Welcome to club -- a small one Aaron, Mays only others who reached 500 HRs, 3,000 hits

September 10, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Babe Ruth is not a member of the 500-homer/3,000-hit club.

Neither is Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams or just about any other great hitter ever to play in the majors.

On Friday, Eddie Murray joined Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players with 500 career homers and 3,000 career hits, but the magnitude of that accomplishment was overshadowed by the fanfare surrounding Murray's 500th homer.

The same held true for Aaron and Mays.

They both reached the standard in 1970, and not much has been made of it. It's all but omitted from many baseball record books. When Aaron is mentioned, it's usually in reference to his all-time-leading 755 home runs. Mays is more noted for 660 homers, third-best all-time behind Aaron and Ruth.

Aaron said he hopes that changes for Murray and that he receives the acclaim he deserves.

"For me, it's right up there," Aaron said. "Only three people will have 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. To me, it's one of my major accomplishments. It lets you know that, over the years, he's played hard and been very consistent. You don't just do it in 10 years. It takes a long time.

"To the average person that doesn't follow his career, they're surprised he's been in the league for so long, because he's never tooted his own horn. He's demonstrated that you don't have to go out there and make a big deal about yourself to have a great career. People should not overlook this. It's one of the greatest achievements in all of sports."

Murray has talked with Mays and Aaron during his pursuit of the record, and he has won the friendship and respect of the two. All three felt pressure as they approached the plateau, but Aaron and Mays said it didn't bother them much.

Mays was 39 when he collected his 3,000th hit (his 500th homer came five years earlier), and he said he wasn't worried about reaching the mark because he knew he still had a few years left.

He said he hopes Murray's accomplishment is recognized in the present and not the past.

"Now that he has the 500th homer to go with the 3,000 hits, it's more of a testament to his hitting ability," Mays said. "He's not just a power hitter. He's not just a singles hitter. He's more than that. Only a handful of players have done this."

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson knows the significance of the accomplishment, too. Robinson is fourth all-time with 586 homers, but finished his career 57 hits short of 3,000.

"I never really thought about going for 3,000 hits," Robinson said. "Nobody wanted to pay me to play anymore.

"It's a tremendous accomplishment, no doubt about it. It would've been nice to look back on. Aaron and Mays, that's nice company for Eddie."

Murray collected his 3,000th hit last summer, but never has had more than 186 in a season. He has 500 homers, but never has hit 35 in a season. Murray just mounted one solid season after

another.

Murray's postseason performance in 1979, when he hit two homers and drove in seven runs, captured Aaron's attention, and, from then on, Aaron "knew Eddie was something special."

"There are a lot of similarities between me and Eddie," Aaron said. "He's always played hard, but he was never a rah-rah type guy. He's very sure of what he has to do, and he goes out and

does it."

Aaron, Mays and Murray also are black, a factor Aaron said contributes to the low profile of the 500/3,000 club.

"People take it for granted because it's three black players," Aaron said. "People are not going to focus on it too much. I hate to say it, but it's true."

The significance is not lost on Murray.

His older brother, Charles, a former minor-leaguer, said: "This one is a little different. I see a difference in him. He's one of only three guys to do this 500/3,000 thing. To me, that's a better accomplishment, and I know it means more to him. This is a very special time for him."

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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