Joe DiMaggio, he of the famed 56-game hitting streak, never got there--neither did Triple Crown winners Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams; nor did slugger Jimmie Foxx, although he did belt 30 or more home runs in 12 consecutive seasons and collected more than 100 RBIs for 13 straight years. These baseball immortals unquestionably are some of the greatest hitters ever to have stepped up to the plate, but none of these stellar performers managed to reach the coveted total of 3,000 career hits. That lofty perch is reached only by those who have combined a consistently high level of hitting prowess with a lengthy career. Indeed, a mere 32 men are members of this elite group.
A number of baseball's best hitters have come close to garnering 3,000 base hits over their Hall-of-Fame careers, including Jake Beckley, Sam Crawford, Rogers Hornsby, "Wee Willie" Keeler, Frank Robinson, and Al Simmons--all were within 100 hits of the mark when they hung up their spikes.
One of the "close but no cigar players" was Sam Rice, a Hall-of-Famer who patrolled the Detroit Tigers outfield with Ty Cobb. He ended his big league career with 2,961 hits, including a major league record 309 triples. When asked by Lee Allen and Tom Meany--coauthors of Kings of the Diamond (1965)--why he did not stick around to reach the 3,000hit plateau, Rice explained: "The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had.
"A couple of years after I quit, [Washington team owner] Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked me if I'd care to have a comeback with the Senators and pick up those ... hits, but I was out of shape, and didn't want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them."
In recognition and celebration of the remarkable men who have reached this prestigious plateau, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, N.Y., is showcasing the online exhibition, "The 3,000-Hit Club."
With major league baseball on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this virtual trip down memory lane with some of the National Pastime's all-time greats is well worth making.
Caption: Stan Musial is the only member of the 3,000-Hit Club to reach the mark with a pinch hit. On May 13,1958, with Musial at hit #2,999, the Cardinals decided to sit 'The Man" from the final game...