This Week in Baseball History: June 14-20

Would you give away A-Rod's 3,000th hit for $150,000?


June 15, 2016 – Ichiro’s 4,257th Hit


What Ichiro Suzuki did over his first 10 seasons in the majors is remarkable.

During that span (’01 to ’10), Ichiro was perhaps the greatest contact hitter and defender in baseball. He averaged 224 hits over 734 PAs, a .331/.376/.430 line and a Gold Glove each year. Since 2011, there has only been just one season with a batter recording more than 224 hits (Jose Altuve with 225 in 2017).

Don’t forget that Ichiro joined MLB when he was 27 years old. He played his first nine seasons of professional baseball with the Orix Blue Wave in NPB. In Japan, Ichiro averaged 142 hits over 455 PAs with a .353/.421/.522 slash line. So when Ichiro first signed his contract with the Mariners, he already had 1,278 hits under his belt.

Unfortunately, the second half of Ichiro’s career that began in 2011 saw a significant drop-off from his prime. But I don’t really blame him. After all, he turned 37 before the season began.

From ’11 to ’15, Ichiro averaged just 138 hits a year in 552 PAs while batting .268/.304/.342. Before the start of his age-42 season in 2016, Ichiro had 2,935 MLB hits. When you add his NPB stats, that gave Ichiro 4,213 hits across professional baseball.

Ichiro had already joined the exclusive 4,000 hit club with the Yankees on Aug. 21, 2013.


Just nine people had reached that plateau. The group of players with 4,000 hits across professional baseball is an eclectic assortment of legends and one afterthought. On one hand, you have all-time greats like Hank AaronTy Cobb, and Pete Rose. On the other, you have Jigger Statz.

Entering the ’16 season Ichiro, had his sights set on some even greater milestones: 3,000 MLB hits and 4,257 professional hits.

Ichiro started the year looking like his old self, batting .347/.410/.388 with 42 hits over his first 135 PAs (4/2 to 6/14). As Ichiro and the Marlins entered their June 15 contest against the Padres (who were not yet known as “Slam Diego”), he sat at 4,255 pro hits—just one shy of Rose’s MLB record of 4,256.

Ichiro did not take long to tie Rose.

On the second pitch of the afternoon from Luis Perdomo, Ichiro pulled a patented “Ichiro infield hit” down the line. The hit barely made it 25 feet away from home plate, but that was all Ichiro needed to hustle to first and record No. 4,256.


However, for the rest of the game, Ichiro struggled to hit the ball past the pitcher’s mound. Over his next three PAs, he grounded out twice to the pitcher and struck out once. It looked like San Diego fans wouldn’t be able to witness a historic moment from baseball’s greatest contact hitter since Tony Gwynn.

But Ichiro had one more opportunity in the ninth. The Marlins were losing 6 – 3 and quickly hit their way into two outs. With Giancarlo Stanton on first base, Ichiro stepped up to hit with an opportunity to not only make history but also bring the tying run to the plate.

Fernando Rodney, who was having a perfect season at that point (0 ERA in 23 IP), delivered a 2 – 1 changeup that stayed way up in the zone. Ichiro saw it and Ichiro crushed it.


4,257. Just how crazy is that number? A player would have to average about 213 hits each season over 20 years to reach that mark. I don’t know if we’ll ever see that done again.

About two months later, Ichiro joined the fabled 3,000 hit club. He finished with 3,089 MLB hits + 1,278 NPB hits for 4,367 total hits.

Here’s a scenario to ponder: What if Ichiro had started his career in the majors? Because of the shortened NPB season, he reached 200 hits in Japan just once. If Ichiro began in MLB and had an extra 100+ PAs each year over his first nine seasons of professional baseball, could he have eventually fought his way to 5,000 hits?



June 19, 1846 – The First Baseball Game?


Baseball has a very muddy origin story. Historians do not universally agree on the exact date and location where the game was first played.

