Craig Biggio played his entire career with the Houston Astros, beginning in 1988 and finally wrapping up in 2007. He went to seven All-Star games as both a catcher and second-baseman, and ranked sixth in National League history in games played, fifth in at bats, eighth in hits (3060), and seven in runs scored. He is considered the greatest playing in Astros history. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame last Sunday. Below is the transcript of his outstanding speech.
Thank you. This is pretty cool, I must say. What an incredible honor it is to be standing in front of these great men. I played against a lot of them, I admired a lot of them, but I respected all of them.
Thank you, Jane, for this honor and all that you do for the Hall. I’d also like to thank Jeff Idelson, Brad Horn, Whitney, and the Hall of Fame staff for keeping the integrity of the Hall of Fame.
I’d like to thank the writers for the invitation to be part of the greatest team ever, the Baseball Hall of Fame. I truly am honored.
What an amazing class to be part of. Big Randy J was a teammate. I tell you, man, he was an incredible competitor, boy. We had him for 11 games. It was amazing to watch in 1988.
John Smoltz, we had a lot of history together. I’ll never forget when we beat you guys in the playoffs. Finally, at least we got them twice. They sent us home three times. He had the class and dignity to come into our clubhouse and wish Jeff and I good luck in the second round. That’s just class. You don’t teach that.
Pedro, you brought your A game out there every time you pitched. You’re a little guy, but you pitch like the big unit.
These guys are Hall of Fame players, but they’re better people. So the big question is, how do you get to the Hall of Fame? You got to have a little bit of talent, and you got to have a lot of help along the way.
My journey started in a little town, Kings Park, New York, not too far from here. My mother Johanna and father Lee Biggio were two hard-working people who are no longer here, but I know they’re watching.
My father was an air traffic controller, though hardly never missed a game. One of the things he used to like to do was take some rope, tie it around my waist and then tie it to the backstop while throwing me batting practice to try and keep me from lunging. It worked, but I came home every day with rope burns around my waist.
My mother, never missed a game. Like most homes, she’s the rock. We spent a lot of time together traveling around from field to field. I know she’s happy today. I miss you so much, mom, and I really wish you were here today.
My brother Terry, my sister Gwen, we’ve been through a lot together. I love you guys.
My in-laws, Joe and Yolanda Egan were tremendous help along with their three kids, Joey, Timmy, and Kevin. I took their daughter to Texas 25 years ago and we had three kids there. I was very lucky to have a family that was so helpful and supportive as they have been throughout my life.
Growing up in Kings Park, I had three responsibilities: school, sports and I had a job. My job was I had a newspaper route, okay? It was an afternoon newspaper, the Newsday. Because most of the time I didn’t get home until 7 or 7:30, that’s when people on my route eventually got the paper. Sorry about that. But on my route, I had a family. The family’s name was the Albens. They had a boy that came down with leukemia. It was right then and there that I understood what a family goes through day in and day out when a family has to go through this.
I made a promise to them if I was ever in a position or situation to give back, I would. Thus I’m the national spokesperson for the Sunshine Kids. It’s an organization that helps kids with cancer and their families. The Sunshine Kids are a big part of my life and one of the reasons I stayed in Houston for 20-plus years and continue to live there today.
My memories growing up in Kings Park are great. I had a lot of great people around me. My football and baseball coaches were hard working and very supporting people. My first chance to get noticed by schools and scouts was when I played for a guy in Long Island named Marty Hasenfuss. He was an air traffic controller like my father, but getting a chance to play for Marty was the first big opportunity I had to be noticed.
I had a chance to be drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers, but I decided to go to college. I went to Seton Hall University where I met my wife Patty and had three great years there.
My college coach was Mike Sheppard. He was a tough man. He was a marine. He was a disciplinarian, but he kept you in line. Most of all he loved his players and he had their backs no matter what. The man with 999 wins and had hundreds of players get drafted.
Coach Shep’s motto was, ‘Never lose your hustle,’ which is something I took to my pro career. I’m very grateful to have played for you, Shep. Thank you.
Ed Blankmeyer was the assistant coach. He was a tremendous teacher of the game. A man who dedicated his life to college athletics, and has done an incredible job at St. John’s University as the head baseball coach. Thanks, Blanky, and keep up the good work.
Fred Hopke was a hitting coach, career minor leaguer for 11 seasons. He brought a pro-style approach to the program. He’s the first person who taught me how to work myself through an at-bat.
Monsignor Sullivan was the baseball chaplain. He was my roommate on the road at times, but most importantly he was a friend. He helped me with my conversion to a Catholicism when I was going through a tough time in my life. I miss you very much.
My teammates in college, we had a lot of fun together the three years I was there. We had a good run, especially my last year. In a regional, we beat Frank Thomas’ team, then lost to Billy Spiers’ team 2-1, then we lost to Frank’s team again. My memories in college are great.
I had a man named Clary Anderson draft me in 1987. Clary was legendary in New Jersey as a great football coach. He was our national cross-checker for the Astros. He gave me a shot and I’ll never forget that.
I had two owners in John McMullen and Drayton McLane. John McMullen was more than an owner, he was like a father figure to me. We did a lot things together off the field. Dr.McMullen kept baseball in Houston when the franchise was struggling. How many owners come watch a prospect work out in the gym in the middle of winter. McMullen and Yogi Berra did that. I was drafted by the Houston Astros the following spring.
