HOUSTON -- As he wrapped up his meeting with the media shortly after the Astros retired his uniform number, Craig Biggio paused to mention someone who was very important to him early in his playing career.

Longtime baseball reporter Neil Hohlfeld, who began covering the Astros for the Houston Chronicle in 1979, was the Astros beat writer when Biggio was drafted, and he covered the second baseman through the early parts of his career.

Hohlfeld passed away on July 19 from a heart attack, triggering sadness and sympathy for his family from friends, colleagues and readers who knew him personally or read his work in the Chronicle. A service remembering and celebrating Hohlfeld's life was held at a local church on Saturday, and on Sunday, Biggio sent his best wishes to Hohlfeld's family.

"He was part of that whole regime," Biggio said. "As a writer, he was classy, he was the best. He'd sit and talk to you, and if it was off the record, it was off the record. He always had the respect of the players. He was a great man, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Hohlfeld covered the Astros from 1979-95, and he remained with the paper until his passing.