Astro-nomical

Biggio’s remarkable consistency lands him on Hall of Fame ballot

December 07, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Craig Biggio (Michael Ponzini/NBHOF Library)

Craig Biggio’s path to big league stardom took him from high school football standout to a position change many in baseball thought was all but impossible.

Along the way, Biggio amassed seven All-Star Game selections, 3,060 hits and the admiration of fans and teammates.

Today, he stands on the brink of the game’s greatest achievement: The Hall of Fame.

“To have my name associated with Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron – to me it’s unfathomable,” Biggio said. “It’s crazy.”

Biggio is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Biggio is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born Dec. 14, 1965 in Smithtown, N.Y., Biggio starred at Kings Park High School on Long Island in football, and seemed destined to become one of the top recruited running backs in the nation. But his grades did not measure up to his achievements on the gridiron.

“Truly, what I wanted to do was football,” Biggio told the Houston Chronicle. “When it was taken away from me, being able to go to a big-time school, I just said: ‘Get your act together.’”

Biggio settled on a partial baseball scholarship to Seton Hall University, and quickly established himself as a pro prospect. In 1987, he was taken in the first round (22nd overall pick) by the Houston Astros in the MLB Draft.

After just 141 minor league games over parts of two seasons – during which he compiled a .344 batting average – Biggio was called up to the Astros in June of 1988. He played in 50 games that summer, then took over as Houston’s regular catcher in 1989 – hitting 13 homers and adding 60 RBI while winning the National League’s Silver Slugger Award for catchers.

By 1991, Biggio was a .295 hitter who had made his first All-Star team. And quickly, there was talk about moving him from behind the plate in order to lengthen his career.

In 1992, he became Houston’s second baseman – appearing in all 162 games and making his second All-Star team.

“Moving from catcher to second, I can’t explain to you how hard that was,” Biggio said in 2003. “That’s like giving you a bat and telling you to go get a hit off Randy Johnson. Not just stand in there, but get a hit off him.

“Now that it’s over, I can tell you that it was pretty hard.”

Biggio, however, made it look incredibly easy. From 1993-99, Biggio grew into more power at the plate without sacrificing his speed. He averaged better than 17 homers and 33 steals a year while averaging more than 116 runs scored per season as Houston’s leadoff hitter. He also continued to thump doubles at a record pace en route to 668 for his career – good for fifth on the all-time list.

Then in 2003, Biggio again changed positions – this time heading to center field when Jeff Kent came to Houston as a free agent. Biggio spent two years in the outfield before heading back to second base for the final three years of his career.

“Any time you make a change, it’s a big deal,” Biggio said. “You start off as a catcher, then go to second base and then go to center field… those are three pretty important positions in baseball. But I’m proud of that.”

Biggio joined the 3,000-hit club in 2007, his last year in the big leagues. In all, he spent 20 seasons with the Astros, hitting .281 with 1,844 runs scored (15th all-time), 291 home runs and 414 stolen bases. He was hit by a pitch 285 times – second most all-time – won five Silver Slugger Awards (one at catcher and four a second base) and four Gold Glove Awards at second base (1994-97).

He never won a World Series (appearing in one with the Astros in 2005), but Biggio walked away from the game with no regrets. He is the only player in baseball history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs.

“Being a parent and a dad is the most important thing I’ll ever do,” said Biggio, who retired to spend more time with his sons Conor and Cavan and daughter Quinn. “You can’t put a price on an opportunity like this. I know a bunch of guys who weren’t able to enjoy the high school years (of their children).”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum