Before his induction to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, 3,060 professional hits, seven all-star appearances, five silver sluggers and four gold gloves, Craig Biggio was a gritty student-athlete in South Orange.
While never losing his hustle as a Pirate, the former captain was a beacon of individual and team success. On top of his career .342 batting average, 90 stolen bases, and 79 extra base hits, Biggio was an All-American, two-time first-team All-Big East selection, and Big East Champion. The infielder is still the program’s career triples leader and ranks among the top ten in a multitude of other categories.
“There is no doubt in the world Craig defined what Seton Hall University is and was,” former Seton Hall assistant sports information director David Siroty said. “When you look at coach Sheppard’s mantra, ‘never lose your hustle,’ that was Craig to a tee. Every game, for 20 years, 162 times a year, the playoffs and the World Series -- and at Seton Hall University, his pride in the school, his love of the school, his relationships with his friends his relationships with coaches.”
Despite his immense accomplishments, Siroty said Biggio’s humility was another reason he is a legend for the Pirates.
“He was as kind and humble as you could ever imagine,” Siroty said. “He was religious in his convictions. He met his wife Patty at Seton Hall. He was not a superstar and he did not act that way,” He said. “He participated on campus. His love of Mike Sheppard was through the roof, and his dedication to the school.”
To Siroty, his modesty reflected on his teammates as well, furthering his distinction as an incomparable athlete in Seton Hall’s history.
“He was the leader so he would fire them up when needed. But it is very difficult to understand that these guys were not really Myles Powell,” Siroty said. “They did not have the notoriety. They were just college students who played baseball. They were approachable, they were participatory, they would support other things. They were college students.”
He continued, “Craig, while he is a baseball hall of famer, he is still Craig Biggio. He defines what a Seton Hall athlete should be. He treated people well, he smiled, he was a part of the campus community. He was just a student.”
After three years with the Pirates, Biggio was drafted 22nd overall by the Houston Astros in the 1987 MLB Draft. Although he became the first player all-time to have at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs, his genuineness never faded.
Biggio, who became a national spokesman for the Sunshine Kids Foundation, an organization dedicated to young cancer patients, is still an instrumental figure in many lives. He made sure to have that impact while in the MLB, especially with the display of the foundation’s logo.
“For Craig’s dedication to the Sunshine Kids in Houston, he would wear the sunburst on his hat every single game, but he was not allowed to wear it in the game,” Siroty said. “So he wore it before pregame, during interviews, postgame. He would have the sunburst for the kids to tell them he was with them.”
Siroty recalled the effect Biggio had on a specific Sunshine child.
“Imagine being diagnosed with cancer, losing your hair and having to wear a mask,” Siroty said. “You are in high school being shunned, and Craig Biggio is my friend? It did everything for him, and that is what Craig is.”
For his time as a college player, professional player and philanthropist, Siroty said he believes that Biggio's retirement should expand further in the athletic department than just the baseball program.
“If I was Seton Hall, I would retire his number 44 from every sport,” Siroty said. “No one should wear 44 in any sport because of his hall of fame baseball career, but more what he represents for a catholic education at a school like Seton Hall.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @robert_fallo.