Craig Biggio had visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame before, but he said he barely remembers that 1970s trip.
That shouldn’t be a problem this time around.
New York native Biggio, 49, took a two-hour orientation tour of the shrine Jan. 30, the first for the four-man 2015 class elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last month.
Accompanied by his wife, Patty, Biggio spent extra time in the Hall’s Plaque Gallery.
But it wasn’t enough.
“I need a couple of days to see it all,” he said.
Biggio should have all the time he needs after he’s officially inducted at the Clark Sports Center on July 26 with first-year BBWAA ballot selections Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
But time never really seemed to be an issue for the seven-time All-Star, who finished his 20-year career with the Houston Astros with 3,060 hits, 291 home runs, 1,175 runs and a .281 batting average.
Biggio, who spent three years on the BBWAA ballot, even reached the 2005 World Series with the Astros.
“It just wasn’t meant to be for us,” said Biggio, adding that despite getting swept by the Chicago White Sox, he took a lot of pride that the Astros were the first team from Texas to play in a World Series. “It wasn’t like we did anything to lose. They beat us. With a little more luck, maybe we would have won.”
Biggio said he didn’t root for the New York Yankees or Mets as a kid, even though he grew up on Long Island.
“I wasn’t an anybody fan,” Biggio said, adding he idolized Yankees catcher Thurman Munson but never really had a favorite team. “I just wanted to play. I loved to play.”
Biggio played football and baseball for Kings Park, not far from the north shore in Suffolk County, and earned a scholarship for baseball from Seton Hall. He wound up as a catcher at Seton Hall, received a scouting visit from Astros bench coach Yogi Berra and team owner owner John McMullen, and was drafted in the first round in 1987. Then he made it to the majors as a late-season call-up in 1988, just in time to catch Nolan Ryan during the Hall of Famer’s last year in Houston.
Biggio stuck with catching for four years, including an All-Star season behind the plate in 1991. He transitioned to second base in 1992, setting up another All-Star season. Biggio said that move also put him on the path to Cooperstown.
“That’s the reason why I’m here,” he said. “I think if I had stayed at catcher, I wouldn’t have had the career I had. That doesn’t mean it was easy.”
Biggio credited Matt Galante, who replaced Hall of Famer Berra as Houston’s bench coach, with helping him adjust to second base.
“To go from being a catcher, where you saw the whole field and you knew everything that was going to happen, to being in the field and having to react at the crack of the bat, and know which way to move in each situation, that was an adjustment,” he said.
Biggio, who also spent parts of five seasons in the outfield, will be the first inductee to have an Astros logo appear on his Hall of Fame plaque.
“Texas is a lot farther than Long Island and New Jersey,” he said. “I hope (people) show up.”
The Biggios have been married for 25 years, a Long Island boy and a Jersey girl who have made their home in Houston.
Biggio coached his sons’ high school team, leading St. Thomas to two Texas state 5A baseball titles. He left coaching when the boys graduated and works for the Astros in the front office. Conor and Cavan Biggio play college baseball at Notre Dame. The Biggios’ daughter, Quinn, is in high school in Houston. In the months leading up to induction weekend, the Biggios will shuttle between high school softball games and college baseball games.
Hall officials planned a stop for Biggio at Berra’s plaque, but it took him a little time to get there. Biggio was first swayed by a display honoring the late Ernie Banks, then started to take in the history of the plaques like any other visitor would.
Biggio ended up reading every word on Berra’s plaque, but he also took in an entire half of the gallery before holding a media conference. Afterward, he held up his group’s departure so he could visit the other side of the gallery.
“That’s my guy,” he said, pointing to the plaque of career hit-by-pitch leader Hughie Jennings. He was hit 287 times during an 18-year career that started with the Louisville Colonels in 1891. Biggio finished a close second, with 285 in 20 seasons.
Biggio also lingered a bit in the 1937 section.
“Now that’s a incredible wall,” he said through a laugh.
Despite Biggio’s desire to take in everything, his tour ended right on time in front of the wall where his plaque will be installed inside the museum.
“That’s us? That’s a good wall,” he said. “Great wall. But I guess any wall would be a good wall in here.”