For many years, the public belief was that Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general rumored to have fired the first shots of the war at Fort Sumter, had invented baseball in 1839 at Cooperstown, N.Y. The Mills Commission, created in 1905, affirmed this as fact. Decades later, the National Baseball Hall of Fame opened its doors in Cooperstown—the supposed birthplace of baseball.

But since then, historians have determined that to be incorrect. In fact, John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball, said Doubleday “never knew that he had invented baseball,” and that this rumor first appeared years after his death.

Another person often credited as an inventor of the sport is Alexander Cartwright, a volunteer firefighter, and former Wall Street clerk. The story was that Cartwright and his friends established the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and crafted the “Cartwright Rules” that formed the basis of baseball as we know it (i.e. foul territory, the distance between the bases). However, some historians, including Thorn, have since cast doubts on the influence of the Knickerbocker Club and Cartwright with respect to baseball.

Nonetheless, some sources hold that baseball was born on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, N.J. at Elysian Fields. There, the Knickerbocker faced the New York Baseball Club (also known as the New York Nine). There are scarcely a few records of the game itself, but the Nine reportedly dominated the Knickerbockers by a score of 23 – 1.

One highlight is that Cartwright, who was supposedly the umpire for this game, fined James Whyte Davis six cents ($2.10 in 2021) for swearing during the game.

Although this was held to be the official baseball origin story for decades, recently uncovered records have challenged this story and revealed other Knickerbocker games that preceded the June 19 contest.


June 19, 2015 – A-Rod’s 3000th Hit


I understand if you can’t stand Álex Rodríguez. I feel the same way about him as a commentator. But as someone who grew up a Yankees fan, I loved him as a player.

His raw talent at the plate is among the best I ever saw. Yes, he got help from PEDs. But much like Barry Bonds, he could’ve been one of the best players of his generation without that assistance.

In A-Rod’s breakout 1996 season, he led the league in runs (141), doubles (54), and average (.358). He also had 36 HR, 123 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, and a 1.045 OPS/159 wRC+ to boot. Oh yeah, he also started the year at just 20 years old.

How many players in the modern era have had a higher wRC+ in their age-20 season or younger? Just two. Mike Trout (167 in 2012) and Mel Ott (162 in 1929).

Unfortunately, Rodríguez chose the performance-enhanced route, and he became the best slugger in the American League. From ’01 to ’07, he won three MVPs and led the AL in home runs five out of those seven years.

Following his last MVP win in ’07, Rodríguez began a gradual decline. Thanks to injuries and general aging, his OPS dropped each year through 2013. At the time that Rodríguez received his 211 game suspension in Aug. 2013, his career stats fell just short of numerous milestones: 2,939 hits, 654 homers, and 1,969 RBIs.

Once upon a time, it looked like he would easily reach 3,000 hits, 700 homers, and 2,000 RBIs. But now all of those milestones seemed to be in jeopardy.

In a shock to many, Rodríguez decided to return for the 2015 season. And in an even greater surprise, he had his best year since 2009.

Over his first two months, Rodríguez was hitting .281/.369/.545 with 47 H, 11 HR and 27 RBIs over 195 PAs. The first big milestone he checked off that year was passing Willie Mays on the career home run list with a bomb to center field on May 7.


A month later on June 13, Rodríguez became the fourth player to record 2,000 RBIs with another huge home run off the Orioles.


By the time Rodríguez and the Yankees began a series against the Tigers on June 19, he sat exactly at 2,999 hits. Standing in their way was Justin Verlander, who was making his second start of the year and had just returned from the first IL stint of his career.

Maybe Rodríguez was anticipating a rusty Verlander because he swung at the very first pitch. It looked like a high outfield pop-up, but it just kept carrying… and carrying… and carrying…


With that swing, Rodríguez became the only player besides Hank Aaron with 600 HR, 2,000 RBIs, and 3,000 hits. Albert Pujols has since joined that club.

