April 29, 2015
The Lineup Card
Memories of Craig Biggio's Hall of Fame Career
1. Thrown Out Stretching on 3,000th Hit on June 28th, 2007
Then Biggio just kept running. It was unforgivably stupid. It was showboating. With two outs in a game tied up on this hit, Biggio insisted upon trying to reach second base on a ball the center fielder had effortlessly cut off before it could get anywhere near a gap. Hell, it wasn’t even hit toward a gap. In 1997, he might have been safe, and maybe it was just the transcendent power of the moment, but in 2007, it was not remotely close. The half-smile turned into a chortle, first of exasperation, but then of appreciation. Biggio’s hustle was real, even when it felt fake. The same thing that made him take so many pitches off the body just to have first base pushed him to beat out every would-be double-play grounder he hit in 1997, and the same things that made him do those things made him try for second base when it was entirely beyond hope.
To me, the name of Biggio’s game was always ruthless ambition, only of an unusual kind: He desperately wanted the next 90 feet. Defined himself by whether he could get it, and enjoyed it much more if he took it from you by force of will. That he didn’t get it on this signature play is less important than the fact that he tried. —Matthew Trueblood
2. The Game-Winning Three-Run Homer on September 7th, 2005
The Astros would beat the Phillies by one game for the wild card, and then beat the Braves and Cardinals to reach the World Series. —Zachary Levine
3. Reaction to Darryl Kile's Death
But there was one image that stood out to me, one that was seared in my memory. This AP photo of the Astros game the day after Kile’s death, and Kile’s former Houston teammates lined up in a pregame ceremony to honor him. All the men there were solemn, but this particular photo of Biggio’s distraught expression was used in numerous news articles that day and since. Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Brad Ausmus sat the game out so they could grieve.
It’s easy to forget, but Biggio came up to the big leagues as a catcher. In fact, he caught the very first game Kile pitched as a big leaguer in 1991. He and DK were teammates until 1997, when Kile left for Colorado. But they stayed very close friends throughout their time in the majors, and Biggio has helped to honor Kile’s memory in the meantime. He and Bagwell were featured in a 2012 MLB Network documentary to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Kile’s passing.
Through the Kile tragedy, I was reminded that ballplayers are not just teammates with one another, but very often their friends, too. Biggio confessed a year afterward, “During the national anthem, I always say a prayer for the people close to me, and he's one guy I think about.” —Dan Rozenson
4. The Rookie Card
Now, Biggio is in the Hall of Fame. For those of us who would never admit it, but get sucked into clicking on the Bizzfeed "19 signs you grew up in the 90s" posts, this is an official "old moment." Technically, 2014 inductee Frank Thomas was the first players who debuted, had a Hall of Fame career, and then got voted in to the Hall of Fame within my baseball fandom lifetime, but Biggio entered my consciousness a little bit earlier. The Hall of Fame used to be the place where the giants of yesteryear were recognized for their playing accomplishments. Now, yesteryear is... my childhood. It's kind of like how every year, the new drivers get younger and younger. Or maybe they all stay the same age and I get older and older. —Russell A. Carleton
I remember this little Blogspot website being mentioned on ESPN in 2005, and little blogs just didn’t get mentioned on ESPN back then. (The only website allowed to be mentioned on ESPN in 2005 was ESPN dot com, part of the Go Network.) I didn’t have a strong opinion either way on plunkbiggio.blogspot.com, but I couldn’t believe how popular this little thing got. Kind of reminds me of Biggio himself.
First he passed Don Baylor, the modern mark. Then he passed Tommy Tucker, no. 2 on the list. The all-time HBP mark actually looked to be his, but after a plunk by Joe Smith in July 2007, he finished his career with 61 straight HBP-free games (and the Onion was ON IT), two HBPs shy of the all-time record held by Hughie Jennings, who once got hit 51 times in 1896 (#ThanksMcKinley).
One can only wonder if Biggio ever pulls a “Mr. 3000” and comes out of retirement just to get three more HBPs. —Matt Sussman
6. When he got hit by lightning