The Significance of 500 and 3000

Ted Williams

It’s time to join the growing list of people congratulating Derek Jeter on his impending 3000th hit. It’s a milestone. But I remember when Ted Williams hit his 500th home run and I think that helps put Jeter’s accomplishment in perspective.

Williams hit his 500th home run in 1960, over 50 years ago. When that happened, the baseball world went a little crazy. Four men (Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, and Williams) now had 500 home runs. Think of that, four. Now there are 25, or 21 new members in 50 years (about one every other year). There are now as many men with 650 home runs (Ruth, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays) as there were men with 500 home runs 50 years ago.

It’s the same with 3000 hits. When Williams hit his 500th home run there were eight men with 3000 hits (Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap LaJoie, Paul Waner, and Stan Musial, who was still active). Now there are 27 with Jeter poised to become 28. That’s 20 in 50 years. Again, that’s about one every other year. There are a lot of reasons for this. The advent of black and Latin ball players, the new training methods, more games played per season, better nutrition, better medicine are a handful of them.

Do you know who has more hits than anyone whose entire career began since the advent of the playoff system in 1969, 42 years ago? I’ll save you the suspense, it’s Paul Molitor (3319). Jeter might catch him. And if he does, just how significant is it? I think it’s much more significant than 3000 hits.

This is not a Jeter bash. There’s been too much of that recently, just as there’s been too much adulation of him. What I wonder is with 25 men over 500 home runs and 28 men over 3000 hits just how big a deal is it to get those numbers? Obviously anyone who gets 500 home runs is a heck of a player (without reference to the steroid issue). Obviously anyone who gets 3000 hits is a heck of a player (again without reference to steroids). But if you have 25 (or more) guys with the number isn’t just a little less special than when there were only four or eight? I think so. I understand how easy it is to rally around nice round numbers like 500 and 3000, but have those two numbers lost a lot of their luster? Again, I think so.

So here’s what I propose. We honor Jeter, but we hold off the celebration until he gets 3500 hits. He’ll be only the sixth man to 3500 (Pete Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Musial, Speaker are the others) and that’s really something to celebrate. And I think we honor Jim Thome when he gets to 600 home runs, but let’s hold off on a celebration until someone becomes the fourth member of the 700 home run club. Now those are two numbers to really celebrate.

OK, so the picture isn’t as good as Tug McGraw’s, but you can’t expect me to score twice like that. 🙂

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3 Responses to “The Significance of 500 and 3000”

  1. Ron Says:

    I think you have to look at if from a percentage standpoint. There are more players hitting these marks, but there are more teams and more players to do it.

    Also, the population has doubles since the 50’s, while the numbers of players is only abut 90% more. I understand your point, but I’m okay with leaving the measuring stick where it is.

  2. keithosaunders Says:

    Even a Yankee-hater such as myself had to admit that Jeter was amazing earlier today with his 5 for 5 outing, and hitting a homer for his 3,000th hit. I have to give him credit for performing at such a high level over this many years under the New York microscope.

    Now that he has his milestone here’s hoping he, along with the entire team, goes into a prolonged slump.

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