I write with mixed emotions this morning. First, I suppose, congratulations are in order for passing me on the all-time hits list. It’s not the goal – getting your 2,988th hit – and there’s no ‘pause-the-game-and-give-you-the-ball’ celebration for moving into the 29th spot for career hits when it’s not the magic 3000, but it means I will be mentioned, for the twentieth time in recent memory, as the guy who retired with the most hits not 3000.
A few days ago ESPN mentioned you were about to pass me and invoked my name with the same tone of pure pity one normally reserves for the last soldier killed in the war – as in, “can you believe this poor sap retired thirteen hits short of *gasp* THREE THOUSAND!”
Well, Derek, I had no idea that 3000 would become such a magic number, and I had no idea how many hits I had when I retired – all I knew at the time was I was seventh on the all time hit list and there was no way I was going to catch Nap Lajoie playing at 45. As far as this being some kind of tragedy – that’s absurd. I had more than my share of hard knocks, which made playing major league baseball until I was 44 (.293 that year, .321 for my 40’s – match that, Yankee) all the more . . . amazing. Getting 2,887 major league hits – after coming up as a pitcher at age 25 – is no tragedy . . . . losing your wife, children, mother and father in a tornado while you’re a town away playing a semi-pro game most certainly is. That’s tragedy. A tragedy I dealt with by joining the Merchant Marine, then the Navy, quitting after the Vera Cruz . . .action, pitching here and there until Clark Griffith ‘found’ me.
I started my career late, I’m lucky I had a career, I’m lucky I survived the shock of the tragedy to do anything more to booze away my life in seamy ports, bragging about how used to be a hell of a pitcher. I didn’t do that, I had 19 years in Washington, 3 World Series – and a controversy that I dragged out through my death before disclosing in my will that I caught the ball – a great last year in Cleveland. We share something, by the way, I got my 2,887th hit playing for a former teammate, Walter Johnson (the greatest right handed pitcher, ever, you can have Clemons, Seaver, Palmer, the rest – look it up).
So, watching 20 players pass by was hardly depressing (alright, I wasn’t thrilled when Palmeiro and Winfield did it, but what the hell, it’s baseball and look at the top two names on the list). I’m guessing I’m going to be mentioned again in a little over a year when ARod approaches, I won’t be writing him.
In any event, congratulations, keep going, you could’ve played in the 20’s and 30’s and that’s as high a praise as I can hand out. I will issue you a challenge, however — match my 1933 season at age 40, 147 Games Played (out of 152); 207 Hits; 35 Doubles; 13 Triples; 13 SB; .349 avg.; .407 OBP.