In all 52 Hall of Famers played in the Major Leagues at some point during the 1970s. Many elusive milestones were reached, including the 3,000 hits plateau. Going into the decade only 8 hitters had reached that magic number – Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Paul Waner, and Stan Musial.
On May 7, 1970, Atlanta’s Hank Aaron became the 9th player in Major league history, and the first since Musial in 1958 to reach 3000 hits. He was just getting started. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run mark of 714; his total of 755 was a record that stood for 33 years. Then in 1975 Hank broke Ruth’s all-time RBI record. Aaron retired in 1976, and is still the Major League career leader in runs batted in (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856). Although most well-known for his power, Hank was a lifetime .305 hitter and ranks third all time with 3,771 hits.
By the time 1980 rolled around the exclusive club of 8 had almost doubled , to 15. Here are the other players to reach the 3000 hit mark during the 1970s:
– On July 18th, 1970, only two months after Aaron had done so, San Francisco’s Willie Mays, the Sporting News’ 1960s Player of the Decade, reached 3000 hits. In 1972 Willie was traded to the Mets, and retired after the New York’s pennant winning 1973 season, where at age 42 he became the oldest position player to appear in a World Series. Mays finished with a .302 average and 660 home runs.
– Roberto Clemente was the 1971 World Series MVP in the Pirates’ 7 game win over Baltimore. In 1972 the 38-year-old struggled through an injury-plagued season where he still managed to hit .312 in 102 games. On September 30, 1972, Clemente doubled off New York’s Jon Matlack for his 3000th hit in what would be his final regular season at-bat. Roberto was tragically killed in a plane crash later that year. Click http://wp.me/p6WBqx-30 to read our Roberto Clemente post.
– Like Clemente, Al Kaline played an entire career with the same team and was a right fielder known for his rifle arm. “Mr. Tiger” was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 Gold Gloves. On September 24, 1974 he doubled off Baltimore’s Dave McNally for his 3000th hit, and retired when the season ended as Detroit’s leading home run hitter with 399.
-On May 5, 1978, Pete Rose of the Reds, en route to eventually becoming the Major League all-time hit leader, singled against Montreal ace Steve Rogers for his 3000th hit. Later that season Rose embarked on an National League record-tying 44 game hitting streak. He retired in 1986 with a record 4,256 hits.
-Like Hank Aaron, the Cardinals’ Lou Brock hit several milestones during the 1970s. Brock’s 3000th hit took place on August 13, 1979 against his former team, the Chicago Cubs. In 1974 Lou shattered Maury Wills’ single-season record of 104 stolen bases, finishing with 118. Then in 1977 he broke Ty Cobb’s lifetime mark of 892 steals. Brock retired after the 1979 season with a .293 average, 3,023 hits, 938 stolen bases, and 900 RBI.
-Carl Yastrzemski played his entire 23 year career for the Boston Red Sox. Less than a month after Brock accomplished the feat, Yaz singled for his 3000th hit on September 12th. He retired in 1983 as Boston’s all-time leader with 3,419 hits, 1,844 RBI, 646 doubles, and 3,308 games played. Yastrzemski also hit 452 home runs and won 7 Gold Gloves, 3 batting titles, and a triple crown.
In all the 1970s is tied with the 1990s for the decade with most players reaching the 3,000 hit plateau (7). No other decade has seen more than 4 men accomplish this.
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His website is http://www.1970sBaseball.com and his book, 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks: