Born: December 14, 1965
Town: South Orange
Craig Alan Biggio was born December 14, 1965 in Smithtown, NY. A standout in virtually every sport he tried, he was recruited by the Seton Hall baseball team out of Kings Park High. Craig was also a highly touted football recruited, having been named the top player in Suffolk County as a senior. He turned down a scholarship from Boston College to play defensive back and told the Detroit Tigers not to draft him—he was going to college.
Craig arrived in South Orange assuming he would play shortstop, but the Pirates were in need of catching and coach Mike Sheppard convinced him to switch positions. It didn’t take much selling—Craig’s favorite player as a kid was catcher Thurman Munson of the Yankees, and he had caught for his high school team, too.
After a shaky freshman year behind the plate, Craig excelled at the position. He teamed with John Valentin, Martese Robinson and Mo Vaughn to give Seton Hall a formidable offense. As a junior in 1987, Craig was honored as an All-American. He batted .407 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs in 55 games. His #44 was later retired by the Pirates.
The Houston Astros selected Craig in the 1st round of the 1987 draft. He batted .375 that summer at Class-A Asheville and .320 in 1988 in a half-season at Triple-A. Houston called Craig up and began grooming him as the everyday catcher, a position he assumed the following spring. He made the All-Star team as a backstop in 1991, and then switched to second base the following season and was an All-Star again. No one in history had made the midseason classic at those two positions.
By then, Craig and Jeff Bagwell had distinguished themselves as the Killer B’s—Craig for his base running prowess and Jeff for his power and plate discipline.
Craig went to five more All-Star Games and won four Gold Gloves between 1994 and 1997. He led the NL in stolen bases in 1994 and in runs scored in 1995 and 1997. He also was the league’s doubles leader in 1994, 1998 and 1999. In 1998 he became just the second player in history with 50 doubles and 50 steals. And he set the NL record with 53 leadoff home runs.
From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the Astros ranked among the top teams in baseball. They won the NL Central four times in five years, and made the playoffs in 2004 and 2005. The 2005 postseason was their best—the Astros won the pennant and lost the World Series to the White Sox in four close games.
Two seasons later, Craig collected his 3,000th hit. He also set a modern record for being hit by a pitch 285 times. In 215, Craig was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was the first player to go in as an Astro.