Yes, I watched, watched even though it was football season. I watched him step into the batter’s box for the last time. It was the seventh inning, and you could tell he was emotional while standing there in the on-deck circle, and that he knew it would be his last at-bat. He had already doubled in the first inning and scored a run, but he did not think about that now. A loud roar rolled down from out of the stands as he approached home plate. With his right hand, he tipped his batting helmet to the fans and then stepped in. It was 3:02 p.m. A few minutes later he would repeat the gesture. Finally, he collected himself and focused as he had done 10,000-plus times before. For twenty years, he had taken his turn in the batting order and always while wearing an Astros jersey. Never again!
It’s gonna’ be tough to take that jersey off for the last time. He knows it, knows that it will be the hardest thing he has ever done in this game. The 3,060 hits and the 668 doubles were a piece of cake compared to this. I wonder how long he will sit in front of his locker before taking it off. At 3:04 p.m., a sharp ground ball to Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones and a frozen rope to first base, for Biggio’s final out, will be long remembered. It will be scored a simple 5-3 on your scorecard, but can you ever imagine how much work and sacrifice went into getting to that last at-bat? I can’t. On this day, the record will show that the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0; but this day was really all about Craig Biggio and the fans of Houston.
On September 30, 2007, the city of Houston, Texas, said goodbye to Craig Biggio the only way they knew how. They stood, cheered, whistled, cried, and pointed to their hometown hero. They held their children up in the air, over their heads, so they could later tell them that they had seen Craig Biggio play baseball. They held up signs confessing their affection for this little engine that could. All the while, their hearts beat faster. They knew that never again would they see him play the game he loves. They didn’t want to leave the ballpark, didn’t want him to leave. He had always been there, there for them, the fans. Three million of them turned out this season to say goodbye to # 7. His number will soon hang next to his pal; Jeff Bagwell’s # 5, high up on the wall in left field, with the other Astro legends. It’s where they belong, together.
Baseball is built on memories and records. There is no doubt that Biggio has certainly given us a lifetime’s worth to remember. As the game ended, he moved onto the field to shake hands with his teammates and coaches. He waved and tipped his hat to the fans for what seemed like twenty minutes, and still they stood and applauded. He ran around the inside of the ballpark, touching hands with as many fans as possible, Cal Ripken style. He stood as camera flashes went off at an alarming rate. It was as if a disco ball hung from the ceiling at Minute Maid Park. Then it was time, time for him to leave the field. His two boys Conor and Cavan, waited for their dad in the dugout as they had for years. They had waited many times for him to come home from a five-day road trip, waited for him to return from spring training, and waited for him to get home late at night after an extra-inning game. He was all theirs now, along with his wife Patty, of course. “It’s hard to put into words some of the things that are going through my mind right now,” Biggio said. “I know I’m a very lucky man to have this many people come out. The reason I play the game the way I do is because they expect it. That’s the truth.” Now the clock starts for the year he and his fans will celebrate again. I will miss Craig Biggio. See you in Cooperstown.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.