Battered Up!

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Are you having a tough day at work? Do you feel as if life is pummeling your tender body with rock-hard projectiles hurled at high speeds? Take a deep breath and think: What would Craig Biggio do?

Here's what Craig Biggio would do: He would pick himself up, dust himself off and boogie on down the line. Or maybe hobble on down the line. But he would get down that damn line even if he had to crawl.

Craig Biggio is the king of pain. He has been beaned, plunked, dinged, smashed, whacked, zapped and clobbered, but he doesn't let it bother him. Last year, Biggio, who works as a second baseman for the Houston Astros, set the modern (post-1900) record for getting hit by the most pitches in a career: 268. This year, his total is up to 277 plunkings, which means he's zeroing in on Hughie "Ee-Yah" Jennings's all-time record, which is 287.

Sitting in the visitors' locker room at RFK Stadium on Monday, waiting to play the first of four games with the Washington Nationals, Biggio shrugged off these records with the calm of a Zen master.

"If it's meant to be, it's meant to be," he said. "And if it's not, it's not."

Biggio is a Stoic philosopher in a baseball cap. He knows life hurts, but he chooses to ignore that.

"It swells up and you move on," he says. "You give it enough time and it goes away."

Biggio lives by a code that seems old-fashioned in this Era of Shared Feelings: When some huge, hulking brute hits him with a hardball thrown at 95 mph, he just heads down to first base. He does not whimper, he does not curse, he does not yell or charge the mound with homicide blazing in his eyes. And he never, ever rubs the sore spot.

"Oh, no, I won't touch it," he says. "The pitcher knows he hit you and you know he hit you, and rubbing ain't gonna make it any better."

Now in his 19th season, Biggio, 40, has developed a method for communicating the level of his excruciation to his wife and three kids.

"I tell 'em, 'If you see me walk to first, it really hurts. If I jog to first, it's not that big a deal.' "

Biggio shows no visible signs of his 277 dings -- no scars, no black-and-blue marks. He's thin, with close-cropped hair and bright blue eyes. He has the unhurried ease of a man who is a master of his craft. A Long Island native who has spent his entire career with the Astros, he has been elected seven times to the National League All-Star team. He's a lifetime .285 hitter with 2,845 hits, 264 home runs, 623 doubles, 408 stolen bases and four gold gloves -- numbers that could put him in the Hall of Fame, even without his hit-by-pitches record.

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