30 (Maybe) for 3,000

Ichiro Suzuki entered the 2016 season 65 hits shy of 3,000. (via David B. King)

Ichiro Suzuki entered the 2016 season 65 hits shy of 3,000. (via David B. King)

Baseball loves its numbers. Humans in general love round numbers. At the intersection of those two fixations stands one of the most revered milestones in the game: the 3,000-hit mark. To reach it is to exhibit long-term excellence at the game and to stake a claim as one of its greatest players.

In the history of major league baseball, 29 players have reached this exalted number. The first did so in 1894, with no one marking the event. The most recent did it last June 19, with a crush of media attention falling first on him, then on the fellow who caught the historic ball and almost didn’t give it back.

This year, the quest for baseball’s most beloved round number is itself approaching a round number. Ichiro Suzuki began the season 65 hits shy of the 3,000 mark. If and when he reaches it, he’ll be the 30th player in major league history to do so.

With that milestone of milestones looming, I thought it was a good time to have a look at the group of players who have gotten to 3,000 hits — not so much as they relate to the rest of baseball history, but how they relate to each other. Who did what best or worst, first or last; what patterns emerge from their presence in this exclusive club.

The table below gives the members of the club, including the approaching applicant, and their career hit totals. Hit stats are taken from Baseball-Reference and differ in a couple instances from the official MLB stats compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau. (I will discuss the most prominent divergence later.) Numbers for the two active players are from the start of the 2016 season.

MLB 3000-HIT CLUB
Player Hits Player Hits Player Hits
Pete Rose 4256 Eddie Collins 3315 Alex Rodriguez* 3070
Ty Cobb 4189 Willie Mays 3283 Craig Biggio 3060
Henry Aaron 3771 Eddie Murray 3255 Rickey Henderson 3055
Stan Musial 3630 Napoleon Lajoie 3243 Rod Carew 3053
Tris Speaker 3524 Cal Ripken Jr. 3184 Lou Brock 3023
Derek Jeter 3465 George Brett 3154 Rafael Palmeiro 3020
Cap Anson 3435 Paul Waner 3152 Wade Boggs 3010
Honus Wagner 3420 Robin Yount 3142 Al Kaline 3007
Carl Yastrzemski 3419 Tony Gwynn 3141 Roberto Clemente 3000
Paul Molitor 3319 Dave Winfield 3110 Ichiro Suzuki* 2935

* active

Now that you’ve been reminded of who makes up the club, it’s time to run down the members, current and prospective. I list them in descending order of hits, with years played and hits made just as a reminder. Statistics given are through the 2015 season, even though we are a little into 2016.

1: Pete Rose, 1963-1986, 4,256 hits

When asked just before the 1978 season about his future hitting goals, Rose, standing on 2,966, stated, “Four thousand hits is impossible.” He aimed instead for Musial’s National League record of 3,630 hits. It was almost exactly as far between 3,000 and Musial as it was between Musial and where Rose wound up his career.

Rose led the majors in total hits in his 19th season at the age of 40. Molitor also managed it in his 19th year, but Rose was the oldest 3,000-hit club member to accomplish it. Rose also led his league in at-bats seven times and in plate appearances four times. You can deduce from that mathematically what people just knew: Rose would take his walks, but he lived to hit.

2: Ty Cobb, 1905-1928, 4,189 hits

Cobb had more hits for a single team than any other player. He stroked an even 3,900 for the Detroit Tigers, the rest coming with the Philadelphia A’s. Collins also was with Philadelphia for Cobb’s two seasons there. Their combined 7,504 hits is the most ever for two teammates, though they had only 375 while playing together.

Having the highest batting average in the club perforce, Cobb also has the highest on-base percentage at .433. His OPS+ of 168 likewise tops the group, nine points ahead of Musial in second.

Cobb reached the 3,000-hit mark at the almost unfathomable age of 34, by far the youngest to do it.

3: Henry Aaron, 1954-1976, 3,771 hits

Not entirely apropos of hit totals, but Aaron received MVP votes in 19 consecutive seasons. Nothing I say can top that. All the numbers that still amaze us—755 home runs, 3,771 hits, 2,297 RBIs—flow from the incredible combination of excellence and durability encapsulated in that bit of MVP trivia. I’ll stop talking about him now, so you can just contemplate it.

4: Stan Musial, 1941-1963, 3,630 hits

The most hits ever for anyone who played with just one team. The highest career slugging percentage for a 3,000-hit man, at .559. That’s two points ahead of Mays, four up on Aaron, and five above Rodriguez. Also, the well-known perfect symmetry: Musial had 1,815 hits at home, 1,815 hits on the road.

