Saturday, September 28, 2002

Craig Biggio by Kip Yates

Craig Biggio is neither colorful nor flamboyant. If I wanted to write about those types of players, Derek Bell or Jose Canseco would be the subjects of my article. However, Biggio does play for my favorite baseball team and he is one of the scrappiest players playing the game today. I have chosen to write about Big (pronounced Beeej) because he embodies what I like about the game of baseball and represents the sort of all around player that I think every player should strive to be. I know that when I am between the white lines, I try to play the game with the same intensity that Big plays with.

Big broke into the majors the year I graduated from high school, 1988. He was the first position player from the 1987 draft to make it to the Show. A graduate of Seton Hall University, Big had a couple of firsts off of future Hall of Famers. His first hit came against Orel Hershiser and his first homerun came courtesy of Goose Gossage. That was over fourteen years ago and Big still plays with the same tenacity as he did when he made his debut as a catcher.

Big became the first Astros catcher ever named to an all-star team in 1991. He moved to second in 1992 and that year became the first player in Major League history to make the All-Star team at both catcher and second base. He has six appearances in the (what used to be) Midsummer Classic and has four Gold Gloves for his outstanding play up the middle. Among his many career highlights: In 1998, he joined HOF Tris Speaker as the only players to hit fifty plus doubles and steal fifty or more bases in the same season. Big is the all time Houston Astro record holder in games played, hits, runs, doubles, and stolen bases.

Big, also known as Pigpen for the way he plays and the appearance of his pine-tar stained batting helmet is never afraid to get dirty or take one for the team. He currently leads all active Major Leaguers in hits-by-pitch. He gets it done playing small ball. He isn’t a prolific homerun hitter, but has been known to lead off more than a few games with a yack ball. Big relies on speed, excellent base running skills and situational hitting to be a key cog in a potent line up. He is one of only three players to play an entire season without grounding into a double play, accomplishing the feat in 1997.

Despite a horrific knee injury in 2000 at Florida, Big continues to be big time ballplayer in the Astro organization. As testament to his grit, Big applauded Florida’s Preston Wilson’s slide into second base that ended his season, saying that it was the right way to play the game. Though he has slowed down just a bit since the injury to his MCL and ACL, Craig Biggio is still one of the best second basemen in the game. His drive and determination as he tries to steer the Houston Astros to the World Series championship attracts admirers and imitators around the league. Craig Biggio may not be the most colorful guy in baseball, but grit has to count for something.

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