When one of baseball’s most precious records is about to be broken, you can expect a good deal of coverage from the national media. Since you can never have too many writers chronicling Craig Biggio’s quest for the all-time HBP mark, the New York Times’ Jack Curry jumps on the bandwagon.
Wearing what he calls “a Gazoo-looking helmet,” after the green space alien from “The Flintstones,” and a thick elbow pad, Biggio has some protection as he digs in close to the plate. Before Gonzalez’s fastball, Biggio usually wore a “pretty boy” helmet, his terminology for a helmet with little padding.
“Now I wear that big, old helmet,” Biggio (above) said. “It’s almost a football helmet.”
The Elias Sports Bureau recognizes Hughie Jennings, a Hall of Famer who was hit by pitches 287 times in a 17-year career that started in 1891, as the career leader. Jennings was not bashful about stepping in front of pitches to grab a free base.
Biggio insisted that he had never tried to be drilled intentionally, but he added, “If you’re going to come in, I’m not moving, either.” While Biggio is not as blatant about being struck as Jennings or Ron Hunt, who dared pitchers to pop him and was obliged 243 times, others think Biggio’s approach is similar.
“Biggio likes to get hit once in a while,” said Sandy Alomar, the bench coach for the Mets. “He wears that guard protection. There are certain pitches where he’ll throw his body at them. He wants to get on.”
Alomar was the anti-Biggio and holds the record for most at-bats in a season (689 in 1971) without being hit. In 4,760 career at-bats, Alomar was hit only three times.
Hunt once said: “Some people give their bodies to science. I gave mine to baseball.” He said in a telephone interview that he tried to get hit because Mets Manager Casey Stengel would give him $50 if he absorbed one off his body and scored the winning run. “I did it for the money,” Hunt said.
Biggio credits (or discredits) the high leg kick he used for 16 of his 18 seasons as the main culprit in making him an inviting target. When Biggio lifted his front leg to prepare for a pitch, he would be more susceptible to being whacked because he would be balancing on his back leg.