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Biggio reaches 3,000-hit milestone06/29/2007 3:03 AM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- There was never a question that Craig Biggio was going to reach 3,000 hits. The question was, when?
The answer: Immediately.
Biggio needed three hits for the big milestone when he stepped to the plate for the first time Thursday night at Minute Maid Park. By the time the Astros beat the Rockies on Carlos Lee's 11th-inning grand slam, Biggio had hit Nos. 2,998, 2,999 3,000, 3,001 and 3,002.
"I was just getting exhausted out there," Biggio said.
The night was exhausting, but exhilarating as well. The second baseman admittedly couldn't have scripted it any better had he written it out beforehand. He singled in the third and the fifth to send the crowd of 42,537 into an utter frenzy, but when he singled off Aaron Cook in the seventh frame for his 3,000th hit, absolute pandemonium swept through Minute Maid Park.
OK, so he was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into his 659th career double. Never mind that. Brad Ausmus jumped out of the dugout and raced toward Biggio, and soon, the rest of the team joined in, mobbing Biggio with pats and hugs and high fives.
Biggio's wife, Patty and daughter Quinn, ran onto the field from their cushy seats behind the plate, courtesy of club owner Drayton McLane. Biggio's batboy sons, Conor and Cavan, ran in from the dugout as well. Forty-three family and friends of the Biggios, from both Houston and New Jersey, celebrated from various areas of the ballpark.
As Biggio lifted Quinn high in the air, Patty sobbed. Soon, Biggio did the same. The moment was a relief, a thrill and mostly, a release of all of the tension that had been building over time, especially in the last couple of weeks.
"It was definitely a release," Patty Biggio said. "He looked so determined out there tonight. He was super-focused. I didn't move from my seat, didn't stop chewing the gum I was chewing, I didn't do anything different than when he got the first hit."
The best moment arrived minutes later when Biggio spotted Jeff Bagwell in the dugout and coaxed his longtime teammate and friend onto the field. Biggio pulled a visibly reluctant Bagwell onto the right side of the infield grass, right near where the two played side by side for 15 years from 1991-2005.
"I couldn't have scripted it any better," a choked up Biggio said. "As a baseball player, the way the fans treated me. ... I've said for a long time, I love these guys, I love this city, I worked hard here and they appreciated that."
Biggio is usually as locked in as a player can be when he bats, able to tune out the BIG-GI-O chants from the stands. But on this night, he was keenly aware of the standing ovations he received before, during and after each at-bat.
Touching, yes. And a bit unnerving.
"I tried to stay focused, but you get a standing ovation every single time up there, it's a nice appreciation," he said. "I'm very grateful, really thankful, for a lot of things. A lot of things have happened here over the course of my 20-year career, but tonight I think was the best. I'm just glad we finally got it done."
Biggio began the season with 2,930 hits and while there was little doubt he'd reach 3,000, the pace by which he was tallying the hits was somewhat disconcerting. Entering the game, Biggio was hitting .238 on the year, several dozen points under his career average.
Biggio knew he was going to reach the finish line, but he also acknowledged that 70 was no small number.
"I can downplay it as much as I want," he said. "But 70 is a lot of hits, especially at my age. We've had some good weeks and some bad weeks but to finally get there, get over the hump and get somebody from this organization finally on that list. ... This is a proud day for the Astros."
Biggio is the 27th player in Major League history to log 3,000 hits. He's the ninth to do so while playing all of this games with one team, and by logging his 3,001st and 3,002nd, he's now 26th all-time, having passed Roberto Clemente, who had exactly 3,000 hits during his Hall of Fame career.
Biggio's 3,000th hit was a no-doubter. No. 2,999? Not so much.
In the fifth frame, he laced a sharp grounder toward third base, where Garrett Atkins took two steps to his right and reached across his body to field the ball. After a brief pause, Atkins threw the ball high above first baseman Todd Helton's outstretched glove, and as the ball hit the wall next to the Astros' dugout and Biggio advanced to second, the sellout crowd waited for the official scorer's ruling.
Base hit, runner advances to second on an E-5.
Official scorer Trey Wilkinson cited rule 10.12 (a)(1) as his reasoning for the call. The rule states: "Slow handling of the ball that does not involve mechanical misplay shall not be construed as an error."
In other words, the official scorer can't charge an error if the fielder fields a ground ball cleanly but does not throw to first base in time to retire the batter.
"(Atkins) held onto the ball for what I would consider an abnormally long time," Wilkinson said. "By the time the ball was thrown, to the naked eye -- plus looking at multiple replays -- you can't tell if a good throw would have made it, if he would have been thrown out or not."
Atkins' throw was "terrible, no doubt about it," Wilkinson conceded, but Biggio likely would have beaten it out had it been more accurate.
"It was going to be a bang-bang play, no question about that," Wilkinson said. "Somebody's got to make the call. That's why there's an official scorer. In my opinion, it's a hit."
Garner joked that he wants Biggio to go for 3,000 hits every day.
"He was running like a 20-year-old out there," Garner laughed.
When the game ended, McLane was one of the first to Biggio with offers of congratulations.
"This morning at 7:30 I asked everybody, who thinks he'll get it tonight, raise their hand," McLane said. "And nobody raised their hand. When I asked to bid on Friday, some said that, more said Saturday and most said Sunday. Nobody that I talked to thought he'd get it the first night.
"But that just shows how important his career is. He exemplifies what the Houston Astros stand for. How unusual is it in the last 25 years of free agency to have a player drafted by the Astros and has played 20 years without playing for another club. That's incredible."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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