Astro-nomical

Biggio’s remarkable consistency brings him to brink of Cooperstown

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Craig Biggio. (Brad Mangin/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 edge 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 36 players on the 2014 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2014 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Biggio is making his second appearance on the BBWAA ballot after receiving votes on 68.2 percent of ballots in 2013 – the top percentage of anyone on the 2013 ballot. 

[Scouting reports on Craig Biggio]

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. 8. 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 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 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 moving 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 played on a World Series winner (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).” 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1988 22 HOU 50 131 123 14 26 6 1 3 5 6 1 7 29 .211 .254 .350
1989 23 HOU 134 509 443 64 114 21 2 13 60 21 3 49 64 .257 .336 .402
1990 24 HOU 150 621 555 53 153 24 2 4 42 25 11 53 79 .276 .342 .348
1991 25 HOU 149 609 546 79 161 23 4 4 46 19 6 53 71 .295 .358 .374
1992 26 HOU 162 721 613 96 170 32 3 6 39 38 15 94 95 .277 .378 .369
1993 27 HOU 155 707 610 98 175 41 5 21 64 15 17 77 93 .287 .373 .474
1994 28 HOU 114 511 437 88 139 44 5 6 56 39 4 62 58 .318 .411 .483
1995 29 HOU 141 673 553 123 167 30 2 22 77 33 8 80 85 .302 .406 .483
1996 30 HOU 162 723 605 113 174 24 4 15 75 25 7 75 72 .288 .386 .415
1997 31 HOU 162 744 619 146 191 37 8 22 81 47 10 84 107 .309 .415 .501
1998 32 HOU 160 738 646 123 210 51 2 20 88 50 8 64 113 .325 .403 .503
1999 33 HOU 160 749 639 123 188 56 0 16 73 28 14 88 107 .294 .386 .457
2000 34 HOU 101 466 377 67 101 13 5 8 35 12 2 61 73 .268 .388 .393
2001 35 HOU 155 717 617 118 180 35 3 20 70 7 4 66 100 .292 .382 .455
2002 36 HOU 145 655 577 96 146 36 3 15 58 16 2 50 111 .253 .330 .404
2003 37 HOU 153 717 628 102 166 44 2 15 62 8 4 57 116 .264 .350 .412
2004 38 HOU 156 700 633 100 178 47 0 24 63 7 2 40 94 .281 .337 .469
2005 39 HOU 155 651 590 94 156 40 1 26 69 11 1 37 90 .264 .325 .468
2006 40 HOU 145 607 548 79 135 33 0 21 62 3 2 40 84 .246 .306 .422
2007 41 HOU 141 555 517 68 130 31 3 10 50 4 3 23 112 .251 .285 .381
20 Yrs 2850 12504 10876 1844 3060 668 55 291 1175 414 124 1160 1753 .281 .363 .433

 

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