Seventy years ago today, one of baseball’s great milestones was attained.
He’d been a star for the Pirates for nearly all that time, but they traded him away the year before. However, rather fittingly, that 3,000th hit came against Pittsburgh, so his old teammates were on hand for it. It was in Boston, though, so the fans that cheered for Waner for years missed it.
This was actually one of the first major milestones people paid attention to at the time it happened. Bill James noted in his original Historical Abstract that people only really started fussing about career milestones with the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939. That created a greater sense of permanent legacy and history for the game, hence more attention to things like milestones.
It sounds strange to talk about baseball without its sense of history. Nowadays it’s history and tradition are what set it apart from many of the other sports. But a game isn’t born with legacy, it has to be developed, and around 70 years ago was the tipping point in that process of awareness of what had gone before.
Previously, it was not a big deal if Sam Rice decided to quit playing with 2,987 career hits. Who paid attention to that anyway? But in 1941 Lefty Grove won his 300th game, and now Paul Waner collected 3,000 hits, and those accomplishments were notable. Thus, not only was Waner the seventh member of the 3,000-hit club, his entry helped create that club in the popular mind.
The first guy to reach the mark was Cap Anson in the 19th century. Then, in 1914, a pair of players joined the club: Honus Wagner and Nap Lajoie. Ty Cobb joined them in 1921. Four years later, two more players got his No. 3,000: Eddie Collins and Tris Speaker. Then came a long, dry period without anyone.
In fact, after Waner did it, another desert happened with no one hitting 3,000. After Waner, no one else reached the mark until Stan Musial in 1958. And after Musial, no one else until 1970, when Willie Mays and Hank Aaron both joined. All those guys were NL players. It wasn’t until 1974 that Al Kaline became the first AL player to get 3,000 hits.
So not only is today the 70th anniversary of Paul Waner getting his 3,000th hit, but he was the only person in a 30-plus year period to join, and one of only two over 45 years.
In part, it was something of a fluke that no one would get to 3,000 hits for so long. There are other reasons, too. As the level of competition increased, it became harder for the standouts to dominate. Thus while a handful of players from the 1900-20 generation could get in, almost none in the next could. For that matter, the rise of the home run cut into batting averages. Now you could be a star without concentrating exclusively on getting hits.
Also, World War II shortened a few careers. It helped keep Ted Williams out. There was a fluky element to it, too. For example, star first baseman George Sisler developed eye trouble that hurt his chances. He ended his career with over 2,900 hits, so he would’ve made it otherwise. Even more tragically, Lou Gehrig was on pace for 3,000 career hits before falling to his fatal illness.
But Waner did it. And he did it 70 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things:
1,000 days since side-armed reliever Chad Bradford appears in his last game.
3,000 days since the Twins purchase Terry Mulholland from the Mariners.
8,000 days since George Brett hit for his second cycle.
8,000 days since Roseanne Barr sings the most infamous National Anthem in baseball history when the Padres strangely ask her to do it.
8,000 days since Bob Engel resigns after pleading no contest to charges of shoplifting baseball cards.
10,000 days since the Giants trade slugger Jack Clark to the Cardinals for four guys.
15,000 days since Maury Wills gets his 2,000th career hit.
15,000 days since one-time phenom Wally Bunker appears in his last game.
20,000 days since the Los Angeles City Council approves the sale of 300 acres at Chavez Ravine to the Dodgers in return for the team giving the city minor league stadium Wrigley Field and 40 acres.
25,000 days since Giants manager and former player Bill Terry retires from baseball. He plans to start a cotton business.
50,000 days since Joe Borden tosses the only no-hitter in the history of the National Association.
1846 It’s the first ever baseball game under the rulebook devised by Alexander Cartwright. He umps the game, which the Knickerbockers lose, 23-1, to the New York Baseball Club. It’s at Elysian Fields.
1884 Eddie Cicotte, Black Sox pitcher, is born.
1889 Dummy Hoy becomes the first outfielder to throw out three runners in one game.
1893 Piggy Ward reaches base for the 17th consecutive plate appearance, a record. He was traded during the streak, too.
1894 Cincinnati signs amateur free agent pitcher Jesse Tannehill, who will become a terrific turn-of-the-century twirler for the Pirates.
