Ouch! Biggio is entering the record book the hard way
Biggio will soon enter the record books because of career filled with afternoons like these, a game where he was twice hit by pitches. He's perilously close to redefining what it means to take one, or maybe even two, for the team.
"It's a painful way to make a living," Biggio said, smiling through the aches.
Heading into Friday night's game, Biggio had been plunked 266 times in his career, putting him one away from tying Don Baylor's modern-era mark of 267. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Biggio will need to be plunked 21 more times to tie the all-time record held by Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings, who was hit 287 times in a 17-year career that started in 1891.
"If anybody breaks it, he would be the one guy you probably wouldn't think about," said Baylor, now a hitting coach with the Seattle Mariners. "But I love his style of play. I always have."
Virtually a 185-pound bull's-eye, Biggio has been whacked in the face just once, drilled in the head four times and been pelted from shoulders to shins on 261 other occasions.
Not so surprisingly, the 39-year-old Biggio is fuzzy about the guys who bounced pitches off his head and only recently started tallying how many hits he was away from Baylor's mark.
"I don't ever go up to the plate with the intention of getting hit," Biggio said. "I go up there trying to get a hit."
When Biggio started playing with Houston in 1988, he was a catcher and got used to getting "tattooed" by players at the plate so he wasn't intimidated by being hit by pitches.
Biggio thinks a high leg kick he used in his swing until two seasons ago is the primary reason that he's been plunked so much. When he lifted his front leg to prepare for a pitch, Biggio said, he would become vulnerable to the being hit because he was balancing on his back leg.
He has the bruises -- and numbers -- to prove it.
Biggio has 12 seasons of being hit by a pitch at least 10 times, a figure that ranks third in major league history. He also has more multi-hit by pitch games (20) than multihomer games (14) in his career, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"My first reaction is he must have very bad reflexes," said Astros catcher Brad Ausmus, Biggio's teammate for seven seasons. "As long as I've known him, his mentality is just to get on base even if it's a painful endeavor."
For certain, Biggio finds less painful means of getting on base: he's a seven-time All-Star who is the Astros' all-time hits leader with 2,711 entering Friday.
But he's often been able to make the anguish worthwhile, scoring 35 percent (94-of-266) of the time after getting hit by a pitch.
"I'm definitely paying my dues, but that's part of the job," Biggio said. "It's nothing you can try to do. You just have to have a huge pain threshold for this sometimes."
Once the games are over, though, all that whacking isn't quite so funny. The combination of Biggio's high-energy playing style and accumulation of the hits have certainly taken their toll, though Biggio has never been placed on the disabled list because of a plunking.
"Some of these things you wouldn't believe -- they're horrific, these huge, swollen bruises all over his body," said Biggio's wife, Patty. "Sometimes he struggles to get out of bed, and then you have to be careful of bumping into him after games."
To protect himself as he digs in close to the plate, Biggio now wears a bigger-than-normal helmet ("It looks like a football helmet," Biggio jokes) and a thick elbow pad. That's nothing compared to the bulky plastic protector he once used to wear on his left arm, which was eventually prohibited following league-wide legislation from the commissioner's office.
"Man, I used to hate Craig Biggio. I used to tell my team to hit him in the neck -- that was the only area with no pad," said Astros manager Phil Garner, who once faced Biggio's teams as manager of Milwaukee. "Now, I love it when he's on my team."
But Biggio gets a little irritated at the suggestion that his extra cushion, um, padded his total. He insists that he earned this record the hard way, specifically pointing to the scariest plunking of his career.
That was Sept. 25, 1997 at the Astrodome, when Jeremi Gonzalez buzzed a 90 mph fastball into his cheekbone. The pitch grazed the earflap of his helmet first, Biggio recalled, likely saving him from serious injury.
Though Biggio was a little groggy, he dutifully picked himself up off the turf and took first base. No way he was coming out of the game at that point -- the Astros were a win away from clinching their first playoff berth in 11 years.
"That was my first chance to get to the postseason," Biggio said. "I wasn't coming out unless I broke something."
Now that he's destined to pass Baylor, a Web log called plunkbiggio.blogspot.com has collectively tracked Biggio's push for the record. The operator of the blog says that it's "dedicated to Craig Biggio and his (probably unintentional) quest to break the all-time major league career record for getting hit by pitches."
But, the blogger, notes in a "moral disclaimer" at the bottom of the page that: "The author of this blog does not support or endorse intentionally throwing at Craig Biggio."
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this story.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index