For Biggio, it's the names, not the numbers

Originally Published: June 28, 2007
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Three thousand hits.

All of them without ever changing teams, caps or zip codes.

Three thousand hits.

Most of them while toiling as a second baseman -- a position not known for its plethora of 3,000-Hit Club members.

Three thousand hits.

Craig Biggio.

That feat. That name. Now linked forever.

Maybe it didn't take that 3,000th hit Thursday night -- that seventh-inning single off Colorado's brand-new human trivia answer, Aaron Cook -- to make most of America realize that Craig Biggio is an all-time great.

Maybe it didn't take those five hits he got Thursday -- on a night when he became the first player in history to paint a five-hit masterpiece in the game in which he got his 3,000th hit -- to make the inhabitants of this planet comprehend that this fellow is a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer.

But why do we have that feeling that about 97 percent of the non-Texans in our audience only came to that realization about two weeks ago?

Craig Biggio (7)
AP Photo/Pat SullivanCraig Biggio, who had a night to remember with five hits in his 3,000-hit game, is congratulated by former teammate Jeff Bagwell.
There just seems to be something about this guy that makes him semi-invisible to humans who don't speak with a drawl. So this day -- the day of Craig Biggio's 3,000th hit -- just fit right into the fabric of a way-too-peaceful career.

Never in the history of baseball had we seen one man hit his 500th home run and another man get his 3,000th hit on the same day.

Heck, only twice before (Ernie Banks-Hank Aaron in 1970, Tony Gwynn-Wade Boggs-Mark McGwire in 1999) had we witnessed both of those magic numbers arrive in the same week.

But it figured that when it did happen, it would happen on the day Craig Biggio got No. 3,000.

When Frank Thomas made his 500th trot, it was lunch time. So Thomas had all day to bask in his glory.

But by the time Craig Biggio's game ended, it was midnight in the East. So only the insomniacs were awake enough to digest the true meaning of this man and his moment. Figures.

It isn't easy to sneak up on that 3,000-Hit Club, you know. With the last few men to join that group before Biggio -- Rafael Palmeiro, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Boggs -- we saw them coming 500 hits away.

But come on now. Admit it. You never even noticed Biggio was on that precipice until he got to, like, 2,976.

Maybe it's because he's been hanging out in Houston all these years, playing beneath the headline-generating shadows of Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Billy Wagner, Lance Berkman, Brad Lidge and a parade of higher-profile luminaries that stretch all the way back to the days of Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan.

Maybe it's because he wasn't loud enough. Or controversial enough.

Maybe it's because he wasn't a .338 hitter like Gwynn. Or a 504-homer guy like Eddie Murray.

Maybe it's because he forgot to play in 2,632 games in a row like Ripken. Maybe it's because he forgot to win a batting title (or eight) like Gwynn.

Maybe it's because he not only forgot to become a Yankee, he never played one game against the Yankees in October.

Heck, he never even filed for free agency in the last dozen years of his career, let alone tried to use the Yankees to squeeze a few million more bucks out of the Astros.

But now his secret is out. That'll happen to a guy when he starts hanging out in the old 3,000-Hit Clubhouse. Now we know what we've been watching all these years.

You know, you're just out there playing. You're not even thinking about stuff like this. And then you find yourself thrown in with all these icons of the game, and it's a great feeling.

--Craig Biggio

In case you hadn't noticed, everybody around Biggio on the all-time hits list, the all-time runs-scored list, the all-time doubles list and the all-time extra-base-hits list is a Hall of Famer.

In case you hadn't noticed, only two other men in the history of this sport ever got 3,000 hits while spending most of their career at second base -- Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie. Which means the last time a second base legend did anything like this, Calvin Coolidge was president.

So try to digest this for a moment. Craig Biggio has gotten more hits than Rogers Hornsby, more hits than Joe Morgan, more hits than Ryne Sandberg or Robbie Alomar or Red Schoendienst.

Pretty cool names.

And it's those names -- not the numbers -- that get Craig Biggio's attention.

The numbers -- they go flying by nightly, spinning like a slot machine, impossible to comprehend or take stock of. But the names? The names are tough to ignore.

"It's not a numbers thing for me," Biggio said last summer, during a conversation about all the lists he was climbing. "Oh, certain numbers will hit you. There's no doubt about that. But to me, if you don't appreciate the clientele you start finding yourself hanging with [on those lists], you're nuts.

"I passed Babe Ruth in doubles one time. Babe Ruth. That was unbelievable to me. And I passed Carl Yastrzemski. I'll never forget that one. You know, you're just out there playing. You're not even thinking about stuff like this. And then you find yourself thrown in with all these icons of the game, and it's a great feeling. So it's not the numbers, really. It's the names."

Yeah, it's the names, all right. They're the golden names of baseball. The best there ever was.

And now Craig Biggio is one of them.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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