The 3000-Hit Club

added 06/29/2007 by Gene Elston

In this article, Gene Elston takes us on a look back at the 27 members (as of this writing) of the 3,000-hit club, from Cap Anson (1897) to Craig Biggio (2007), along with some notable near-misses. -- Ed.

February 14, 1934 – Following his release by the Washington Senators after the 1933 season, outfielder Sam Rice is signed by the Cleveland Indians. Rice had played with only the Senators in his first 19 years in the majors and the 1934 season would be his 20th and final year. He would play in only 97 games with Cleveland with 98 hits leaving him 13 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. Asked some years later why he never continued until that number was reached, Rice said, “There wasn’t much emphasis of 3,000 hits when I quit. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t know how many hits I had when I retired.” That retirement came when he was 44 years old with a lifetime batting average of .322 and 2,987 hits. Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963.

I first became interested in those players who had reached the magic number of 3,000 in 1958 when Stan Musial rang up his 3,000th as a pinch hitter at Wrigley Field – I was calling the action in my first season with Mutual’s Game of the Day – and from that point on it became one of my many projects of baseball research.

Cap Anson
One of the toughest was running down the records of Adrian Cap (Pop) Anson who was the first to accomplish the feat in 1897. As was the case with Sam Rice, I’m sure Anson didn’t pay too much attention to number 3,000 or even the exact total he acquired in his 22 seasons. As a matter of fact, it took years for the figure filberts of baseball to come to Anson’s “official” stats. Anson played from 1876-97 and his hit total changed over time, soaring as high as 3,509 and as low as 2,995 as researchers dissected box scores and refigured statistics. Finally, Total Baseball, the official encyclopedia of the game, listed his total hits at 3,081 with his 3,000th being a single, coming in his final season on July 18, 1897 when he was 45 years old.

Honus Wagner
On June 9, 1914 Honus Wagner, age 45 becomes the second to collect 3,000 hits. Wagner, the Pittsburgh shortstop, doubles off Phillies Erskine Mayer, in the first inning. He was rated one of the top shortstops in history leading the National League in hitting in 1900 with the Pirates with an average of .381 and for the next 14 straight years would not hit under .300, compiling a career average of .329 with 3,420 hits. Wagner was one of the original five inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

Nap Lajoie
Three months later on September 27th Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie becomes the third to register 3,000 hits when he doubles off Yankees pitcher Marty McHale in a 5-3 win over New York. Lajoie was 21 years old in 1896 when he picked up his first major league hit with the Phillies and was 39 when he hit number 3,000. The future Hall of Famer accumulated 3,242 over his 21 seasons.

Ty Cobb
On August 19, 1921 Ty Cobb, just four months shy of his 35th birthday, singles off Boston Red Sox pitcher Elmer Myers and becomes the fourth player in history to reach the 3,000 hit mark. The Detroit outfielder registered his first hit in 1905 with the Tigers and beginning in 1907 he led the American League in hits for eight of the next 13 seasons. When his career ended with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928 his total reached 4,189. Cobb is the youngest in history to reach 3,000 and in 1936 became one of the five charter members of the Hall of Fame.

Tris Speaker
Cleveland’s Tris Speaker is the fifth member of the 3,000 hit club. That magic number comes on a single off Washington’s Tom Zachary as the Indians lose to the Senators 2-1 on May 17, 1925 when Speaker was 37 years old. Known as the “Grey Eagle”, he spent most of his 22 major league seasons with the Red Sox and Cleveland and finished his career with 3,514 hits and a batting average of .345. Speaker was inducted into the Hall of Fame in its second year, 1937.

Eddie Collins
White Sox second baseman Eddie Collins follows closely behind Speaker to register his 3,000th hit, becoming number six to accomplish the feat. It comes on June 3, 1925 when at age 38 he singles off Detroit’s Harry Collins. Eddie Collins was not only a good hitter but was rated as one of the top defensive players, also stealing 741 bases to complement his career .333 batting average and 3,315 hits. His career was the longest in the 20th century, spanning 25 years with the A’s and Sox – 1906-1930 and, of course, a call from the Hall of Fame in 1939.

