The 3,000th Hit

Ichiro Suzuki will soon be just one of two players with 3,000 MLB hits from age 27 on. (via Keith Allison)

Ichiro Suzuki will soon be just one of two players with 3,000 MLB hits from age 27 on. (via Keith Allison)

Ichiro Suzuki is closing in on becoming the 30th player to reach 3,000 hits. On Tuesday night, he stroked hit number 2,997. With three more hits, he’ll join one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball history. While we don’t yet know how his 3,00th hit will unfold, it is always great fun to look back, so let’s take a look at some of the previous 29 milestone knocks.

Cap Anson, July 16, 1897, Chicago Colts vs. Baltimore Orioles

When the very first 3,000th hit was struck 119 years ago, nobody was aware of the milestone at the time. At 45 years old, Anson was winding down his career as player-manager of the Chicago Colts, who would later become known as the Cubs. There is some mystery surrounding his career hit total, but Major League Baseball’s official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, has him pegged for 3,081. The hit recognized as the 3,000th came in a home game against the reigning National League champion Baltimore Orioles.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Colts led 1-0 in the top of the ninth when future Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings came up with a runner on and, “determination printed on his angelic countenance.” He hit a two-run inside-the-park home run off of Jimmy Callahan to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. In the first eight frames, the Colts could only muster one hit against George Blackburn, who also set down the first two batters of the ninth. Anson came to the plate as the last hope, and “swung against the ball and drove it safe to center for the second hit of the game.” The single briefly kept the game alive, but Jimmy Ryan bounced into a force play to end the game. Blackburn’s gem was one of only five big league appearances in his career.

Honus Wagner, June 9, 1914, Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies

By the time Wagner approached the mark, there was fanfare and anticipation for the 3,000 hit chase. In fact, according to the Pittsburgh Press, Wagner put pressure on himself to get the hit:

Sometimes I believe too much newspaper talk hurts a fellow, that it acts as a sort of a jinx. I never tried harder in my life than I did in the series at Philadelphia, and what did I do? I didn’t get a hit in two games and then in the next two I got a couple, one for each game. That’s no hitting at all.”

After notching eight hits in the five games prior to the Phillies series, he went 1-for-13 to start the four-game set before doubling off Erskine Mayer in the ninth inning of the finale.

There was an amusing story the next day about the cheering crowd at the Lyceum Theatre, where there was “the great electric scoreboard, depicting every ball thrown instantaneously and accurately.” Electronic scoreboards that recreated the games were popular at the time, since we were still a long way from the At Bat app.

Nap Lajoie, Sept. 27, 1914, Cleveland Naps vs. New York Yankees

A few months after Wagner’s hit, Lajoie joined him and Anson. On his historic double, the Chicago Tribune noted that “the ball hit was taken out of play and presented to Lajoie for a souvenier [sic] as soon as he reached second.” Now teams make the same gesture upon one’s first major league hit.

Paul Waner, June 19, 1942, Boston Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Eddie Collins reached 3,000 during the 1920s before “Big Poison” became the seventh member in 1942. According to his SABR bio, Waner nearly picked up the milestone hit on June 17, 1942:

Waner hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Eddie Joost of the Reds in the fifth inning. Joost moved toward second base, whirled, and made a backhanded stab at the ball, but was only able to knock it down. Scorekeeper Jerry Moore of the Boston Globe awarded Waner a hit, his 3,000th career hit. But Waner waved furiously at the press box to change the call to an error. “No, no. Don’t give me a hit on that. I won’t take it,” shouted Waner. He shooed away umpire Beans Reardon and the converging players who wished to offer their congratulations. At last, Moore changed his decision and charged Joost with an error.”

Two days later, his Braves hosted the Pirates, the team he had spent 15 seasons with from 1926-40. He stroked a fifth-inning single against former teammate Rip Sewell, and as the Chicago Tribune described it, “before he could reach first base, Pittsburgh players crowded around to congratulate the little veteran…” The story also noted congratulations from Bucs skipper Frankie Frisch, who was ejected in the ninth inning of an 11-inning 7-6 Pittsburgh victory.

Stan Musial, May 13, 1958, St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

No one else would reach 3,000 hits for another 16 years. “The Man” was sitting on 2,999 hits on May 13, when the Cardinals benched him for the game at Wrigley Field so he could get the big hit in front of the St. Louis fans the next day.

However, when the Cards trailed the Cubs, 3-1, in the sixth inning, manager Fred Hutchinson called on Musial to pinch hit with a runner at second and one out. Coming in cold off the bench, he smoked Moe Drabowsky’s 2-2 pitch into left field for an RBI double that cut the lead to one. With the landmark two-bagger out of the way, he was removed for a pinch runner to great applause (it takes a lot for a Cardinal to be cheered in Chicago). Still, Musial delivered a great blow in a four-run rally that helped give the Redbirds a 5-3 win.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Lou Brock, Aug. 13, 1979, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

After Musial, another 12 years passed before the next member joined the club. Hank Aaron and Willie Mays pushed the membership to double digits in 1970, and they were soon joined by Roberto Clemente, whose 3,000th hit in 1972 would be his last before his tragic death that offseason. Al Kaline and Pete Rose followed, as did Brock in 1979.