5: Tris Speaker, 1907-1928, 3,514 hits

Four players on the list have gotten 1,000 hits with two separate teams. Speaker has the highest number of all with his secondary team: 1,327 hits with the Red Sox.

Speaker notched No. 3,000 playing with Cleveland, as did Murray and Lajoie. The Indians are the only team to have three players get their 3,000th hits with them. Eight other teams are tied at two, and 10 more have one apiece, for 19 teams overall with a 3,000 hitter. The Braves had one player do it with Boston (Waner) and another with Atlanta (Aaron). Milwaukee would have to wait for the Brewers and Yount.

6: Derek Jeter, 1995-2014, 3,465 hits

The highest man on the list never to win a batting title: 11 club members have failed to do so. (Or 10, depending on your definitions: see Murray below.) Also the highest man on the list to have more career strikeouts than walks, out of 12 overall.

Jeter led the majors in hits in 2012, the year after he reached the 3,000 mark. The only other player to lead his league in average or hits after reaching 3,000 was the Rose example given above, three years after Pete got to 3K. But it was 1981, a strike year, so Jeter has the full-year accomplishment to himself.

Jeter got ample chances to accumulate. He led his league in plate appearances five times, matched only by Biggio among club members, and led the majors three times, tied with Rose and Boggs. He also accumulated in October. If postseason play counted toward career totals, Jeter’s 200 postseason hits (!) would push him past Speaker and Musial (22 apiece) for fourth all time.

7: Cap Anson, 1871-1897, 3,435 hits

The first player ever to amass 3,000 hits in the majors, and the only one to reach the mark during the 19th century. Anson’s given total includes five years in the National Association from 1871 through 1875. The NA was a rather iffy organization but the only one of the era that could make any claim to be a major league. Exclude Anson’s 423 NA hits, and he still makes the club at 3,012.

Seasons were significantly shorter through most of Anson’s career, handicapping his climb. He averaged 1.361 hits per game lifetime, second in the club only to Cobb’s 1.381.

Four club members have never played in the World Series, the others being Lajoie, Carew and Palmeiro. (Ichiro would be number five, assuming Miami doesn’t pull a shocker.) Anson never played when our World Series existed, but he did play two series against the American Association champs that were styled as World Series, so arguably Anson should not count. (His team lost one and tied the other. Yes, tied. That’s certainly not our World Series of today.)

8: Honus Wagner, 1897-1917, 3,420 hits

Defensively the most versatile 3,000-hit man, playing every position but catcher in his career. Yes, he pitched, finishing two blowouts in 1900 and 1902. He yielded five runs in 8.1 innings, but all were unearned, so his career ERA is a spotless 0.00.

Of the 29 club members, 15 had 3,000 hits or more with one team. Honus is the nearest of the misses, collecting 2,967 with the Pirates. His other 453 came with the Louisville Colonels from 1897 to 1899.

9: Carl Yastrzemski, 1961-1983, 3,419 hits

The highest finisher to have a career batting average below .300, he batted .285.

Six 3,000-hitters have played in the World Series but failed to win it. Yaz shares this distinction with Biggio, Gwynn, Waner, Yount and Cobb, whose 0-for-3 is the worst mark among the oh-so-closers. Yastrzemski is the only 3,000-hitter to play in two Game Sevens (or the decisive equivalent for the few Series that went longer) without tasting the champagne.

Fun fact: my Microsoft Word spell-checker marks the names Molitor, Waner, Yount, Biggio, Palmeiro and Kaline—but Yastrzemski gets a pass. Someone in Redmond, Wash., is a Red Sox fan.

10: Paul Molitor, 1978-1998, 3,319 hits

The only man on the list to play the plurality of his career as a designated hitter (though 17 of the 29 have DH’d at some point). The most common defensive positions for a 3,000-hit player are first base and right field, with six apiece. (Rose and Musial played more games in the outfield than at first, but by specific position they were first basemen more often than anything else.) Next comes shortstop with five, then second base, left field and center field tied at three, then third base at two and finally the one DH. No catcher has ever gotten 3,000 hits: Carlton Fisk’s 2,356 is closest.

If and when Ichiro joins the club, he will move the right fielders ahead, seven to six.

11: Eddie Collins, 1906-1930, 3,315 hits

Collins is the lone club member to have a career isolated slugging percentage below .100, at .095. He played most of his career in the dead ball era, though, which mitigates the matter. Collins never won a batting title, primarily because his career overlapped almost completely with Cobb’s, who won an even dozen. He is the only player to get over 2,000 hits with one team (the White Sox) and over 1,000 hits with another (the A’s).