In the first 28 years (1897-1925) only six players had managed to reach the 3,000 hit mark. Three of those left behind are in the Hall of Fame – Jake Beckley (2,934), Willie Keeler (2,932) and Sam Crawford (2,961). No one registered 3,000 in the decade of 1931-1940.

Paul Waner
17 years elapsed between Eddie Collins (1925) and Paul Waner, who picked up his 3000th on June 19, 1942. Waner delivered a hot single up the middle off Pittsburgh’s Rip Sewell at Braves Field. It was ironic that “Big Poison” would get his historic hit against the team with which he had spent the first 15 of his 20 seasons. In becoming the seventh player in history to reach 3,000 hits, Waner’s popularity surfaced when umpire Tom Dunn called for the ball and presented it to Waner at first base. At the same moment Pittsburgh manager Frankie Frisch charged out of the dugout, and at the same time Braves manager Casey Stengel headed for Waner. Even Rip Sewell walked to first with hand extended to offer his congratulations. Waner was 39 years old at the time and finished his career with 3,152 hits with a batting mark of .333 and entered the Hall of Fame in 1952.

Stan Musial
Just as Waner was the only one to reach the magic number in the 1940s, Stan Musial would be the only one to rack up his 3,000th in the ‘50s. “Stan the Man”, 37 years old and still five years from retirement, gets his hit at Wrigley Field on May 13, 1958 and becomes the eighth in history to get that big one. St. Louis manager Freddie Hutchinson had held Musial out of the game at his own request so, “I could save the big one for the fans back home”. The trouble was, Hutch needed him, and in the sixth inning with the Cards trailing the Cubs 3-1, Musial was sent up to bat for Sam Jones. He lined a 2-2 curve off Moe Drabowky into the left field corner for a run-scoring double to help St. Louis win 5-3. Musial would end his career with 3,630 hits and a batting-mark of .331. He was an All–Star in 20 of his 22 seasons and made the Hall of Fame in 1969 in his first year of eligibility.

Time to mention some of those (all of whom are in the Hall of Fame) that fell a few hits under 3,000 in their careers. Earlier we noted that Sam Rice finished with 2,987, and he is joined by Rogers Hornsby with 2,930 and Al Simmons at 2,927, along with the others already mentioned: Beckley, Keeler and Crawford.

No player reached the 3,000 mark in the 1960s, however that was the beginning of the expansion era. The majors saw teams numbering only 16 at the time explode to the present 30, and with it the dilution of the talent base of pitching. (This is not intended to suggest that the players listed below needed any help from the thinning down of the throwers, but through decade of the 1970s, the number of players reaching 3,000 hits would almost double the eight listed above, adding seven more before the end of the decade).

Hank Aaron
On May 17, 1970 Hank Aaron cracks the 3,000 hit barrier, scratching out an infield single off Cincinnati’s rookie right-hander Wayne Simpson. The hit comes in the nightcap of a doubleheader between Atlanta and the Reds at Crosley Field, the historic park that will be closed within a month. The 36-year-old Aaron becomes the ninth player to reach the coveted mark, and the first to have 500 home runs and finish his career with 3,771 hits, 167 as a DH. His career would span 23 years, with 21 All-Star appearances, hit .305 with 755 home runs and be inducted into the Hall in his first year of eligibility.

Willie Mays
Among the best in the business was Willie Mays. He had all the tools, plus excitement, and joined the 3,000-hit club when he 39. He becomes the tenth on the growing list to raise his hit total to the 3,000 range, touching up Montreal pitcher Mike Wegener with a single through the left-side of the infield during San Francisco’s 10-1 rout of the Expos. This historic hit for “Say, Hey” comes on July 18, 1970 and before his career ended his total would grow to 3,283 with 660 home runs and a batting average of .302. Willie would play from 1951 through 1973. That’s 22 years with 20 All-Star games and a first year eligibility invitation to the Hall of Fame.

Roberto Clemente
In what would turn out to be the final official hit in his 18 year career, Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente, at age 38, picks up number 3,000. He would be killed in December in a cargo plane crash in Puerto Rico while on a humanitarian flight to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. Clemente’s hit, a double, came off Mets pitcher Jon Matlock in the fourth inning to help the Pirates to a 5-0 win at Three Rivers Stadium. He would play one more inning in the field then leave the game. He told reporters he would not play in the Bucs final three games, but would rest to be ready for the playoffs with the Reds. Clemente is the 11th to reach the 3,000 mark – he did it on September 30, 1972 in a career that started in 1955. He would enter the Hall of Fame in 1973 in a special election.

