My love for Biggio started way back in the days when he was a catcher (remember that?). Back in the rainbow-hued Astros times. Back when the games used to be played in the cavernous Astrodome. Back when Mike Scott and Jim Deshaies were on the mound, Ken Caminiti and Glenn Davis and Billy Doran were on the diamond, and Kevin Bass, Billy Hatcher and Eric Anthony roamed the outfield. Back when he got called up to The Show as a fresh-faced kid playing for the Tucson Toros. He is an institution in Houston- he’s played his entire career here (not many ballplayers like that anymore)- revered as a hero, and a guy who tirelessly gives back to the community. For almost my entire life as a baseball fan, he’s been a fixture of baseball in Houston… and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single person, major leaguer or otherwise, with a bad word to say about him.
Craig and his son Conor (son Cavan in the foreground)
And if you’ll indulge me in a little sentiment…
Like any good fan, I saw more than my share of Astros games with Craig in the lineup- and had the good fortune to meet him on one occasion. I must have been 15 or 16 years old, and went with my little brother to a baseball card show. Craig was one of the featured autograph signers, and people were paying some nice bucks to meet him and get his signature. I didn’t really have the money to do that, so I sort of stood at a distance for a little bit, behind the velvet ropes and enjoyed just getting to see him in a non-game environment. It’s always a little awkward to see your baseball heroes in street clothes, like normal folks. The security guard in the area noticed me moping about, and came over to chat for a bit- we talked about Craig and his hitting and the game. As the last autograph seeker left, the guard went walking up to Craig. I saw them talking for a second, and Craig looked up and smiled and waved me over. I looked at the guard, and said, “But I didn’t pay!” and he said, “Craig doesn’t care- just get under that rope before the card convention people see you!” And of course, I was dumbstruck, and barely able to speak- and Craig was sweet and asked me about school, and talked with me about the game later that today and his plans to golf the day after that, and signed every card I had in my pocket.
After that? The man could do no wrong with me. He took the time to talk to a silly, starry-eyed kid, and made a fan for life.
Biggio, standing on 2,997 this morning, got 3 runs off of the Colorado Rockies at home in Houston. In typical Biggio fashion, he tried to stretch that 3,000th hit into a double, and was tagged out at second. But who the hell cares about that- he got the 3,000! The game’s still in progress- tied at 4 apiece in the 11th- but the score is basically a footnote at this point. I’m just sad I wasn’t there to be a part of it- but he’ll always be that New Jersey kid with the big smile, the rainbow uni and the catcher’s gear to me.
Congrats, Craig… now let’s get going on that HBP record!
All that’s missing? The third member of the triumverate, Ken Caminiti.