Collins played on eight pennant-winning and six World Series-winning teams, records for the club. However, he didn’t play in the 1929 or ‘30 World Series, having made just 12 plate appearances between those two seasons. As an active World Series participant, Jeter leads with seven Series and five wins.

12: Willie Mays, 1951-1973, 3,283 hits

Mays was the first 3,000-hit man to play his entire career in the Integration Era (1947 onward). Relatedly, he was the first non-white player to reach 3,000. He was the first player to 3,000 with more strikeouts than walks (though Clemente’s career ended before his did).

Mays leads all retired club members in isolated slugging (.255), home runs per hit (20.1 percent), and extra-base hits per hit (40.3 percent). Rodriguez was ahead in all three categories at the end of 2015 but may finish his career behind Mays in at least the first and third.

13: Eddie Murray, 1977-1997, 3,255 hits

Murray never led the league in batting average—but he once led the majors. In 1990, he batted .330 in a full year with the Dodgers. Willie McGee hit .335 for the Cardinals before being traded to the A’s on Aug. 29. He batted .274 in his 29 games in the American League, lowering his overall average to .324. He had enough plate appearances to qualify for the NL batting crown, and with his NL play alone counting toward it, won the title. Brett paced the AL with a .329 average, leaving Murray tops in the majors by one point, the king with no crown.

14: Napoleon Lajoie, 1896-1916, 3,243 hits

Seven club members have managed themselves in the majors, including Wagner’s five-game stint in 1917. Anson was the first, Rose the last. Lajoie was the first one in the 20th century to do so, and he arguably deserves the title of first over Anson, since the post of manager was a different creature in baseball’s earliest days. (To give you an idea, Anson first managed a ball team at the age of 23.)

Four of the seven got their 3,000th hits playing for themselves. Wagner and Rose came to managing after 3,000 (and in Rose’s case 4,000) was behind them. Lajoie is the only player to complete his managerial career (1905-09), and then make his 3,000th hit (1914).

15: Cal Ripken Jr., 1981-2001, 3,184 hits

The lowest lifetime batting average in the club, at .276.

Ripken tallied his 3,000th hit on April 15, 2000. (This was before everyone in baseball wore No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, which began in 2004, so Ripken was still No. 8 on that day.) This makes him the first player to join the 3,000-hit club in the 21st century, if you believe the century began in 2000.

Eight other 3,000-hit club members had entire careers that were shorter than Ripken’s consecutive-game streak. (Brock, Waner, Anson, Lajoie, Carew, Gwynn, Boggs, Clemente.)

16: George Brett, 1973-1993, 3,154 hits

Brett’s three batting titles are tied for a mere 10th among his 3,000-hit mates, but he is the only one of them—or of anybody—to win crowns in three separate decades. He led the AL in 1976, 1980 and 1990.

17: Paul Waner, 1926-1945, 3,152 hits

The only club member to register just one hit with one of his teams. He briefly played for the Yankees in 1944 and ’45, logging 10 plate appearances and the lone safety before his career ended. Asked by a waggish fan why he was in the Yankees outfield, he replied, “Because Joe DiMaggio’s in the Army.”

Waner is one of only two club members whose career intersected with World War II. He is the only player who would not reach 3,000 hits if his wartime play was discounted, getting to 2,956 before the bombs fell. He was doing well enough before America’s entry, though (103 OPS+ in 1941), that he should have made 3,000 even in peacetime conditions.

18: Robin Yount, 1974-1993, 3,142 hits

Yount and Molitor were teammates on the Milwaukee Brewers for 15 years, the longest 3,000-hit players have ever spent on the same club. Jeter and Rodriguez are second with 10 years on the Yankees. Yount and Molitor combined for 4,756 hits as teammates, easily outdistancing the 3,174 for Jeter and A-Rod.

19: Tony Gwynn, 1982-2001, 3,141 hits

Gwynn collected his 3,000th hit on Aug. 6, 1999. Boggs got his the very next day, easily the closest entries into the 3,000-hit club.

Gwynn and Boggs also are tied for the second-shortest career, by games, for a club member, at 2,440. Clemente’s was seven games shorter, but his is a special case, so one could argue that Gwynn and Boggs are the real record holders. Gwynn is also in second for shortest career by plate appearances at 10,232, just ahead of Clemente at 10,211.

20: Dave Winfield, 1973-1995, 3,110 hits

The club does like round numbers. Four members have hit totals with their primary teams that are divisible by 100: Cobb’s 3,900 with the Tigers, Aaron’s 3,600 with the Braves, Clemente’s 3,000 in Pittsburgh, and Winfield’s 1,300 with the Yankees. This also gives Winfield the lowest hit total with his primary team among all club members.

