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With 68 percent, Biggio just shy on first try at Hall

HOUSTON -- Craig Biggio played the game the right way for 20 seasons, hustling down the first-base line with all his might, whether it was the middle of March or late September. He worked hard, blossomed into an All-Star player and compiled a Hall of Fame resume.

The call from the Hall will have to wait, however.

Biggio, appearing on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for a first time, came up short of being elected Wednesday, garnering 68.2 percent of the vote of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Biggio finished 39 votes shy of becoming the first player elected to the Hall of Fame to have played the majority of his career in Houston.

Biggio is scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday morning at Minute Maid Park.

Biggio's longtime teammate, Jeff Bagwell, inched closer to Cooperstown, N.Y., in his third year on the ballot, getting 59.6 percent of the vote. Pitcher Jack Morris appeared on 67.7 percent of the ballots, splitting the former Astros.

"I feel bad for Craig," Bagwell said. "I know how much this means to him. I've already been on the ballot. I'm just disappointed that Craig didn't get in. Three thousand hits is a huge milestone."

For the first time since 1996, eligible members of the BBWAA did not vote in a single player from a ballot of 37 candidates that was deep and controversial.

The ballot was loaded with a number of first-time-eligible players whose careers spanned a decade of Major League Baseball that some believe was clouded by the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Biggio has never been linked to PEDs, but the motives of some voters may have hurt him.

"My first reaction is disappointment," former Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I just think it's a shame, and what I think they've probably done with Biggio is lump him into a certain category with everybody else and say, 'I'm not voting for anybody.'"

While there was rampant disappointment among Astros fans for Biggio and Bagwell falling short this year, the voting totals suggest both will be headed to the Hall of Fame eventually. Bagwell received 56 percent of the vote last year in his second year on the ballot.

Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin received 51.6 percent of the vote on his first time on the ballot in 2010, and was elected last year in his third try. Players can stay on the ballot for 15 years, so there's plenty of time for Biggio.

"I'm disappointed for Bigg that he didn't make it," Biggio's longtime teammate Brad Ausmus said. "He's a Hall of Fame player and is going to get in."

Biggio certainly had Hall of Fame credentials. He played 20 years for the Astros, and in 2007, became just the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits. He wound up hitting 291 home runs with 1,175 RBIs, 414 stolen bases and a .281 average.

Barry Axelrod, who represented both Biggio and Bagwell, was with Biggio in Houston when he got the disappointing news.

"We were hoping that something good would happen today for both, so therefore it's a little disappointing," Axelrod said. "It's nothing we can control."

A first-round pick out of Seton Hall in 1987, Biggio quickly blossomed into an All-Star catcher before being moved to second base, where he became a superstar. He was among the best players in the game in the late 1990s and helped the Astros win four division titles in a five-year span (1997-99, 2001).

An All-Star at catcher and later at second base, Biggio ranks 21st all-time in hits and has more doubles (668) than any right-handed hitter in Major League history. He's 15th all-time in runs scored (1,844), 10th in plate appearances (12,504) and first in hit by pitch (285) in the modern era.

Biggio collected his 3,000th hit with a seventh-inning single against Colorado's Aaron Cook on June 28, 2007, at Minute Maid Park, which was part of a five-hit night. Biggio's No. 7 was retired by the Astros in 2008.

Biggio was named to a franchise-record seven NL All-Star teams, received five Silver Slugger Awards, four Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and was a member of six Astros playoff teams. Biggio holds NL records for leadoff home runs with 53 (ranks second all-time) and for hits in Interleague Play with 201. He also led all players during the 2005 postseason with 18 hits.

His 20 seasons with Houston are a franchise record, and he also made a club-best 19 consecutive Opening Day starts. Biggio is also the only player in Major League history to reach all of the following milestones: 600 doubles, 250 home runs, 2,700 hits and 400 stolen bases.

The numbers are Hall of Fame-worthy, which is why so many were disappointed.

"I think he should have been a shoo-in," former Astros manager, player and broadcaster Larry Dierker said. "He should have been in on the first ballot. The people that vote for him aren't baseball players. They're writers, and a lot of the writers don't go to very many games. I'm not surprised."

Houston Astros, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens