Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on KHOU.com on July 26, 2015.
The culmination of a 20-year career finally came full circle for Craig Biggio.
The Houston Astros star was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, becoming the first player in franchise history to do such.
“How do you get to the Hall of Fame?” Biggio said during his speech. “You got to have a little bit of talent and a lot of help along the way.”
There was no shortage of talent for Biggio throughout his career.
The New York native cranked out more than 3,000 hits—one of only 29 players in MLB history to do so—600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs. He was named a seven-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and four Gold Glove Awards, and he finished in the top 16 of the MVP voting five times.
“I gave the game everything I had every day,” he said. “In baseball, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I tried to play every game like it was my last.”
It’s that dedication that won over Astros fans and a reason why so many flocked to Cooperstown, N.Y., to watch their beloved Biggio’s big moment. Fans, dressed in all their Astros gear, roared as Biggio took the stage and throughout his speech.
“It’s about time. You got a great guy that played the game for the right reasons. It wasn’t for the money, it was for the love of the game,” said Astros fan Kevin Kresta, who made the trip north for the ceremony.
“I love him,” said fan Jessica De La Rosa. “He’s a wonderful person to stay with our Astros.”
Even Houston Texan superstar J.J. Watt showed his support.
There is only one proper outfit choice for today. pic.twitter.com/enPKV4pDYq
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 26, 2015
There is only one proper outfit choice for today,” Watt tweeted with a photo of a Biggio jersey and an Astros hat.
Their support didn’t go unnoticed.
“The biggest compliment you can get is from fans and for other people to say, ‘You were my idol,’” Biggio said.
Biggio used his speech to thank everyone who helped him reach the Hall of Fame—from his mother and father; college coach Mike Sheppard; former Astros managers Yogi Berra and Matt Galante; former teammates, including Jeff Bagwell; and his wife and children.
“I thank God for Matt Galante. I’m not here without that man,” Biggio said.
Biggio turned to Bagwell, his teammate for 15 years, and thanked him for helping change the culture in Houston and making it a baseball town.
And to his wife, Patti, Biggio thanked her for being the rock that held their family together during the seasons. “Most of all, you were there and made things normal for our kids,” he said.
He also recalled his time as a kid in New York when he worked as a newspaper courier. He said there was a family with a child battling leukemia and he made a promise that if he was ever in a position to help, he would. That led to his support of the Sunshine Kids, a Houston-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping children battling cancer.
It’s that support and community involvement, among his heroics on the baseball diamond, which won over the hearts of Houstonians. Biggio wasn’t just a ballplayer from New York here to play a game and earn a paycheck; he became every part of the city that cheered him on. Even eight years after he retired, Biggio and his wife still reside in Houston.
“To the Astro fans … you guys are the greatest fans in the world,” Biggio said during his speech. “I love you guys. I want to thank you for the way you treated my family and I. I will never forget the playoff runs and the memories.”
They’re memories from his first-ever game as an Astro on June 26, 1988, to his 3,000th-hit game, to his final game Sept. 30, 2007, that fans will never forget, either.
Astros fan Jay Justilian still remembers the days when Biggio first entered the league in the late 190s. Those days he would watch Biggio catch fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan from behind home plate, whose 100 mph fastballs would send a loud, echoing pop throughout the Astrodome.
But perhaps the most memorable moment for all Astros fans—for all Biggio fans—came June 29, 2007 when Biggio joined the 3,000-hit club. Biggio sent a pitch from Aaron Cook with the Colorado Rockies to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh, sending fans in Minute Maid Park into a frenzy.
Biggio, with the same hustle he’d shown throughout his career, tried to stretch what was a sure single into a double, but was tagged before he could slide safely into second.
“He really wanted a double,” former teammate Brad Ausmus told MLB.com.
To no despair from fans.
“The best memory I have in baseball,” said Astros fan Karl Almquist.
“The loudest I’ve ever heard this stadium,” said fan Andrew Wyble.
For Biggio, it’s not one memory or experience but a culmination of 20 years’ worth of memories and experiences throughout a Hall of Fame career that came full circle with his enshrinement among baseball’s all-time greats.
“I want to thank the game for everything,” Biggio said. “This game has given me everything.”