21: Alex Rodriguez, 1994-present, 3,070* hits

Before the current season began, Rodriguez had recorded exactly half his hits, 1,535 out of 3,070, with the Yankees. Also before the season began, he led all 3,000-hit players in isolated slugging (.257), homers per hit (22.4 percent), and extra-base hits per hit (41.0 percent). Late-career decline may drop him below Mays in all but homers per hit: the .224 to .201 margin there is likely too wide for him to lose.

The home plate umpire for Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit, Ed Hickox, had been behind the dish for his first hit back in 1994.

22: Craig Biggio, 1988-2007, 3,060 hits

The club has 10 members who played with only one team. Four of those played exclusively for expansion franchises: Biggio in Houston, Gwynn in San Diego, Yount in Milwaukee and Brett in Kansas City. Ripken doesn’t count: the Orioles were once the St. Louis Browns, an original American League team, even though their first season in 1901 was in Milwaukee.

Stray thought. The New York Yankees are now officially considered a distinct team from the AL’s original Baltimore Orioles that played in 1901 and ’02 before collapsing. Does this technically make the Yankees an expansion franchise?

23: Rickey Henderson, 1979-2003, 3,055 hits

Henderson played with nine teams in his career, easily the most for a 3,000-hit player. His closest competitors are Winfield with six and Murray with five.

He’s also the only club member to have more games played than hits collected, 3,081 to 3,055. This springs from his unusual willingness to see ball four. His walk-to-hit ratio, 0.717, laps the 3K field: Yaz is a distant second at 0.540. (They’re one-two in raw walks also, 2,190 to 1,845.)

Rickey reached the 3,000 mark on the final day, and in his final plate appearance, of the 2001 season, with a leadoff double. This made him the first player to join the 3,000-hit club in the 21st century, if you believe the century began in 2001.

Rickey has the club’s lowest seasonal best in hits, with just 179. That undercuts Anson, whose best season was 187, accumulated in a year when his team played 126 games.

24: Rod Carew, 1967-1985, 3,053 hits

The highest finisher to play fewer than 20 seasons in the majors. He has the lowest career ISO of the live ball era 3,000-hit players, at .101. (Rose is second-lowest at .106.) Relatedly, he’s the only post-deadball club member to have fewer than 100 home runs. He’s also the only post-World War II club member to have hit more triples than homers, 112 to 92. (Before you think it, Ichiro won’t be joining him. Suzuki had 22 more homers than triples coming into 2016.)

25: Lou Brock, 1961-1979, 3,023 hits

Brock has the lowest career OPS+ in the 3,000-hit club, at 109. He did this as a left fielder, while the next four lowest OPS+ scores (Ripken and Biggio at 112; Jeter and Yount at 115) all belonged to middle infielders. He also has the worst walk-to-strikeout ratio in the group at 0.440, despite not being a slugger (149 career homers). Clemente and Jeter are closest to him on the BB:K list.

26: Rafael Palmeiro, 1986-2005, 3,020 hits

Of the 29 club members, 26 were born in the U.S. proper, Clemente hailed from Puerto Rico, and Carew was born in the Panama Canal Zone, at the time an American possession. Palmeiro, from Havana, Cuba, is the lone member not born on American soil. (Ichiro would be the second.)

Also, of the 29 club members, 25 are in the Hall of Fame. Jeter and, obviously, Rodriguez haven’t been retired the necessary five years, while Rose’s ban from baseball makes him ineligible for induction. This makes Palmeiro the lone eligible member of the club not to be in Cooperstown. He dropped off the ballot in 2014, his fourth year.

The player with the most hits to be denied the Hall of Fame on the basis of his play (rather than eligibility or PEDs) is Harold Baines, with 2,866 hits.

Palmeiro is the most recent club member to have more career walks than strikeouts, a sub-group unlikely to grow fast with current strikeout rates.

27: Wade Boggs, 1982-1999, 3,010 hits

The first player to hit a home run as his 3,000th hit, since joined by Jeter and Rodriguez. Boggs made his major league debut at age 23 years, 299 days, the latest of anybody on the list. Wagner was the only other member to debut at 23.

Boggs is tied for the shortest career by seasons among 3,000-hit men, his 18 years matching Clemente’s. If we measure careers by at-bats, Boggs has the shortest of all club members with 9,180.

28: Al Kaline, 1953-1974, 3,007 hits

Kaline had the earliest start of the 3,000-hitters, debuting at age 18 years, 188 days. Yount made his debut 13 days older. The only other 18-year-old players to join the club are Cobb and Rodriguez. Kaline was the first 3,000-hitter to conclude his career with a batting average below .300, finishing at .297.

