Those who fell short

April 17, 2000|By Andy Knobel

Players who missed reaching the 3,000-hit club and what they did in their final season:

Cap Anson, 2,996 hits

Batted .285 in 424 at-bats in 1897.

Reached 3,000 hits with a single Aug. 3, 1897, two weeks after Honus Wagner's major-league debut, but baseball historians later questioned Anson's membership in the club by noting that in 1887 walks were counted as hits. Total Baseball, now the official Major League Baseball encyclopedia, has discounted 60 hits by way of bases on balls, dropping his total to 2,995, but will add one in its next edition after discovering a previously unrecorded hit that came in a suspended game.

Sam Rice, 2,987 hits

Batted .293 in 335 at-batsin 1934

Retired at 44. "At that time, not much attention was paid to records," he once said. "The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had. A couple of years after I quit, [Washington Senators 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 13 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."

Sam Crawford, 2,961 hits

Batted .173 in 104 at-bats in 1917

Might have been able to hang on as a role player when World War I depleted the major-leagues' ranks, but instead finished up with four years in the Pacific Coast League. H. G. Salsinger wrote in the Detroit News that Crawford should be credited with 3,051 hits, including 87 accumulated in the Western League in 1899; the National Commission had ruled earlier that any Western League player entering the American League or National League, as Crawford did with the Cincinnati Reds, should be credited with his hits.

Willie Keeler, 2,932 hits

Batted. 300 in 10 at-bats in 1910

Until his impressive final season, he hadn't hit over .264 since 1906. "Yes, I am going to quit baseball," he once said, "but it won't be until the wrinkles choke me to death."

Frank Robinson, 2,943 hits

Batted .224 in 67 at-bats in 1976

Was invited back by the Cleveland Indians in 1977 to manage, but not to play. "I had no choice," he wrote in "Extra Innings," an autobiography. "If I wanted to manage, I had to stay with the Indians. No other offers were forthcoming. I was only 14 home runs from 600 - did [general manager Phil] Seghi think I didn't want them? I did have some regrets about retiring as a player, only 57 hits from 3,000, but I guessed it was time."

Jake Beckley, 2,930 hits

Batted .209 in 115 at-bats in 1907

Completed career in the minors.

Rogers Hornsby, 2,930 hits

Batted .321 in 56 at-bats in 1937

Last six seasons produced 75 hits.

Al Simmons, 2,927 hits

Batted .500 in 6 at-bats in 1944

Combined for 58 hits his last four years.

Zack Wheat, 2,884 hits

Batted .324 in 247 at-bats in 1927

Later ended his career in the American Association.

Frankie Frisch, 2,880 hits

Batted .219 in 32 at-bats in 1937

Combined for 90 hits his last two seasons.

Mel Ott, 2,876 hits

Batted .000 in four at-bats in 1947

Just two years earlier, he had 139 hits and batted .308.

Babe Ruth, 2,873 hits

Batted .181 in 72 at-bats in 1935

Had 105 hits the previous season. Upon his release, Ruth said: "I can't go out there and play every day. I'm through in that respect. But I can still play a few days a week. I can go in there maybe on Saturday and Sunday. I can pinch hit. I'm not through with baseball. At least I hope I'm not."

Jesse Burkett, 2,850 hits

Batted .257 in 573 at-bats in 1905

Was released by the Boston Red Sox after leading the AL in errors, then was a player-manager in the minors until 1913.

Brooks Robinson, 2,848 hits

Batted .149 in 47 at-bats in 1977

Didn't hit above .211 in any of his last three seasons. "I just knew my career was over," he once said. "The fire was gone. Part of the fire goes when you don't play well, and part of it goes when you don't get to play. It just reached the point where I lost interest. I wanted to play, but [Doug] DeCinces was the third baseman. The last few months, I couldn't wait to get out."

Charlie Gehringer, 2,839 hits, batted .267 in 45 at-bats in 1942

Had 96 hits his last full season. "You know, when I came out of the service, I was in great shape," he once said. "I think I probably could have played another year or so. I should have, too, to have gone after 3,000 hits. I fell short by about 160 or so. It didn't seem important when I was playing, but looking back now, it would be nice to have."

George Sisler, 2,812 hits

Batted .309 in 431 at-bats in 1930

Would likely be in the club if he hadn't missed 1923 with a severe sinus infection after a 1920-1922 stretch in which he compiled a three-year major-league-record of 719 hits.

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