Drayton McLane, we spent 17 years together. We built a new stadium. We built a successful organization. But most importantly, I was able to stay with one organization for 20 years. I was loyal to Drayton and he was loyal in return. Drayton, you were my boss and my owner, but most importantly you were my friend.
I was lucky to have some incredible coaches and managers. Like a lot of successful organizations, you’re only going to be successful with good people around you. One of those coaches was Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Yogi was the smartest baseball man I was ever around. Although he’s known for his Yogi-isms, his baseball intellect was second to none. Yogi would say things in a Yogi way, he’d walk by and say some things, I’d be confused. Then the next half inning, the one thing would happen, then the next half inning the other thing would happen. I sat back down on the bench and said, Oh, my gosh, I got a lot to learn about this game.
Yogi used to say, You have to have an idea and a plan. But at the end of the day, keep it simple, stupid.
Then there was Matt Galante, my coach for many years. I’m not here without that man. Give him a round of applause, please. You’re an incredible coach and teacher of the game. In the National League you got to play offense and defense or you don’t play at all. I just made the All-Star Game as a catcher. The following year the Astros asked me to go play second base, a position that I never played before in my life.
We had six weeks to learn it in spring training. No pressure, huh, Matt? A typical day with Matty was we started at 7 a.m., go to a half field when the sun was coming up, work for an hour and a half until 8:45 or so, then go practice with the team from 9 till around noon. Grab a sandwich, go to the half field again, get some more work done. Then we go back, play the game. When the game was over, we went back to the half field again.
We did that every day in spring training for six weeks. I thank God for Matt Galante and I’m so grateful. When I won my first Gold Glove, I gave it to him. Matt, thank you for everything. For being a great coach, a great teacher, but a better person and a better friend.
I want to thank all the clubhouse guys, the true heartbeat of the team. Dennis Liborio was the first man I met in the big leagues, truly one of my best friends. The first time I met him, I walked in the clubhouse and I asked him where Yogi Berra was. He said, Who the bleep are you? Your locker is over there, he turned and walked away from me. That was the beginning of our relationship. He can’t be here today. I hope he knows in his heart how much I love him and miss him.
I had some pretty special teammates over 20 years, especially my early years. I was around guys like Nolan Ryan, Billy Doran, Buddy Bell, Terry Puhl. Being around these guys taught me how to respect the game and play the game the right way day in and day out. It was always about the team.
Ken Caminiti was a great teammate and a better friend. I miss him a lot.
Nancy, Kendall, Lindsey and Nicole, your father has given us an amazing relationship.
Darryl Kile had the best curve ball I’d ever seen.
Brad Ausmus, a true friend.
Moises Alou, one of the greatest hitters I ever played with.
Jeff Bagwell, another East Coast kid who just loved to play the game. We played 15 years together and changed the culture in Houston by making it a baseball town.
We both got to live our dreams together by playing in the big leagues side-by-side. Thanks for being here today. It really means a lot.
I want to thank my agent Barry Axelrod. One of the most important ingredients in success is your agent. We’ve been through a lot together over the last 25 years. I had great confidence in you. Your hard work and professionalism were part of my ability to stay with one team my entire career. Barry was just always a phone call away, not just for me, but for all his clients. I’m very grateful for all that you’ve done and continue to do, but most of all your friendship.
John Palguta, my family and I could not have done this without you. Thank you, brother.
To my close friends, the Heberts, Tony, the Union crew, Illianna, my friends at St.Thomas and the late Monsignor Jamail. I want to thank you for supporting me in my professional and personal life.
To the Astros fans, where you at? Let me hear you? Pedro is going to give you a run for your money. There you go. There you go. You guys are the greatest fans in the world, man. I love you guys. I want to thank you for the way you treated my family and I. I hope that I earned your respect by the way I played the game, and I never took that for granted. I will never forget the playoff runs we had and the 20 years of memories.
To my family, the most important thing to me in my life. Conor, a graduate from Notre Dame. A four-year letterman on the baseball team. I’m so proud of the man that you’ve become. And the man can type. He typed this for me in like 20 minutes. Cavan, I am so proud of you and your work ethic on and off the field. I’m so proud of the man that you’re becoming on the field and off as far as a student-athlete.
Cavan just got here last night around midnight. He was very fortunate enough to make the Cape Cod All-Star team and played in the game last night, then got his way up there.
I love you. Congratulations. I’m very proud of you.
How lucky was I? I’ll never forget the memories we had traveling with the team when you guys were batboys, enjoying the three thousand hits on the field together. Memories of a lifetime.
And to Quinn, you are beautiful and talented. Although you were young and you may not remember my playing career, you sure play like you do. I’m looking forward to your bright future. You are a sweetheart and I love you very much. Save the best for last. To my wife Patty. You gave me three incredible kids, but most of all you gave me my best friend the last 25 years. You’re a great person, and our kids are who they are because of you.
The baseball life is a great life, but it’s a very hard life. I was always in and out for eight months. You were the one who did everything for the kids. You were a mom, a dad, hitting coach, the driver, the list goes on. But most of all, you were there and made things normal for our kids.
And last, I gave the game everything I had every day. In baseball, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I tried to play every game as if it was going to be my last. I want to thank the game for everything. The game has given me everything: my family, my friends, respect, but most of all memories of a lifetime.
Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart.