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Biggio reveals '07 will be last season

Biggio reveals '07 will be last season

HOUSTON -- Over the course of baseball history, very few players leave the game on their own terms. Sometimes, injuries force them out. Often, their skills have eroded but they just can't bring themselves to call it a career. So they hang on for the sake of hanging on, until no one wants them.

Craig Biggio had a different plan. He wanted to go of his own volition, and he's doing just that. On Tuesday, Biggio revealed he's retiring from baseball, effective upon the conclusion of the 2007 season.

Sept. 30 will mark Biggio's final game, ending a potential Hall of Fame career that spanned 20 years and produced more than 3,000 hits, in excess of 650 doubles, nearly 300 homers and six postseason appearances.

Biggio is grateful to be one of the few to leave the game with dignity, but that's just one of a myriad of emotions that have gripped him since he made this decision months ago. This is an incredibly sad time for the second baseman, and the next two months will be understandably difficult.

"I love the game," Biggio said. "I'm going to miss putting my feet in the spikes every day. I'm going to miss the dads coming up to you and thanking you for the way you played the game, the little kids coming up to you and asking for your autograph, seeing them smile and having a good time at the game. I'm going to miss all of that."

Biggio has known for quite a while that this would be his final year. He had in his mind how he wanted to end his career, and he repeatedly promised to reveal his plans when the time was right. He had three goals in mind when the season started: record his 3,000th hit, play in the postseason and announce his retirement.

It doesn't look like the Astros are headed for the playoffs this year, but Biggio is satisfied that the rest of the plan went off without a hitch.

"Retiring is not an easy thing to do," Biggio said. "But it's time. How many guys get the opportunity to do it the way they want to do it? You're pretty much writing your own story here, as far as walking away when you want to walk away. It's not taken away.

"It's just time. That hurts. But you hear bad stories sometimes that guys waited too long (to retire) and I don't want a bad taste in the fans' mouths that I played too long. Then they remember me on the down side, the bad side. It can't get any better than it has been this year.

"I'm going out on top. Other than a World Series, the (3,000th) hit thing was unbelievable. To me, I'm going out on top. It makes me feel great, being able to do it this way. And the fans can remember you on a positive note."

A teary Biggio addressed a packed room of reporters Tuesday, expressing gratitude toward his family, his teammates, the fans and the two owners for whom he's played -- the late John McMullen, and current owner Drayton McLane.

McLane reciprocated the appreciation.

"We thank you intensely, and these are memories that we'll build on," McLane said. "We'll be a better franchise because of the years that you were here, the thrills you've given us and the sheer excitement."

The fans have been front and center in Biggio's thoughts ever since he decided to retire. His playing time has recently been reduced, but for those who want to see him play one last time before the year is over, he and manager Phil Garner have worked out a plan that involves doing their best to announce ahead of time when Biggio will play.

"There have been so many meaningful games I've played over the course of my career," Biggio said. "I think the fans should know that you're not going to play anymore, and they can come back and watch you play one more time, come back and boo one more time. Whatever.

"The fans have been great to me, at home and on the road. It's important for the fans to be able to know what your future is."

On the road, Biggio can be expected to play the first game of each series. Chris Burke will likely receive the remainder of the playing time at second base, as he has ever since the start of the second half of the season.

But there will be exceptions. Biggio considers three ballparks sentimental favorites and will likely play the first and last games in those stadiums.

Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Wrigley Field in Chicago are especially dear to Biggio, who has played in more than 100 games in each, more than any other ballpark he's visited in his career. And Shea Stadium in New York isn't far from the Long Island home where he grew up, so that ballpark holds sentimental value, as well.

The Astros will be in Chicago Aug. 31-Sept. 2, New York Sept. 7-9 and St. Louis Sept. 20-24. Biggio can expect to get two starts in each of those series.

When the team is at home, Biggio will receive the majority of the starts at second base, give or take the handful of day games remaining on the schedule. It's also highly likely he'll play all three games against the Braves to end the season Sept. 28-30.

Biggio also hopes to crouch one more time behind the plate during that final game Sept. 30. The former catcher-turned second baseman-turned center fielder-turned left fielder-turned-second baseman would like to end his career at the position where it all started nearly 20 years ago.

Out of respect for the visiting Braves, Biggio will only try to implement this plan if the NL East race has already been decided. If all goes as planned, he'll catch one inning.

Biggio has also thought a lot about how he'll feel when that game is over, when it's time to take the uniform off for good.

He remembers watching former Houston shortstop Craig Reynolds play his final game in 1989. Biggio was 23 years old and in his first full season in the Majors.

"I remember walking behind him as he was walking toward the clubhouse," Biggio said "The cameras were following him, but I was following the cameras. I looked at him and thought, 'Wow, that was tough.'"

Biggio also remembered Buddy Bell telling him he didn't leave the clubhouse until 6 in the morning after his final game, as he grappled with taking the uniform off for the last time.

Biggio probably won't wait that long after his final game, but he will try to prepare as best he can for what he is sure will be a very difficult day.

"I'll probably keep it on all day," he said. "Once you take the uniform off, it's off.

"It's going to be tough, but I'm at peace with all of this. I'm at peace with my decision and I'm at peace with how things have gone for me. I'm in a good place. I've had a storybook career. It's been an incredible journey."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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