few baseball players recently who is admirable. He didn't get caught up in the money, fortune, or fame. He wanted to stay loyal to the team and city he loved—and vice versa.
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