Al Kaline
Detroit’s Al Kaline doubles down the right field line on September 24, 1974 off the Orioles’ Dave McNally in the fourth inning for his 3,000th hit. At age 39 he is the 12th player to hit the 3,000 mark. As an 18-year-old rookie in 1953 he had his first seven hits in the majors and ironically would hit safely seven more times in his final season to run his career total to 3,007. Kaline was the first beneficiary of the designated hitter rule to reach the 3,000 mark, racking up his final 146 hits as a DH. He played his entire career with the Tigers, winning the American League batting title at age 20 in 1955 with .340, winning 10 Gold Gloves and reached the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1980.

Pete Rose
On May 5, 1978 37-year-old Pete Rose, in his 16th season with Cincinnati, singles off Montreal’s Steve Rogers and picks up his 3,000th career hit. Rose becomes the 13th player in history to record the magic number and would go on to become the all-time hit leader in major league history with 4,256 (this is one of those records that may never be broken). Rose played 24 seasons (1963-1986) and had 200 or more hits in ten of those years, more than any other player to reach the 3,000 mark. His longevity even now has him in the number one all-time spot in history with 3,562 games played and 14,053 at-bats. His 3,562 games played also points out his versatility on defense – 1,327 in the outfield, 939 at first base, 634 3B and 628 2B. (I assume the remaining 34 games came as a pinch hitter).

Lou Brock
The Cardinals' Lou Brock, beating out an infield hit off pitcher Dennis Lamp, becomes the 14th player to record his 3,000th hit. It comes against the Cubs, the team he broke in with in 1961 as a 22-year-old. He would be traded to St. Louis in 1964 and at age 40 would crack the 3,000 mark on August 13, 1979 in the final season of his 19 years as a major leaguer and finish his career with 3,023 hits. Brock finished with a batting average of .293, reached base 35% of the time and once he got there he made things happen. He led the National League eight years in steals and was league leader in runs scored twice. His career ended with 938 stolen bases with a success ratio of 75%, while scoring 1,610 runs with seven seasons in which he scored more than 100. Brock was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1985 in his first year of eligibility.

Carl Yastrzemski
September 12, 1979 the Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski becomes the 15th player in baseball history to get 3,000 hits when rips an eighth-inning single off Yankees pitcher Jim Beattie at Fenway Park. He is the first player to reach the 3,000 mark without having a 200-hit season since Cap Anson in 1897. The 40-year-old spent all of his 23 years with Boston, making his debut in 1961 and playing through 1983, wrapping it all up with 3,419 hits. Yastrzemski was used off and on as a designated hitter during his final five years, picking up 393 hits during that period. He won the Triple Crown and Most Valuable Player Award in 1967, was an All-Star 18 times, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1989.

As we leave the 1970s only one player remains in that period who came close to 3,000, but retired just short. He is Beaumont, TX native Frank Robinson, his last season was 1976 and his final hit total was 2,943.

Rod Carew
Only one player would hit the coveted mark in the 1980s – the date was August 4, 1985, the place was Anaheim Stadium, the player, Rod Carew. At age 39 he bloops a single off Minnesota’s Frank Viola in the third inning to become the 16th to hit the 3,000 mark. Ironically, this was also a pitchers’ day in history. Just hours earlier at Yankee Stadium, Tom Seaver throws a six-hit 4-1 win for the White Sox to become the 17th pitcher to win 300 games. Carew split his 19 years (1967-1985) at second base for the Twins and at first base with the Angels and was an All-Star in every year except his last season. His final hit total was 3,053 with an average of .328 and was used quite regularly in his final three seasons as a designated hitter - in that role he had 94 hits. Carew was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Robin Yount
On September 9, 1992, Milwaukee’s Robin Yount, hitless in his first three at-bats against Cleveland at County Stadium, lines a single into right center in the seventh inning off Jose Mesa and becomes the 17th player to record 3,000 hits. Yount began his career when he was 18-years old and was seven days short of 37 when he reached the coveted mark. Yount spent all 20 of his seasons with the Brewers (1974-1993), spending the first eleven years at shortstop and his final nine in the outfield. He finished his career with 3,142 hits, picking up 94 of them at designated hitter. Yount entered the Hall of Fame in 1999.