1900 Clark Griffith gets the better of Rube Waddell in a great pitchers’ duel. Not only does Griffith guide the Cubs to a 1-0 win over Waddell’s Pirates in 14 innings, but Griffith doubles in the game’s only run.
1903 Lou Gehrig is born.
1906 The Boston Braves beats the Cardinals, ending a 19-game losing streak.
1908 Hippo Vaughn makes his big league debut. He will later become an ace pitcher for the Cubs.
1915 Hall of Fame skipper Bill McKechnie manages his first big league game.
1922 Babe Ruth is ejected for arguing a close call at second base. He’ll receive a one-game suspension for this, one of five suspensions he receives during the year. (Yes, five suspension in one year for Ruth.)
1924 Dazzy Vance completes his 12th straight game, the longest such streak of his career, tThough he’ll tie it once later on. His numbers in this span: 10-2 W-L, 114.1 IP, 102 H, 34 R, 26 ER, 27 BB, 86 K, and a 2.06 ERA.
1925 Goose Goslin smashes three homers in one game, including one in the top of the 12th inning.
1927 Jack Scott of the Phillies tosses two complete games in one doubleheader. He splits the bill against the Reds, winning the first game, 3-1, and the losing the second contest, 3-0.
1927 Paul Waner enjoys his 14th consecutive game with an extra-base hit, his personal bet. He’s 32-for-61 in the span with 12 doubles, five triples, and three homers for an AVG/OBP/SLG of .525/.547/1.033.
1929 Edd Roush has his third five-hit game in fewer than five weeks. He’s hit .404 in that span overall.
1929 Babe Ruth returns to the diamond after experiencing a heart murmur on June 7. He has one hitless at-bat.
1936 Dizzy Dean tosses his 13th straight complete game, his personal best. His line: 12-1 W-L, 1 SHO, 120 IP, 117 H, 43 R, 37 ER, 20 BB, 61 K, and a 2.78 ERA.
1938 Paul Waner smashes his 100th home run. He’s the first person to get 100 homers for the Pirates.
1942 Lefty Gomez loses his 100th decision for a 185-100 career record.
1942 For Joe DiMaggio, this might be the worst game of his career. It’s the only time he fans three times while going 0-for-4. Please note, DiMaggio ends his career with more homers than strikeouts. The pitcher who does this to him is Cleveland’s Mel Harder.
1949 200-game winner Jerry Reuss is born.
1950 Duane Kuiper, who hit just one homer in his entire career, is born.
1950 Jim Slaton, the all-time winningest pitcher in Brewers history, is born. Despite winning the most games of any Brewer pitcher, he actually has a losing record with the club.
1951 Hall of Fame skipper Billy Southworth manages his final game.
1952 Brooklyn’s Carl Erskine tosses a no-hitter, beating the Cubs, 5-0.
1952 Dick Groat makes his big league debut.
1953 The Tigers sign amateur free agent Al Kaline. Yeah, this is a good move for Detroit.
1954 Jackie Robinson hits three homers in a game. It’s the second of three times he does so.
1954 Johnnie LeMaster, longtime Giants shortstop during their bad years, is born.
1954 Washington signs amateur free agent Harmon Killebrew.
1955 Mickey Mantle belts his 100th career home run.
1955 Jack Meyer posts the best known WPA for a relief pitcher in the history of the Phillies. He lasts eight scoreless innings in an extra-inning game for a 1.207 WPA.
1955 Ted Williams launches a pair of mammoth home runs. The first is a 450-footer to center in the fifth inning off Cleveland’s Herb Score and three innings later he sends a Bob Feller offering 430 feet.
1958 Casey Stengel becomes the seventh manager to win 1,500 games. His record: 1,500-1,263.
1961 Hank Bauer manages his first game. He’s with Baltimore.
1962 The Orioles sign amateur free agent Mark Belanger.
1963 Gates Brown makes history by homering in his first career at-bat.
1968 Tiger fans sure don’t like it when Boston’s Ken Harrelson homers against them. Fans in the outfield seats toss quarter-sized ball bearings at him when he takes his defensive position in the outfield. They also send a few cherry bombs his way.
