Honus Wagner and 3,000 Hits

In June of 1914, “Hans” Wagner became the second major leaguer to have accumulated 3,000 regular season hits in his career. But when during that June did he reach that milestone?

Wagner’s impending 3,000th hit achievement was something fans were very much conscious of at the time.  Newspapers of  June 10, 1914 widely reported that Wagner’s 3,000th hit had occurred in the game of June 9, on a ninth-inning double during a loss to Philadelphia, and the crowd in the stands applauded the achievement.

For example, the Atlanta Constitution, under the headline “Hans Wagner Makes his 3,000th Bingle”, and with a June 9 dateline, wrote: “Hans Wagner, veteran shortstop of the Pittsburg National League team, today made his 3,000th hit… it was a two-bagger off Pitcher Mayer with no one on base in the ninth inning.  He subsequently scored Pittsburg’s only run of the game….  He was applauded when he made the hit and again when he crossed the plate.  The only other player who is said to have made 3,000 hits in his major league career was Adrian C. Anson….”

The Stockton Record of the previous day described at some length how baseball fans had been waiting eagerly for the milestone over the preceding few days, only to be faced with rainouts, an off-day and a hitless game for Honus.    On the 10th, the New York World ran the same story as the Atlanta Constitution, also with the June 9 dateline, under the headline “Hans Wagner Gets His 3,000 Hit in 17 Years”.  (1914 was actually Wagner’s 18th season in the majors).  The Hall of Fame cites June 9, 1914 as the day of the 3,000th hit, as does Wagner’s SABR biography.

Amusing then, that Retrosheet and Baseball-reference.com (which uses Retrosheet’s data) now show that Honus actually got to 3,000 hits seventeen games later, on June 28, 1914.  Retrosheet and B-ref recently posted box scores for the 1914 season, so you can now add up Honus’s hits and easily calculate that June 28 date.  Wagner is shown at B-ref with 2,941 hits through the end of the 1913 season, and he is shown getting his 59th hit of the 1914 season on June 28.  That master and hero of all things Retrosheet, Tom Ruane, points out the June 28 date in his “retro-review” of the 1914 season: http://www.retrosheet.org/Research/RuaneT/rev1910_art.htm, which is where I spotted it.

I’m not sure what the source might be of the discrepancies between what everyone thought back in 1914 and the numbers now memorialized at Retrosheet and B-ref.  But the conflict between the new date and the old one are a reminder of the contingency of historical statistics.  And the story of the conflict is a reminder of just how astoundingly long baseball fans have been avidly following the same milestone statistical achievements we follow today.


Comments

Honus Wagner and 3,000 Hits — 36 Comments

  1. Somewhat similar to Brock passing Cobb in stolen bases. I was in attendance for the game in San Diego when Brock stole twice to tie and pass Cobb. Only later was Cobbb credited with additonal steals that pushed the date that Brock passed him to a September game in Montreal.

    • I was there, too, Doug! My brother told me it was a news update on TV during a show (probably during a commercial break).
      I sat in the Plaza level on the third base side.

      • I was at field level, on the first base side.

        I remember when Brock took the field the inning after the ceremony giving him the base, etc. After a few between inning tosses, Cards manager Vern Rapp calls him back to the dugout, a call Brock heeded somewhat reluctantly/sheepishly. A calculated move by Rapp to give Brock center stage again, but the crowd was happy to oblige with another ovation.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN197708290.shtml

    • @1/Doug,

      I wasn’t aware that Cobb is now credited with 897 career steals; the number ‘892’ has been burned in my memory for decades. Same with Cobb’s 4,191 hits, 297 career triples and .367 BA later becoming 4,189 hits, 295 triples and a .366 BA; also Speaker formerly with 3,515 career hits and a .344 BA, now with 3,514 hits and a .345 BA.

      An interesting exercise would be to go through the actual HOF plaques in Cooperstown, and see how many have factually incorrect stats on them.

      • I didn’t realize it either. 892 is still etched in my brain.

        Isn’t there something similar with Rose breaking Cobb’s hit record? I’m guessing since they took a hit away from Cobb, Rose broke the record earlier, yet to me it doesn’t matter. The record breaker was the one recognized at the time.

      • At the plaque room at the HOF in Cooperstown, there is a sign that says: “The information on these plaques was taken from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time it was written.”

