Biggio goes out on his own terms

Biggio goes out on his own terms

HOUSTON -- Craig Biggio could have hung around for another year or two, collect some paychecks and a few more hits to add to the 3,014 he's compiled over the last 20 years with the Houston Astros.

But to Biggio, sticking around past this season would be like not hustling on the field. And that is something Craig Biggio never did and he isn't about to start now. He'd given fans their money's worth for 20 years, but time and 2,800 games takes a toll, and the 41-year-old didn't want to get to the point where his body was unable to match his heart.

And so in an emotional confirmation of what had long been suspected, Biggio made it official Tuesday afternoon. This season would be the last of his sensational playing career.

"I didn't want to stick around the game too long, I know I could play the game for a couple of years, I know I could," Biggio said. "But I just didn't want somebody, some families, dads, moms bringing their kids out to the game and saying 'You know it's just not the same guy that we used to watch.' I didn't want that. I didn't want to be a player that played the game too long.

"I leave right on top. The World Series was unbelievable. The 3,000th hit night was the best. I'm never going to forget that. But for me, to be able to able to write your own story, to make your own decision and leave when you want to leave, not a lot of players get that opportunity."

The future Hall of Famer has given everything to the game and this city, and now his family will get his full-time attention.

If there were any doubts about that, Biggio made it clear with a classy thank you to wife Patty during Tuesday's press conference at Minute Maid Park. That tender scene highlighted an emotional afternoon for the Biggios. With sons Conor and Cavan at his side, Biggio fought to keep his composure when he thanked his wife.

"God bless you," Craig said to Patty, sitting in the second row. "They are you. You raised them. Twenty years is a long time and we're away and we're gone. I look in their eyes and I see you. I just want to be part of the family now. I want to be there. I can't look in their eyes any more and justify being out of their lives any more. And I want to be home. I want to be with you guys. I've done my part, I've done what I was supposed to do."

Patty never saw it coming.

"I can't believe he did that," she said. "I kept saying 'I'm not going to cry.' Obviously it's a very emotional day for us. I don't know if bittersweet's the word, but I'm going to miss watching him play. I'm sad for that. But I hope that he can continue to influence not only my children but other people, he's got a lot to offer."

Patty has been with her husband through it all, from the early days of his career at the Astrodome, when a crowd of 20,000 was considered extraordinary.

Today the Astros play in a beautiful ballpark that is routinely filled. Her seven-time All-Star husband helped bring a World Series appearance to Texas for the first time.

Along with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio helped put Houston baseball on the map.

"I guess it does give me a sense of pride," Patty said. "Craig and Jeff worked so hard, they were a great team. I'm proud of the way he played and proud of the way he conducted himself, the man he is and the father he is. I've got a lot of reasons to be proud."

Biggio's retirement will end the career of another of those rarest of breeds: A superstar player who spends his entire career with one team. He follows the likes of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. Both will enter the Hall of Fame in a few days.

The fan in us will miss seeing Biggio play. Like the players who showed Biggio the proper way to play this game back in the late 1980s, Buddy Bell and Bill Doran, Biggio was a throwback who went all out and never disrespected the game.

Biggio set a high standard and his example was a reminder to those around him to never give anything less than 100 percent. He didn't dog it on the field or have much use for those who did.

With Bagwell, Biggio helped raise the bar in Houston with six playoff appearances in the last 10 years.

Bagwell's injured shoulder forced him to retire earlier than wanted. Biggio can see the day when his own performance might not match his personal standards. For him, there could be no other choice. It's time for No. 7 to hang 'em up.

There have been other players at similar junctures in their careers who weren't so unselfish. We've seen a few. Those veterans who have to have the jersey practically torn from their backs before they'll admit it's time to go.

Not Biggio.

"I'm very grateful to play this game, and I've played it for a long time," he said. "I've talked to a lot of players about this and a lot of players have a lot of different opinions about retirement. A lot of players say 'make 'em take it off of you, play as long as you can, it's your right. The game owes you that.'

"The game doesn't owe me anything. I owe the game everything."

Now it's his family's turn, and Biggio is more than ready to give his time to Patty and the kids.

"I have no regrets, I played the game the right way, the way it's supposed to be played," Biggio said.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.