Sportswriters Ruin What Should Have Been A Great Day
You have got to be kidding me? Two votes? Two stinking votes kept Craig Biggio from the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is worth the wait but it still stings. Craig won’t complain but I am under no such constraints.
Hello sportswriters, don’t make me count to 3,060. That’s how many hits #7 produced. Only four players who have reached that number have yet to be voted into the Hall. One is Pete Rose and he isn’t eligible and another, Rafael Palmeiro, will have problems with steroid issues. Derek Jeter is the fourth and he is almost a certain first ballot lock five years after he retires.
Here is another accomplishment to chew on- no right handed hitter in the game’s history has more doubles (668) than Biggio. Digest that one for a second. He is 15th all time in runs scored. Isn’t that the objective of the game? He was a seven-time all star. He played on four division winning teams and two Wild Cards, including 2005 when that club won the National League pennant and advanced to the World Series. He won five Silver Slugger Awards and four Gold Gloves. He owns the National League record for most lead off home runs. And a partridge in a pear tree. Apparently it wasn’t quite enough to get into the Hall for 2014. Did I mention he was hit by a pitch a modern record 285 times? It kind of feels like we all took a fastball in the ribs doesn’t it?
I joined the Astros as a rookie radio announcer in 2006 when the team was fresh off a World Series appearance. The club was filled with stars: Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and later that year, Roger Clemens. Bagwell’s career was cut short by injury. The others left via trades or free agency. Only one remained until the end. I was hoping to join so many Astros fans in celebrating him and his career today.
Instead I am reminded on an incident in 2006 when the Astros were in Chicago to play the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. I went to the stadium early and Craig and his son Conor were trying to get into the tunnel leading to the visiting clubhouse. The attendant in the main lobby wasn’t sure who he was and insisted on seeing some identification. As I stood behind the Biggios, I looked over at the mural of the first pitch of the ’05 Series covering the entire wall. I told the security guard, if you want to know who he is, look in the batter’s box. He is batting. Same guy. Let him in.
I would like to tell the writers who failed to vote for Craig the same thing. Let him in. Don’t get me started on the Hall of Fame voting process. It is flawed and possibly broken. I will save that diatribe for another day. I came into today preparing to celebrate Biggio’s career and I am going to do that regardless of the fact he came two stinking votes short.
I told Craig several times I can’t imagine anyone being able to write your script in life- let alone sports. It just doesn’t work that way. But #7 came awfully close. He got to play with one team his entire career, play alongside some incredible teammates and make post-season baseball in Houston almost accepted instead of a pipe dream.
The Jersey native made Texas his home and raised his three kids in the community that he became so active in with his charitable endeavors. Craig became synonymous with the Sunshine Kids and was so aptly recognized with the Roberto Clemente Award in 2007, an award given annually to a player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.
Those contributions to his team were special. As fans, we recognize and honor athletes who can perform amazing feats, put up staggering numbers or who are amazingly consistent. There is a special place reserved for those that can put up fantastic numbers consistently. It is called the Hall of Fame.
Craig Biggio will get into the Hall of Fame, probably even next year, but it stings that it didn’t happen today. It brings me back to being able to write your own script. The night of his 3,000th hit was a great example. I was supposed to have the call of the game in the 7th inning. Craig came to the plate sitting on 2,999. I deferred the call of the at bat to Milo. I would have loved the opportunity and challenge to describe Astros baseball history. But it seemed like the right thing to do. Instead I had one of the best seats in the house and a chance to do something I haven’t been able to do in 20 years as a play-by-play broadcaster. Turn off my mic and observe. Biggio blistered a pitch from Aaron Cook into right-field, he sprinted around first base on a dash towards possibly another double, before he was thrown out. Out at second, but in the 3,000 hit club. He became one of just ten players to reach that plateau with one team. I stood and silently applauded, enjoying the moment as much as the fans. Craig’s wife Patty and their three children were soon on the field. Then Jeff Bagwell came out of the dugout, being drug back between the white lines by his long time friend and teammate, allowing that duo to be recognized together at the signature event. Craig said later he told Jeff he promised to pay part of the fine should Major League Baseball levy one. Bagwell quickly pointed out that Craig agreed to pay “part” of a possible fine. Who writes this stuff? At home, sell-out crowd, beautiful family and great friend and teammate all on the field to celebrate the moment? We almost forget that he went 5-5 that day and Carlos Lee hit a walk-off grand slam in the tenth inning. We don’t and won’t forget the moment on the field after the hit.
I was lucky enough to be on the field to interview Craig right after his final game in 2007 before he took a victory lap around a sold out stadium in an otherwise forgettable season. That is a moment I will never forget. But there is one that even rises above the final weekend. It was the day he announced his retirement in June of 2007. After the press conference I interviewed him for the pre-game show. Just Craig and his family in a semi-circle in the media room underneath the stadium. A few hours later he hit a grand slam to beat the Dodgers. After the game I grabbed Craig again, for a post-game radio interview. Just #7 and myself as the dugout cleared and we waited to go live. I have a picture of the two of us in that interview. It is enclosed in the autographed and framed #7 jersey that hangs on the wall of my office. I look at it every single day. A game winning grand slam on the day you announced your retirement? Again, who writes this stuff?
I would love to have that script writer back. Apparently he or she took today off. Please come back soon, preferably next year. When they write a final chapter to Craig Biggio’s playing career, we know where it will end up, Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It may not feel much like it today, but it will be worth the wait.