  2. Baseball record-keeping was notoriously bad a century or so ago. Any sort of widely available baseball encyclopedia was decades away (the first I’m aware of was the 1951 Turkin/Thompson “Official Encyclopedia of Baseball”, which I own and is very bare-bones). For instance, when Chief Wilson hit his astounding 36 triples in 1912, no one was really sure what the actual single-season record was for triples. Nap Lajoie’s 1901 BA fell from .422 to .405 because someone misread his Hits total as 220, instead of 229 (corrected to 232 now).

    When Babe Ruth went nuts in 1919 hitting HRs, there was a similar confusion over what the actual HR record was. At first they thought it was Gavvy Cravath’s 24 HR four years earlier. Then someone dug up Buck Freeman’s 25 HR for the 1899 Senators. Finally, someone found Ned Williamson’s 27 HR for the 1884 Chicago White Stockings (most over a ridiculously short RF fence less than 200 feet, which before 1884 was a ground-rule double).

    Recordkeeping mistakes are hardly a thing of the very distant baseball past – I thought that Schmidt and Brett were tied with 1,595 RBI (how fitting) – when did Brett get an extra RBI?

    Roger Maris lost an RBI (making Jim Gentile the co-RBI leader), and Mickey Mantle lost a run scored (dropping him from a 1st-place tie with Maris). Hach Wilson now has 191 RBI in 1930. The biggest shocker to me was Hugh Duffy losing his 1894 triple Crown (Sam Thompson gained 6 RBI).

    There are surely many other changes to the stats of lesser known players. I’m just glad that Roberto Clemente really does have precisely 3,000 hits. Does Al Kaline have a ‘misplaced’ HR :)?

    • Kaline lost 2 homers to rain games;

      6/1/1958: Al Kaline homered to lead off the bottom of the second inning against Chicago’s Ray Moore but the game was rained out after 3 ½ innings. This homer would have given Kaline 400 for his career.

      5/17/1963: Doubleheader Tigers vs @ Senators was cancelled in the 2nd inning of the 1st game after a rain delay. Top of the 2nd, Al Kaline hit a solo homer off Bennie Daniels, then the rains came to wash it away. This could also have given Kaline 400 for his career.

        • From the Times article it sounds like this was nothing like a “promise”. There doesn’t seem to have been any contract bonus or anything like that. Sounds like it was merely a comment during the negotiation of the next year’s contract, suggesting that the offer on the table would supposedly have been $5,000 higher with an RBI title in hand. That sort of observation would have been worth less than nothing. So adding inflation or interest wouldn’t have really been appropriate, to something that really had no value in the first place. An interesting reminder though of what it must have been like for players to negotiate back then, when they had zero leverage.

  3. When the 1912 season ended it appeared that Heinie Zimmerman won the triple crown. Years later it was discovered that his RBI total was overstated and accordingly reduced his total from 103 to 99. Thus Wagner was the RBI leader and Zimmerman lost his triple crown.

  4. Pittsburg was the correct spelling at that time. The Census Bureau or some other Agency ordered all place names ending in -burgh to change to -burg. Pittsburgh (Pa.) changed back a few years later; Edinburgh (Ind.) got their H back in the 1970s or 1980s. Pittsburg (Kan.) is still spelled without the H.

    Pete Rose is remembered for passing Ty Cobb’s record of 4,191 hits in 1985. Retrosheet shows Cobb with 4,189 now, as does Baseball Reference.

    When the rule was changed to allow a walk-off homerun to score all the runs and not just enough runs to win, they considered coverting all those game-ending non-homers (found at Retrosheet at http://www.retrosheet.org/ending.htm ) to homeruns. But that would have given Babe Ruth 715 for his career, so they did not change any of those hits.

    • According to the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh-with-an-h:
      “In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names decided that the final h was to be dropped in the names of all cities and towns ending in burgh. (Throughout the period 1890-1911 city ordinances and council minutes retained the h.) In 1911, after protest from citizens who wished to preserve the historic spelling, the United States Board on Geographic Names reversed its decision and restored the h to Pittsburgh.”

      http://www.carnegielibrary.org/exhibit/hname.html

    • I thought you might be on to something, jajacob. But, Wagner was in an uncharacteristic funk that month and was only 10 for 60 for Jun 10-28. So, that doesn’t quite square the circle.