George Brett
39-year-old George Brett becomes the 18th member of the 3,000 hit club on September 30, 1992, after picking up four hits in five at-bats with Kansas City in a 4-0 victory over the Angels. His fourth hit of the night was number 3,000, a first-pitch single past second baseman Ken Oberkfell off 30-year old rookie lefthander Tim Fortugno. Brett’s first career hit was one of five he picked up with Kansas City as a 20-year old rookie in 1973. He spent 21 years with the Royals hitting .305 and winding up with 3,154 hits. Brett accumulated 539 of them as a designated hitter, most of them in the late stages of his playing career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time as Robin Yount in 1999.

Dave Winfield
It was on September 16, 1993 at the Metrodome that Minnesota’s Dave Winfield, playing with his fifth major league team in his 20th season, drives an RBI-single to left field in the ninth inning off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley for his 3,000th hit. His first came in 1973 with San Diego – fresh out of the University of Minnesota at age 21. Now 41 years old, he becomes the 19th player to join that unique group. Winfield saw action in 22 major league seasons (1973-1995) and would finish with 3,110 hits with 399 coming as a DH. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

Eddie Murray
Eddie Murray, after breaking in with the Baltimore Orioles in 1977, runs his hit total to 3,000 on June 30, 1995 while in action with his fourth major league team, the Cleveland Indians. He drove a single through the right side of the infield at the Metrodome off Minnesota’s Mike Trombley. The 39-year-old Murray joins Pete Rose as the only other switch-hitter to get 3,000 hits - 2,045 hits coming while batting left-handed with Baltimore, the Mets, the Dodgers and Indians. In his 21 seasons (1977-1997) he finished with 3,255, with 611 as a designated hitter in his last four seasons in the American League. Murray was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Paul Molitor
Three years to the day after Dave Winfield’s 3,000 hit, the Twins' Paul Molitor becomes the 21st player to reach that plateau and the first to do it with a triple. The hit into right center on September 16, 1996 came in the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City against pitcher Jose Rosado. The 40-year-old Molitor was 22 in 1978 when he joined the Brewers, with whom he collected 2,212 of hits before joining Toronto, then the Twins, finishing his career with 3,319. He was the most prolific user of the designated hitter position, seeing action in that spot in nine of his 21 years (1978-1998), logging 1,457 hits as a DH. Molitor became a Hall of Famer in 2004.

Tony Gwynn
On August 6, 1999 39-year-old Tony Gwynn, needing one hit to reach the 3,000 hit club, sends a soft line drive past second base at Olympic Stadium in Montreal off rookie right-hander Dan Smith in his first at-bat. Smith failed to last the inning and Gwynn went on to lead San Diego to a 12-10 win with three more singles. In his major league debut, at age 22 in 1982, Gwynn had two hits against Philadelphia, and his 3,000th came 17 years later. He becomes the 22nd to reach that mark. The stocky 5-11, 200-pound Gwynn’s mission in baseball (1982-2001) was to improve his hitting talents each day and he succeeded, batting .300 or better in 19 of those 20 years with a career average of .338, winning eight National League batting titles, notching five-plus 200 hit seasons and 15 All-Star appearances. When it was all over he had accumulated 3,141 hits, and in the 2007 Hall of Fame voting Gwynn received the second highest, 532 votes of the 545 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Wade Boggs
One day after Tony Gwynn picked up number 3,000 on August 6th, Wade Boggs follows with his own on August 7th, 1999, to become the 23rd player to reach that goal. The 41-year old Boggs, best known for spraying singles to the opposite field, pulls a home run off Cleveland’s Chris Haney in the sixth inning. He is the first player to homer for his 3,000th hit and highlighted the event by kissing home plate before 39,512 home fans at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. Boggs started his 19-year career in 1982 and split most of his time with the Red Sox and Yankees and spent his final two years with the Devil Rays. He had seven 200-hit seasons, batting .328, 12 All-Star appearances and finished with 3,010 hits, picking up 123 hits as a DH in his final three seasons. Boggs was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. It was an oddity that Tony Gwynn and Boggs reach the magic number in back-to-back days – most of the time it takes longer – as did Eddie Collins’ (on June 3, 1925) and Paul Waner’s (on June 19, 1942) that’s a gap of 17 YEARS!

