The day after 268
For the first time since 1901, a Major League player can wake up and say "I got hit by a pitch for the 268th time yesterday". Still think this isn't an accomplishment to be proud of? Nobody's done it for over 100 years for a reason. He's been hit 268 times, never charged the mound, and never been sent to the disabled list by a plunk. In 1997 he got drilled in the eye but stayed in the game because they had a chance to win the division that day. The Astros are 142-106 in games when he's been hit.
It's a testament to Biggio's longevity and "do whatever it takes" attitude, and that's why this blog will continue to track Biggio's plunks at least until he passes the all time record set by Hughie Jennings. I have no fear that Craig Biggio is going to hang a big "Mission Accomplished" sign and start backing off the plate, because it's clear that he was never getting hit to try to set a record. He's at the plate to try to get on base, and he's close to the plate because that's the best place to be if you want to get a base hit in a league where the strikezone sometimes extends into the opposite side batters box. He's not getting hit for contract bonuses or personal glory, things that no doubt influence the professional game for many, he's trying to get on base so he can score a run.
Think he's only at this milestone because of an elbow pad? Maybe. But it's not because he would approach the plate any different if the pad was illegal. Biggio says he started wearing the original pad after a painful plunk from Danny Darwin which would have been his 67th, coming in 1996, the year after he led the league in HBPs for the first time. What the elbow pad did was keep him from throwing his body around for the team so much that it ended his career. Apparently some baseball fans would prefer a sport where its great players routinely get their careers ended by dime a dozen relief pitchers who either can't throw over the plate or can't get a batter out without threatening his life. Complaints have been lodged every time baseball has evolved to protect players, like when batters started wearing helmets. Still think helmets are lame? 19th century catchers used to think protective gear was "unmanly" as well, and there was a time when even the glove was considered a sign of weakness. If the game hadn't changed to protect players the sport would just be an endless string of career ending injuries, so lets lay off whining about protective gear, let the sport regulate what's appropriate, and enjoy guys who play 18 seasons with the same team. (And you think health care costs are high now? Imagine a system that had to deal with all those broken fingers from catchers playing without a glove... and that certainly wouldn't be the worst of it.)
When Jeremi Gonzalez hit him in the face, I'm pretty sure he didn't stay in the game because his elbow pad was making it feel better. Commenters on this site have said they wished there was a stat that measured Biggio's heart and desire to play the game right, but I think this is that stat. There's a reason why nobody since 1901 has done this, so enjoy this moment in history.