      I thought the comment about Cap Anson “who is said to have made 3000 hits” was interesting in that it appears to imply that Anson’s achievement was a matter of some debate or conjecture, as opposed to being a recognized accomplishment.

      Hugh Duffy is another case of a “revised” record. When I was growing up, Duffy was always said to have had a .438 batting average in 1894, instead of the .440 that B-R now credits him with. Duffy wasn’t the only player on a tear that season – his 85 XBH led the NL but he was just one of four players to tie or break the old NL record total, a mark set the previous season in the first year of the 60 foot 6 inch pitching distance. Duffy would hold that NL record until Rajah’s 102 XBH in 1922.

      • Sorry, I’m not able to do the research, and can only ask questions that might get some one else’s interest. Has Honus’s career total been changed? That might account for the remaining four hits?

  5. “And the story of the conflict is a reminder of just how astoundingly long baseball fans have been avidly following the same milestone statistical achievements we follow today.”

    Didn’t Same Rice (2987 hits) claim that no one paid much attention to milestones back then?

    • Good point, Hank. But I’d guess the level of general attention to 3,000 hits back then varied with the caliber of the player and the rarity of the achievement. Sam Rice was a good player for a long time, but never among the game’s elite. And by the time Rice crossed 2,700 hits in 1931, there were six men with 3,000, and Rogers Hornsby (still very much a star then) was closer to 3,000.

      I also think Rice’s late career start kept people from believing he could get to 3,000. He didn’t become a regular until age 27. And though he maintained a relentless 200-hit pace from age 29-40, he began to slow at 41, his 128 hits that year leaving him still 229 shy of 3,000. At age 43, he started just 9 games, and the Senators released him that winter, still 111 hits away. I just don’t think the conditions were right to build up any buzz over Rice’s approach to 3,000.

        • Rice was a candidate for the Lou Whitaker All-Stars, but lost the RF battle to Sam Crawford — another guy who fell just short of 3,000 hits.

          • I seem to remember reading Wahoo would have stuck around to get 3,000 hits if he thought it was a “thing.” Obviously not his word, but he implied that getting 3,000 hits just wasn’t viewed as being anything special. That’s why I thought it was interesting that the news media was reporting when Wagner hit # 3,000, even if they were off by a few weeks.

            I supposed it’s easy to look at Crawford’s sub .200 BA his last year and assume no team wanted him, which is the reason he never got to 3,000. Yet one can view it the other way. The fact that no team wanted him validates Crawford’s belief. A player today just short of 3,000 hits would get an offer, assuming he’s not named Barry Bonds!

          • @32/RobMer,

            I remember reading ages ago that Crawford thought that he should’ve been credited with 3,000 hits anyway, as he got 64 hits in the Western League in 1899.

            Why? The Western League became the major-league AL in 1901, under Ban Johnson’s leadership. Someone later (Johnson?) told Crawford that Western League stats would count as major league stats. I did read this about decades ago, so I probably didn’t get all the facts right.

            Crawford had four good-to-excellent years in the PCL at ages 37-40 with excellent BA’s and goog-to-great power, so if he really wanted those last 36 hits, he might have had a shot at catching on with another MLB team.

            It wasn’t unusual for MLB players to play several full years in the minors after their career ended, even the biggest stars. For instance, Tris Speaker was player/manager for Newark in 1929 and 1930, batting .355 and .419. In 1917-18 Larry Lajoie was also a player -manager in the minors.

            Rickey Henderson revived this in 2004/2005, playing in the independent leagues at age 45/46, still drawing walks and stealing bases.

          • In 1900, the Western League was renamed the American League (it was not yet officially “Major”) and Clark Griffith’s Chicago White Sox (or were they the White Stockings that year?) won the pennant.

      • I remember reading somewhere that after Rice retired Clark Griffith offered him an opportunity to rejoin the Senators and play long enough to accumulate the 13 hits. Rice turned it down because he did not want to go through the rigors of getting back in shape. He shares with Joe Jackson the AL record for the longest streak of multi-hit games, 11.

        • I remember reading that Ty Cobb’s 4000th hit only got a sentence or two in Detroit’s papers, not in the first paragraph of the story.

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