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Jr. had already singled twice against Minnesota on April 15, 2000 at the Metrodome to set up the big one in the seventh inning. That big one was number 3,000, a base hit up the middle off Twins pitcher Hector Carrasco to become the 24th to accomplish the feat. That magic figure came five years after (September 6, 1995) breaking one of the most revered records in all of sports – Lou Gehrig’s legendary streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. That streak started in the second season of his 21 years with the Orioles in 1982 and ended at 3,184 hits. Ripken was 39 years old when he reached the coveted 3,000 mark, another notch in his brilliant career on the way to the Hall of Fame where he earned the most votes in BBWAA history in 2007 with 537 of the 545 votes cast. He was a 19-time All-Star, twice American League MVP, winning eight Silver Slugger Awards. Another note – the Metrodome has been the site of the most 3,000 hit games: Dave Winfield in 1993, Eddie Murray in 1995, and Cal Ripken, Jr. in 2000.

Rickey Henderson
In San Diego’s final game of the 2001 season, October 7, Rickey Henderson becomes the 25th major leaguer to accumulate 3,000 hits. A bloop double to right field off Colorado pitcher John Thomson in the Padres 14-5 loss to the Rockies turns the trick for Henderson. Along with picking up his historic hit, the 42-year old becomes a four-decade player (1979-2001). He would retire following the 2003 season, logging 25 years with nine different teams (Oakland, Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, Mets, Seattle, Red Sox and Dodgers) falling three short of the record 12 set by Mike Morgan – 1978-2002. He would finish his career with 3,055 hits, 143 as a DH, and still is the all-time leader in runs 2,295, walks 2,190 and 1,406 stolen bases. Henderson is due to be on the 2009 ballot for the Hall of Fame and he appears to be a first-ballot winner. Incidentally, in Henderson’s 3,000th hit game, San Diego veteran Tony Gwynn grounded out as a pinch hitter in his final at-bat before retiring.

Rafael Palmeiro
Baltimore first baseman-outfielder Rafael Palmeiro reaches the 3,000 hit mark July 15, 2005 with a fifth-inning double off Seattle pitcher Joel Pineiro to become the 26th to join this group. Palmeiro has spent 20 years in the majors with the Cubs, Texas and the Orioles (1995-2005) and rolled up number 3,000 at age 40. His final game with Baltimore came in the 2005 season when he finished with 3,020 hits - he is not, as of this writing, technically retired. He filed for free agency on October 29, 2005 and as late as January 2007 there was speculation he might try to play again – he is now 43-years old. Palmeiro is currently number ten on the all-time home run list with 569, has won three Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team four times.

Craig Biggio
Houston’s Craig Biggio, on the verge of nailing down his 3,000th hit, not only reaches that goal but does it in a crushing manner, going 5-for-6 in leading the Astros to an 8-5 win in 11-innings over Colorado. He picks up the magic number in his 20th major league season at age 41, becoming the 27th player to accomplish the feat. Needing 70 hits to reach the 3,000 mark starting the 2007 season, it all came together at Minute Maid Park on the evening of June 28th. He was three hits short entering the game and by the 7th inning he had his 3,000th off Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook. Biggio has spent his entire career with Houston, drafted as a catcher by the Astros in 1987, made the big-club roster in 1988 and became the club’s number one receiver in 1989. Biggio made the All-Star team in 1991 as a catcher, then shifting to second base in 1992, repeated the All-Star honor, running his career total to seven. He has won four Gold Gloves at second base and seven Silver Slugger Awards.

3,000 hits in a career is one of the most revered marks in major league baseball’s 136-year history. It has now been reached 27 times – it is a goal that combines talent, longevity and desire. There will be other players in the game’s future to join this group, sooner or later this list will grow to equal what has been accomplished here – perhaps names we now know – and certainly some unknown names somewhere, someday waiting to be in that on-deck circle.

But, for NOW - it is CAPS OFF and CURTAIN CALLS to each and everyone of the current 27.

Copyright (c) 2007, Gene Elston