Nine club members have hit 400 home runs or more. Kaline falls just short at 399.

I would add a dreadful pun involving Al and batteries, but that would just be base.

The line to smack the author forms on the left. No cutting.

29: Roberto Clemente, 1955-1972, 3,000 hits

The first 3,000-hitter born outside the continental U.S.

Clemente’s 3,000th hit came in his final plate appearance, though oddly not his final game. He hit the mark in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 1972, and was pulled a frame later for pinch-hitter Bill Mazeroski. He was held out of Pittsburgh’s next game, then appeared in the next and final one of the year as a ninth-inning defensive substitute. That was presumably a farewell gesture to Pirates fans, their last look at him before next season, when he’d be starting out from an even 3,000.

Who could have known there would be no next season?

And soon, we can hope, to expand the club’s membership:

30, maybe: Ichiro Suzuki, 2001-present, 2,935* hits

Ichiro would have, by far, the latest start to a 3,000-hit major league career, at 27 years, 162 days. He’d also be the first club member born in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Should he not hurt the .314 batting average he carried into 2016 too badly, he will have the best average for a retiring 3,000-hitter since Tony Gwynn’s .338. Surprisingly, he would be just the second of the seven men who reached 3K from Y2K onward to post a career average of .300 or better (assuming reasonably that A-Rod isn’t going to bump up his .297). He would join one-time teammate Jeter’s .310 in that category.

Suzuki has gotten 200 or more hits in 10 of his major league seasons, which would tie Rose for the most by a 3,000-hit player. Cobb has nine seasons, Jeter and Waner eight and Boggs seven. Five players in the club never managed it: Anson, Yastrzemski, Murray, Winfield and Henderson.

The arrival of the left-handed hitting Ichiro would even out the club. Half of the 30 members would be righties, half would be either lefties or the two switch-hitters (Rose and Murray).

Should Suzuki reach 3,000 this year and then retire, he would have the shortest major league career of all club members, with just 16 seasons. Matching the shortest career by games would require him to play just 76, which is rather unlikely.

Ichiro had 1,279 hits during his nine years in Nippon Pro Baseball. If one counted this as a major league, it would take him just 44 hits in 2016 (or after) to break the all-time record with 4,257 hits. Pete Rose discourages this interpretation.

Only three teams have never had a 3,000-hitter play for them: The Colorado Rockies, Arizona D-backs and Miami Marlins. If Ichiro gets to 3,000, he’ll take Miami off that list. Should he fail, Miguel Cabrera (2,331 hits through 2015) has a good shot to check the Marlins’ box.

The Future of “The Club”

Whether or not Ichiro joins the 3,000-hit club, its doors will remain open. There are very strong prospects for new members in the next few years.

First is Adrian Beltre, who entered 2016 at 2,767 hits. Barring injury, Beltre should reach the mark in mid-to-late 2017. He doesn’t otherwise have many of the flashy, “Black Ink” accomplishments that would help punch his ticket to Cooperstown. However, his playing excellence, especially his long peak in his 30s when most players are declining, merits a plaque, and joining “The Club” will help voters make the right call.

After Beltre is Albert Pujols, with 2,666 hits when this season began. Prince Albert doesn’t need the help getting into the Hall of Fame: an Acme brand anvil could have hit him in the head five years ago, and he’d be in the Hall today. With Pujols’ growing propensity for injury, a 2018 arrival date at 3,000 hits might possibly be optimistic. With six years on his Angels contract left to run, though, if Albert can play at all, he will reach 3,000.

The next active player after them is Carlos Beltran, who entered the year at 2,454 hits. Beltran, about to turn 39, won’t make it. Cabrera, whom I name-dropped earlier, is next. Having entered his age-33 season with 2,331 hits, Miggy’s chances hinge on his health. If injuries like the one that took a quarter of his 2015 season become an annual event, he may grind down just shy of the finish line. If he keeps himself whole, not only are 3,000 and the Hall locks, but he might even chase Aaron’s mark of 19 straight years in the MVP voting. Cabrera is at 13 and counting.

Just like recent years have been a halcyon time for no-hitters and perfect games, we have come into a fertile period for players reaching 3,000 hits. One last year, one probably this year, one probably next year, one likely the year after, and likely another not far beyond that. As with the recent spate of perfect games, we risk getting spoiled. With five new members in five years a real possibility, we may just forget how special an accomplishment this is.