The speedster came to the Cardinals from the Cubs in a 1964 trade that is still one of the most famous live-to-regret-it deals of all time. After 16 seasons of rapping out singles and stealing base after base in a Cardinals uniform, he was eight hits away from 3,000 heading into a five-game series against his former team. He sat out the opener before getting two hits in each of the following games, and the final one really made the Cubs hurt. His milestone fourth-inning single was a shot off of starting pitcher Dennis Lamp’s pitching hand that knocked the hurler out of the game. Prior to the game, Lamp said he didn’t want to be the one to give up the hits:

I would feel really bad if Brock got the hits off me, especially if they cost me a game. No, I don’t want to go into the record book as the pitcher who gave up his 3,000 hit, but I can’t go out there worrying about Brock.”

He sure did go into the record book, adding insult to injury. Lamp pitched again eight days later out of the bullpen before taking back his spot in the rotation.

As for the ballgame, it was tied in the bottom of the ninth when Ken Reitz singled off Willie Hernandez for a round-number hit of his own (number 1,000 in his career). He was replaced by pinch runner Tom Herr, a future Cardinals mainstay at second base who was making his major league debut. St. Louis loaded the bases with one out before Garry Templeton lifted a fly to left field against Bruce Sutter. Dave Kingman reeled it in, but it was deep enough for Herr to race home with the winning run. It was the first of three walk-off wins in a 3000th-hit-game.

Rod Carew, Aug. 4, 1985, California Angels vs. Minnesota Twins

A month after Brock’s 3,000th hit, Carl Yastrzemski became the 15th player to get there. Rod Carew was the 16th and like Waner and Brock, he happened to make history against his former team. After winning seven batting titles in 12 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, he was traded to the Angels in 1979. He spent the final seven years of his career there, the last of which featured hit number 3,000.

Carew’s wasn’t the only major baseball milestone reached on this particular Sunday afternoon. Earlier that day in New York, Tom Seaver of the White Sox beat the Yankees to record his 300th victory, fittingly in the city where he racked up most of them as a member of the New York Mets.

George Brett, Sept. 30, 1992, Kansas City Royals at California Angels

The next 3,000 hit man was Robin Yount, and then three weeks later, Brett got there in a big way. He was four hits shy with five games left in the season, but he wasted no more time, banging out four hits in one game to jump from 2,996 to the magic 3,000. Five players have reached it with their third hit of a game, but Brett is still the only one to get there with his fourth. Perhaps he celebrated too long, because after his base hit, pitcher Tim Fortugno picked him off of first base!

Dave Winfield, Sept. 16, 1993, Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland Athletics

At 41 years old, Winfield signed with his hometown Twins for the 1993 season and he picked up his hit in dramatic fashion. The Twins trailed 2-0 to the Athletics at the Metrodome, and they had to face lights-out closer and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dennis Eckersley. Kirby Puckett led off with a triple and two batters later, Winfield grounded a single to put Minnesota on the board and etch his name in history. Three batters after the celebration, Scott Stahoviak singled to plate Winfield and tie the game. Shane Mack tried to score behind him to win it, but left fielder Kurt Abbott threw him out at the plate to force extra innings. Oakland scored twice in the top of the 13th, but the Twins roared back with three in the bottom half, winning the game on Chip Hale’s RBI single.

Tony Gwynn, Aug. 6, 1999, San Diego Padres at Montreal Expos

Eddie Murray and Paul Molitor were next to join the club (Molitor is still the only one to get there with a triple). The 22nd player was the late, great Tony Gwynn. Six years to the day after Gwynn picked up his 2,000th career hit, he singled off rookie Dan Smith for his 3,000th. There were a couple of other nice coincidences as well. First base umpire Kerwin Danley was a college teammate of Gwynn’s at San Diego State and was right there to congratulate him. The hit was also a birthday gift for Gwynn’s mother, Vendella, who came onto the field to celebrate with her son.

Wade Boggs, Aug. 7, 1999, Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Cleveland Indians

We didn’t have to wait long for the next one, as Gwynn’s perennial batting-champion counterpart joined him the very next day! Boggs also made history while he was making history, becoming the first player to reach the 3,000 plateau with a home run.

Rickey Henderson, Oct. 7, 2001, San Diego Padres vs. Colorado Rockies

Cal Ripken joined the club in a year after Gwynn and Boggs, and Henderson followed on the last day of the 2001 season. He hit a double on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning, giving him another tremendous statistical achievement in a career full of them. This game also would be the last for Gwynn, who pinch hit and grounded out in the ninth inning in his final major league plate appearance.

