Astros' Biggio lauded with Clemente Award for community service
DENVER -- Craig Biggio capped his sweat-stained career with one more cherished honor.
The longtime Houston Astros star won the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a major league player who combines community service with excellence on the field.
He was picked from among 30 nominees, one from each big league team, by a committee that included commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto's widow.
"I'm very humbled and grateful for this honor and to be part of his legacy,'' Biggio said. "I think the biggest part about Roberto is, as great of a player as he was, he was a bigger man off the field in his generosity and his time and giving back to the community.''
The 41-year-old second baseman retired after this season, his 20th in the major leagues -- all with Houston. He became the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits on June 28.
Asked about winning such a prestigious award in his final season, Biggio left the whole room laughing.
"I guess it was our last chance,'' he said. "So thank you.''
Known for his gritty play at several positions, Biggio also is the national spokesman for the Sunshine Kids Foundation, which provides support and fun activities for young cancer patients. He visits the Sunshine Kids house regularly and often wore the organization's pin on his Astros cap.
"The Sunshine Kids are near and dear to my heart and they're one of the reasons that I stayed there and never left as a free agent,'' Biggio said. "We're not about a cure. We're about families, we're about putting smiles on faces.''
Biggio has hosted a yearly baseball party at Minute Maid Park for more than 100 kids with cancer, along with a celebrity golf tournament that has raised more than $2.5 million for the Sunshine Kids Foundation the past 15 years.
He's also participated in several other community service programs with the Astros.
Selig, Vera Clemente and everyone else sitting next to the podium wore a bright yellow Sunshine Kids pin on their lapel.
Biggio's wife, Patty, and one of his sons, Conor, also were on hand for the presentation, along with Astros owner Drayton McLane and his wife, Elizabeth.
"This is a huge day for the Houston Astros family,'' Biggio said.
The seven-time All-Star began his career as a catcher before switching to second base, where he won four Gold Gloves from 1994-97. He later moved to the outfield, then finished his career back at second.
Biggio helped the Astros reach their only World Series in 2005, when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox. He finished his career with 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs scored and 291 homers. His 668 doubles rank fifth on the career list, numbers that seem likely to earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
"One of the game's most consistent and versatile players,'' Selig said. "I hope all the young players in this sport will watch and follow this man's career because he is what a major league baseball player should be.''
Biggio joins a list of previous Roberto Clemente Award winners that includes 13 Hall of Famers, such as Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Rod Carew. New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado won the award last year.
Clemente was a Hall of Fame right fielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press