References and Resources

  • Baseball-Reference, including the Bullpen.
  • Kostya Kennedy, 56
  • Dan Okrent and Steve Wulf, Baseball Anecdotes
  • Arthur D. Hittner, Honus Wagner


A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
38 Comments
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Mark L
6 years ago

If we’re counting the damn American Association as a major league, then there’s absolutely zero reason not to do so for NPB.

njguy73
6 years ago
Reply to  Mark L

So Sadaharu Oh is the all-time home run king?

joser
6 years ago
Reply to  njguy73

I like that better than the alternative.

Andrew
6 years ago

Cano has a better shot than Cabrera.

Phil G
6 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I’m not sure about that. Cano is 5 months older than Cabrera (Miguel just turned 33 yesterday), but Miggy has 2,342 hits to Cano’s 2,026. Granted Cano might have the healthier career going forward, but if they both have equal health I’d give Miggy the edge simply because he’s over 300 hits closer to the goal.

joser
6 years ago
Reply to  Phil G

And considering the home parks and uneven schedules, Cabrera plays more games in parks that are RHB-friendly than Cano plays in parks that are LHB-friendly (for hits in general, not just HRs). It’s a minor effect, but when you’re talking about 600 to 1000 hits, it is a factor.

Ryan
6 years ago

Just a note on Clemente’s blurb: He also played in the 1972 playoffs against the Reds. In Clemente’s final Pirates game, the Pirates gave up 2 runs in a crazy 9th inning of the deciding game of the NLCS (it was best of 5 back then). The game ended on a wild pitch with 2 outs. Clemente went 1-3.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_National_League_Championship_Series#Game_5

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN197210110.shtml#wpa

Marc Schneider
6 years ago

The problem with the 3000 hit club is that so many of these guys made it by sticking around and playing until they almost dropped-like Ichiro is doing. (In fairness, of course, he probably would have made it easily if he had played in the US his entire career.) Obviously, you have to be a hell of a hitter to get close to 3000, but actually making it seems to be more a matter of longevity, like 300 wins used to be. IMO, Rose’s 4000 hits is a nice number but pretty meaningless because he just played forever, including when he was a manager.

Joe Pancake
6 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

“so many of these guys made it by sticking around and playing until they almost dropped”

I actually don’t think this is true. The vast majority of them reached 3,000 hits while they were still useful players (albeit no longer stars). And among the few that weren’t any good, many were in the midst of their first “unuseful” season, so it is was reasonable to come back. For example, a guy like Dave Winfield was coming off a 4-WAR season when he had 2,866 hits, before the bottom fell out, and he was not very good when he actually reached 3,000.

Lou Brock is the only other guy I can find, who, like Ichiro, was clearly terrible the year before he reached the milestone (assuming Ichiro does it).

Rose absolutely played himself into the record (although he was weirdly kinda good in ’84 as a bench bat/spot starter), but when he reached 3,000 he was one of the best players in the game.

Barney Coolio
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

Craig Biggio pretty much played until he dropped. He is probably the best example of a lingerer. The Astros were clearly allowing Biggio to hang around. By contrast, Rickey Henderson had to fight for a contract in 2001.

Rickey Henderson: was also bad in 2000, but fairly decent in 2001, the year he hit 3000. In 2001, he had to sign really late in spring training with the Padres, and begin the season in the minors. That season he also broke the walk record (since broken by Bary Bonds), and the run record. He played for parts of two more seasons in MLB, and then had two more in independent ball.

At 42, he was probably the oldest guy to reach 3000. But Ichiro will surpass that if he takes longer than the trade deadline to reach 3000, which he probably will

Jmarsh
6 years ago
Reply to  Barney Coolio

I was the thinking the same. Two observations

1. Being a Cubs fan in the same division, Biggio’s horrible 2B defense made me a believer in defensive stats over errors. So many times after the ball was hit, my natural reaction as someone who had watched baseball for 20 years was “Easy grounder to 2nd” only to have Biggio nowhere near the ball.

2. Kind of in relation to #1, I remembered him “hanging on” much longer than he did. According to BP he was worth 3.3 WAR in his age 39 season and still above replacement in his age 40. It was only the last year, he was truly bad.

Joe Pancake
6 years ago
Reply to  Jmarsh

” It was only the last year, he was truly bad.”

Exactly. I was surprised at how few “hanging on” guys there were. Also, we have the advantage of hindsight. At the time, I’m sure people knew Biggio wasn’t going to be very good his final season, but nobody knew he was going to be the worst player in the league.

Barney Coolio
6 years ago
Reply to  Jmarsh

In 2007, Biggio was 41 and needed 70 hits to get to 3,000. He ended up getting 130 hits for 3060. So, the Astros were good sports for letting him get 3,000, but really should have reduced his playing time after that.