Rodríguez also became the third player to get their 3,000th hit on a homer. The other two? Fellow Yankees Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter.

What happened to the special ball? Well, it was caught by none other than the legendary ballhawk Zack Hample. At first, Hample refused to give the ball back, saying, “I think that someone like Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, who has made half a billion dollars in his career, doesn’t really need a favor from a normal civilian and a fan like me.”

But Hample changed his mind and gave the ball to Rodriguez after the Yankees donated $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that offers baseball equipment to underserved communities around the world.



June 20, 2007 – Sammy Sosa’s 600th Home Run


There are very few sluggers in history with a peak that rivals Sammy Sosa’s. From ’89 to ’97, Sosa averaged 66 R, 23 HR, 71 RBIs, and .257/.308/.469 over 486 PAs each year. But over the next four years from ’98 to ’01, those stats exploded: 125 R, 61 HR, 149 RBIs, and .310/.396/.662 over 712 PAs.

Personally, I’m a bit biased towards Sosa. Yes, he likely received a bit of help from some… special substances. But he was just such an exciting player for a five-year-old me. Sosa and Mark McGwire’s epic home run race in ’98 helped rebuild baseball’s popularity following the ’94 strike. Without them, who knows where baseball’s popularity would lie. Also, who doesn’t love the Sosa hop?


Ultimately, Sosa’s hitting prowess disappeared just as quickly as it had first appeared. From ’01 to ’05, Sosa’s BA, OBP, and SLG declined every year.

Sammy Sosa’s Decline (’01 – ’05)

After ’05, which was the same year Sosa testified before Congress about PEDs, Sosa had 588 career homers. Even though he was so close to 600, Sosa couldn’t find a major league team willing to take a chance on an old and controversial slugger. Thus, Sosa sat out the entire ’06 season.

But in ’07, Sosa’s received one last offer and ended his career with the team where it all began: Texas Rangers.

The Rangers were perpetual basement dwellers. From ’00 to ’06, they had finished in last or second-to-last in the NL West every season. ’07 was the same story. So, why not give the fans something to be excited about as Sosa looked to become the fifth member of the 600 HR Club?

Sosa began the year looking like a rejuvenated hitter. Over his first 31 games (4/2 to 5/11), Sosa hit .278/.346/.548 with 15 R, 8 HR, and 26 RBIs. But for the next month (5/12 to 6/12), his power cratered: .214/.261/.350 with just 10 R, 2 HR, and 20 RBIs.

On June 15, Sosa hit No. 599 in a 2-for-4 day at the plate with 5 RBIs. A couple of days later, Sosa and the Rangers played against the Cubs in The Ballpark at Arlington. This was the first time Sosa had ever played against the Cubs in his entire career.

In his first game of the series, Sosa went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. On June 20, Sosa fought for redemption.

Sosa stepped up to bat against Jason Marquis in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded. On a 1 -0 pitch, Sosa reached base on an error with a weak dribbler to third that also scored a run. The next time he batted, Sosa again failed to hit the ball out of the infield as he hit a fielder’s choice to the shortstop.

Finally, in the bottom of the fifth and with the Rangers leading 4 – 1, Sosa made history.

Marquis worked the count to 1 – 2 before hanging a pitch up in the zone. Sosa swung and hopped his way into the record books.


How fitting for Sosa that he reached this milestone not only against his old team but also against a pitcher wearing his old Cubs’ number (21). Since Sosa had never played the Cubs before, this historic blast gave Sosa a home run against every single team in baseball.

In an unexpected twist, Sosa finished the season as one of the Rangers’ best hitters. His 21 HRs led the team and his 92 RBIs finished second to Michael Young (94 RBIs). Unfortunately for Slammin’ Sammy, that would be his last season in baseball.

His final career numbers: 2,408 H, 1,475 R, 609 HR, 1,667 RBIs and .273/.344/.534 with a 124 wRC+.


Photo by Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire | | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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