1970 Jim Bunning suffers through the worst start of his career. His line: 0.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 0 K for a Game Score of 8.
1972 Big Daddy Rick Reuschel makes his big league debut.
1972 By a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court upholds Major League Baseball victory in the Curt Flood v. Bowie Kuhn case.
1973 Mike Schmidt’s sixth career home run is the first of seven grand slams.
1973 George Hendrick smashes three home runs in one game.
1973 Dave Winfield makes his big league debut.
1973 Red Sox designated hitter Orlando Cepeda lays down his first sacrifice bunt in seven years, one month, and seven days.
1974 Royals ace Steve Busby tosses his second no-hitter in 14 months, blanking the Brewers 2-0. He fans three while walking just one, his only baserunner allowed. George Scott draws a walk leading off the second inning.
1976 Phil Niekro wins his 150th career game for a 150-126 record. He’s 37 years old and only halfway to 300, but he’ll get there anyway.
1977 Frank Robinson becomes the first black big league manager to get fired, as the Indians send him walking.
1977 Jeff Torborg manages his first game.
1977 Dick Allen plays in his last game.
1985 The Angels release Tommy John, who still has a few years left in him.
1986 Boston beats the Twins, 8-7, on the first walk-off HBP in the big leagues since 1980.
1987 Alan Trammell wallops his 100th home run.
1987 Happy birthday, Mr. Reuss. The Angels sign the veteran arm on his 38th birthday.
1987 Houston trade longtime third baseman Phil Garner to the Dodgers.
1987 Orel Hershiser sets a personal best with 14 strikeouts, but the day doesn’t end well for him. He gets the loss when giving up the winning run in the top of the 11th. Yes, he went that deep into a game. It’s the only time Hershiser fans over 11 in one game.
1988 Ryne Sandberg hits career home run No. 100.
1988 Cincinnati trades aging infielder Buddy Bell to the Astros.
1989 Pete Rose initiates lawsuits against MLB and Commissioner Giamatti.
1991 San Francisco release longtime pitcher Rick Reuschel.
1991 Tom Glavine fans a personal-best 12 men in one game. He pitches eight innings, allowing just two unearned runs.
1993 The Royals sign the seemingly ageless Gary Gaetti.
1994 John Smoltz endures the worst start of his career. His line: 3 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 0 BB, and 2 K for a Game Score of 3.
1994 The Giants sign free agent Darryl Strawberry.
1995 The Yankees sign free agent Darryl Strawberry.
1996 Barry Bonds has one of his worst games, going 0-for-7.
1996 John Smoltz picks up his 14th consecutive win, his best winning streak. His line in that time: 15 G, 15 GC, 113.1 IP, 69 H, 30 R, 29 ER, 21 BB, and 127 K for a 1.91 ERA.
1996 The Cubs lose one in horrific manner to the Dodgers. With the game tied 3-3 in the top of the 13th, here’s what Chicago does with Terry Adams on the mound: K, groundout (so far, so good), BB, E5, IBB to load the bases. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, the opposing pitcher is due up and because they were out of position players. Terry Adams then walks in the winning run. Ouch!
1996 Ozzie Smith announces he’ll retire at the end of the year.
1999 Todd Helton hits for the cycle.
2001 Ellis Burks this three home runs in one game for Cleveland.
2001 San Diego tops the Giants 4-3 in 15 innings on a walk-off error. Jeff Kent has his worst game ever according to WPA, a –0.465 WPA. He’s 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He also hits into a double play in the 14th that erases the lead runner at the plate.
2001 Kenny Lofton has his best game ever according to WPA: 0.899 WPA. He’s 1-for-2 with a homer, a walk, a run, and three RBIs. His big blow is a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth with the team down 6-5.
2004 Montreal retires Tim Raines’ number.
2004 Rob Bell ties a Tampa franchise record with a seven-inning relief stint.
2008 Shawn Chacon appears in his last big league game.
2011 Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigns. The team had lost nine straight and 17 of their last 18. This sets up octogenarian Jack McKeon’s unlikely return to the dugout.