Also, Biggio was one of many 40-something position players in 2007. Barry Bonds, Steve Finley, Biggio, Jeff Conine, Sandy Alomar Jr., Julio Franco, Moises Alou, Omar Vizquel. You could have a whole team!

In 2016, there are only 3 position players over 40, and only one plays the field: Ichiro Suzuki, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez.

Lakeisha
5 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

If it’s really thick,fluffy pancakes you’re after then having a look at Martha Stwe&rta#8217;s pancake collection is definitely worth it.I always use the recipe for basic pancakes on her website so you should have a look there !

Tony
6 years ago

Quick note on the Molitor comment. Ivan Rodriguez is actually the career leader in hits by a catcher at just a hair over 2,700, although he has more than 2,800 in his career.

Shane Tourtellotte
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony

Tony: Sorry to reply so late. I was away from my computer for an extended stretch, for reasons THT readers will learn about next month. I don’t know how I missed Pudge. Er, Pudge Rodriguez, not Pudge Fisk. It is an impressive total for a catcher, and deserves to be noted. Thanks for the catch.

Eric
6 years ago

The interesting thing about Pete Rose – 81% of all those hits were singles. Of the 29 in this group, 16 retired post 1980.

87 Cards
6 years ago

Marc Schneider’s comment about longevity is a good observation.

For sheer persistence, Boggs deserve further illumination on his run to the 3K club. Not only an age 23 MLB start and less than 10,000 ABs to 3,000 hits but he had to knock out the following to even get onto the Boston Red Sox infield:

1. In 1980, he hit .306 in AAA and .335 the following year to lead the 1981 International League (also, 21 errors at 3B in ’81).
2. The 1981 MLB players’ strike delayed his promotion to the Sox then
3. He cracked the Boston roster in 1982 but only was allowed 361 at-bats as the Sox, at first base, were getting the last productive years of Yaz and 1980 AL Rookie of the Year Dave Stapleton.
4. In 1982, Boggs put up a 3.9 WAR in his limited work. This was perhaps enough to force the Sox to trade 3B Carney Lansford (2.3 WAR in ’82 and only one year older than the Chicken Man) to the A’s for slugger Tony Armas.
5. He took over 3B full-time in 1983 and hit .361 and .344 OBP (both led AL).

gc
6 years ago
Reply to  87 Cards

freaked me out for a moment trying to think how you could have a BA>OBP but he meant .444 OBP.

WARrior
6 years ago
Reply to  gc

It’s very unlikely, but not impossible, if you have a lot more sac flies than walks.

dave
6 years ago
Reply to  87 Cards

Didn’t Joe Charboneau win ROY in ’80? I know Stapleton’s BA went down every year of his career, an auspicious feat.

87 Cards
6 years ago

Dave Winfield lost his age 37 (1989) season to injury then rolled out 796 hits from ages 38 to 43 with some games lost to the 1995 players’ strike (or was it a “work stoppage”)?

Anon
6 years ago

“I would add a dreadful pun involving Al and batteries, but that would just be base.”

Actually a double pun! (base, both as in the opposite of acidic and also as in base hit)

Rose’s argument about Ichiro and Japan has been: If you’re going to count Ichiro’s NPB hits, you need to count Pete’s 427 minor league hits putting Pete at 4,683 hits. . . .

As to active players – Beltre and Pujols (given his contract) are pretty close to locks. Everyone else is either too old or too far away to really be good bets. Lot can happen between 2,000 and 3,000 and between age 30 and 40. Just as one example, Vlad had 2,136 hits through his age 33 season and still looked like a very good hitter – he didn’t even make 2,600.

John G.
6 years ago

Nice to remember some of the earlier players. On the Cobb comment, actually Speaker and Cobb were teammates during the final MLB season for both of them, with the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics. Fellow 40-something Collins was also on that team, used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHA/PHA192805230.shtml

For fun, above is a box score of a 1928 A’s win, in which Cobb and Speaker (batting 2nd and 3rd, respectively) combined to go 5-8, with the rest of Philly going 3-22. Note that one of the less-recognizable Hall of Famers, Sam Rice, got one of his 2,987 career hits in that game, also. If Rice hadn’t lost most of 1918 while serving in the military during World War I, he might be better-remembered through also being in the 3,000 Hit Club.

87 Cards
6 years ago

Sam Rice also remembered: 19 seasons as an original Senator, 4,391 at-bats at cavernous Griffin Park in DC; 9 HRs; all of them inside-the-park.