Craig Biggio, June 28, 2007, Houston Astros vs. Colorado Rockies

Rafael Palmeiro was next to 3,000, and Biggio followed him with a big day. Entering the game three hits shy, the longtime Astro singled in the third and fifth innings to pull within one. The Astros were down 1-0 in the seventh, but they had the tying run at second with two out. Biggio lined a single to tie the game, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. A strange way to get there, but it counted all the same. Biggio wasn’t finished, adding singles in the ninth and 11th frames. The fifth and final hit started a come-from-behind rally that was capped by Carlos Lee’s walk-off grand slam.

Derek Jeter, July 9, 2011, New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Jeter always had a flair for the dramatic, so why not join the club with a home run as part of a five-hit afternoon that concluded with a tiebreaking single in the bottom of the eighth? Jeter and Biggio are the only players to notch five hits in the game in which they reached 3,000.

Alex Rodriguez, June 19, 2015, New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

The last two members of the 3,000 hit club did it in pinstripes with a home run. A-Rod followed Boggs and Jeter to become the third player to go yard for number 3,000. It was one of 33 home runs during a resurgent season for Rodriguez, the sixth-most for a player at 39 years of age or older.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro is having a renaissance season of his own. After batting .258 with a 74 OPS+ over his previous three seasons, including a meager .229 batting average in 2015, the 42-year-old entered Wednesday’s action hitting .332, which if he maintains it, will be his best batting average since he hit .352 in 2009.

He’ll be one of the oldest players to reach 3,000, trailing only Cap Anson (45) and Rickey Henderson (an older 42, though Ichiro passes him if he gets there on August 3 or later). Of course, Ichiro didn’t make his major league debut until he was 27 years old. While we’ll never know how many hits he’d have if he played his entire career on this side of the Pacific, we do know that only Pete Rose has more hits after turning 27. Rose is also the only player with more hits in his first 16 seasons.

In contrast to the power-dependent era in which he’s played, Ichiro has racked up the hits with only 113 leaving the yard. That will be the second-lowest total by a player with 3,000 hits since World War II, ahead of only Rod Carew (92). More than 81 percent of his hits have been singles (2,443), which would pass Eddie Collins (79.7 percent) for the highest share of singles among those with 3,000 hits.

In the coming days, he’ll join the all-time greats in the 3,000 hit club, and it will be a much richer one with him in it.

References & Resources

James is a researcher and booth statistician with YES Network, and is also a former minor league broadcaster. Follow him on Twitter @JamesSmyth621.
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7 years ago

Good to re-see number thirteen’s. However much I may dislike how un-clutch he is, it really was a pleasure watching him hit the baseball.

Looking forward to his 700th homer too.

Thanks for the article,


7 years ago

Given the discrepancies over how many hits Anson had, what was now recognize as his 3000th hit actually recognized as such at the time? What I’m asking is not just “Was a big deal made over Anson getting his 3000th hit?”, but “Did people even regard Anson as having had 3,000 hits at the time, or did they not even think he had that many?”

Along the same lines, are there any other members of the 3000-hit club for whom what was tabulated as their 3000th hit at the time is no longer considered to have actually been their 3000th hit?

James Smyth
7 years ago
Reply to  MCT

The newspaper accounts at the time made no mention of Anson’s hit total, and the actual number is still disputed today. Some give him 3,012, or 3,435 if you count his National Association hits, but 3,081 is recognized as the official number. By the time Wagner approached in 1914, Anson was regarded as the hit king and the 3,000 hit mark already had some cachet.

For now, the milestone hits are the same ones that were celebrated at the time. There haven’t been any extra hits discovered or ones that were counted twice.

John Bushman
7 years ago

Nice article on the history of the 3,000 hit players. What a class guy Ichiro, both America and Japan can be proud of him.

D Allen
7 years ago

I saw Hank Aaron’s 3,000th hit … an infield grounder in the first game of a doubleheader at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, 1969 or ’70. Hey, a hit is a hit … and he had a lot of them! A great player, that’s for sure.

Barry Gilpin
7 years ago
Reply to  D Allen

That reminds me of seeing Griffey Jr’s 2000th hit. It was a dribbler back to the pitcher that he picked up and dropped, and they gave him a hit because he would have had a chance to beat the throw anyway, because it was basically a swinging bunt.

Marc Schneider
7 years ago

Aaron’s 3000th was in 1970. IIRC, his next hit-in the same game-was a home run.

7 years ago

You left off Roberto Clemente who had exactly 3,00 major league hits. It was the last game of the 1972 season. He sent the bat to Cooperstown, sadly he died in the off season. That makes it the MOST memorable.

Re-write the article James.

7 years ago
Reply to  charles

Was at that game when Roberto got his 3000th off of Jon Matlack of the Mets. The stopped the game, gave Roberto the ball, and Wllie Mays came out of the Met’s dugout to congratulate him.