Griffin Park: 388 feet to LF, 421 to CF, 320 to RF

Brett
6 years ago

The Hank Aaron bit made me go look and his player page and rethink how much I’ve under-appreciated him. As a Giants fan, I’ve always thought of him as lesser because he wasn’t as good as Willie Mays. That’s still true, but that’s also a ridiculous standard to hold him to. Instead, I found a better way to think of him: he’s Pujols if Pujols lived up to his contract with the Angels. Their WAR graphs comparison is eerily similar for the first decade of their careers. http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=1177,1000001 They’re both consistently excellent players, but Aaron does it for another freakin decade whereas Pujols falls off the map around age 30. And this is a no-doubt HOF’er to which I’m making a comparison. Aaron had a 177 wRC+ in his age 39 season! /tipofthecap

Marc Schneider
6 years ago
Reply to  Brett

Didn’t the Giants look at Aaron or the Braves look at Mays? I seem to recall reading that they could have conceivably been in the same outfield. How would you have liked to pitch against that team?

gc
6 years ago

You’re right about the spell check. I typed “yaztrzemsky” in MS Word and it corrected to Yaztrzemski.

Joe Pancake
6 years ago
Reply to  gc

How ironic!

Dave
6 years ago

“Murray never led the league in batting average—but he once led the majors.” This is a FABULOUS trivia question. Kind of like…during the 4 division format (AL East, AL West, NL East, NL West), which MLB player played for a team in each division in the same year.(Obviously means he played for 4 teams in one year).

jmarsh
6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Not related to hits, but I also love that 6 player seasons have had 63+ homers. Sammy Sosa has 3 of them and led the majors in none of those years.

Anon
6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

I don’t know if there were others But Dave Kingman played in all 4 divisions in 1977.

Another example of a guy leading the majors but not either league in a significant category – Mark MsGwire hit 58 HR in 1997 but 34 in the AL and 24 in the NL which led neither league.

bucdaddy
6 years ago

My favorite thing to point out about Clemente’s 3,000th hit is that there were 13,117 fans (officially) in Three Rivers Stadium to see it, or about one-fourth of capacity.

Can you imagine a player today getting his 3,000th hit (or reaching some other major milestone) in a 3/4ths empty stadium? Somewhere since 1972 (maybe it was Aaron challenging Ruth less than two years later) such milestones somehow got ignited in the public consciousness, and media started mounting “3,000 hit watch” campaigns and such … But it wasn’t thanks to ESPN or USA Today, which didn’t come along for seven and 10 years later.

I don’t know, but in any case, it’s just hard to fathom now that a great player would reach such a milestone with so few people there to see it.

Carmine
6 years ago
Reply to  bucdaddy

Roger Maris hit his 61st home run in front of a less than half filled Yankee Stadium crowd, and the Yankees were the World Series champs that year…

Carmine
6 years ago
Reply to  Carmine

23,154 to be exact

bucdaddy
6 years ago
Reply to  Carmine

I’ve understood that to be in part because the commissioner had more or less mounted a campaign to discredit 61 as being legitimate. Who was it with the asterisk business, Ford Frick? Hope he’s roasting in hell.

Anyway, IIRC I’ve heard it said the Clemente attendance figure was due to the fact he wasn’t supposed to start that day or something like that. But he COULD have gotten No. 3,000 the day before, when he went 0-for-4, and the attendance then was: 24,193, about half capacity.

And the day before that, he could have gotten No. 3,000 (he went 1-for-2 and was pinch hit for by Bob Robertson) and the attendance was: 12,216.

Odd that they’d take him out of a game when he could have had two more at-bats to try to get 3,000.

I’m kind of left to conclude that milestones like 3,000 hits were just no big deal in the early 1970s, at least in Pittsburgh. There seems to be kind of a more modern mania for such round numbers and achievements.

87 Cards
6 years ago

Throwing a log on BucDaddy’s fire….June 30, 1978, game 1, in Atlanta, Willie McCovey hit his 500th home-run in front of 14.500 spectators. Atlanta was last in the NL in attendance that year, a 69-93 effort for the Braves.

Dan
6 years ago

If you are going to give Cobb credit for twelve batting title (which you should), you must give him the 4,191 hits he accumulated, not the revisionist-history 4,189 that so many websites give him.

No room for it all here, but the disputed 1910 AL batting race never did offocially remove hits from his record, nor strip him of the title. BBREF and Fangraphs and even MLB’s website have Cobb at 4,189 career hits (don’t get me started on MLB’s idiocy with stats), but the OFFICIAL statistician of MLB has Cobb at 4,191, the total he retired with before many later historians decided to change things.