I got an idea for a blog post from one of my readers.
— Dan Mallon (@MallonDan) February 13, 2014
It is an interesting concept. Often when we think of great milestones reached by a player, they are wearing a uniform of a team that we associate them with.
Players like Carl Yastrzemski, Derek Jeter, George Brett, Robin Yount and Tony Gwynn played their entire careers with one team. So when they passed 3,000 hits, they did so in a uniform we were expecting. Rickey Henderson had several tours with the A’s, and it was in his second one that he passed Lou Brock for career saves and declared himself the greatest of all time in Oakland.
Other players returned to former teams to pass milestones. Eddie Murray was back with the Orioles when he slammed home run number 500. Greg Maddux returned to the Cubs for win number 300.
But other players reached their great career highlight in a uniform that virtually nobody remembers them wearing.
Hall of Famer Paul Waner (aka Big Poison) got 2,868 hits over his 15 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But when he became the 7th player to collect 3,000 hits on June 19, 1942, he did so as a Boston Brave.
Eddie Mathews played with the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. But when he became just the 7th player to hit 500 homers on July 14, 1967, he did so as a member of the Houston Astros.
Gaylord Perry spent the bulk of his career with the Giants, winning the Cy Young Award with the Indians and Padres. But he won his 300th game on May 6, 1982 with the Seattle Mariners.
The player Pete Rose was best remembered as a Red and later led the Phillies to their first World Championship. But when he became the first player with 4,000 hits since Ty Cobb on April 13, 1984, Pete was playing for the Montreal Expos.
Tom Seaver was “The Franchise” for the Mets and famously was dealt to the Reds. But his win #300 happened on August 4, 1985 as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
Also in 1985, Phil Niekro, who began his career with the Milwaukee Braves and played in Atlanta over three decades, won his 300th on October 6th during his cameo with the Yankees.
Don Sutton was best known as a Dodger, but his 300th win was recorded on June 18, 1986 while he pitched for the California Angels.
The first 21 years of Steve Carlton’s career was split between the Cardinals and the Phillies. He played for four more teams in his final three seasons. He recorded career strikeout number 4,000 during his “blink and you will miss it” stint with the San Francisco Giants on August 5, 1986.
Dave Winfield is best remembered for being a star Padre and Yankee and leading the Blue Jays to the World Championship. But the native Minnesotan returned home and on September 16, 1993, got his 3,000 hit as a Twin.
Paul Molitor was one of the great players in Milwaukee Brewer history. Like Winfield, Molitor helped lead the Blue Jays to a World Series title. Also like Winfield, he was a native Minnesotan who returned home to the Twins where he recorded his 3,000 hit. Molitor hit a triple on September 16, 1996, making him the only person to triple for his 3,000th.
Wade Boggs was one of the best hitters in Red Sox history (which is saying something.) He would later help the Yankees win the 1996 World Series and ride a horse in the process. But when he collected his 3,000th hit, he wasn’t wearing one of those classic uniforms. He was a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He slugged a home run on August 7, 1999, being the first to ever homer for number 3,000. (Derek Jeter would be the second.)
Rickey Henderson broke the single season and career stolen base record as a member of the Oakland A’s, the team most teams associate with him. But hit number 3,000 happened on October 7, 2001 when he was a member of the San Diego Padres.
Frank Thomas was the greatest slugger in Chicago White Sox history. But when Thomas crushed his 500th home run on June 28, 2007, he did so as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tom Glavine pitched 17 seasons with the Atlanta Braves but notched his 300th victory on August 5, 2007 as a member of the New York Mets.
The most recent 300 game winner was Randy Johnson, who reached the milestone on June 4, 2009 pitching for the San Francisco Giants.
Gary Sheffield never stayed on one team for very long. So perhaps it is appropriate that his greatest achievement, home run number 500, took place during his brief stint with the New York Mets on April 17, 2009.
Wherever Jim Thome played, he was a beloved fan favorite. He joined the 600 home run club on August 15, 2011 not as a member of the Indians but with the Minnesota Twins.
I always wondered what those fan bases thought about those moments. They barely got to know these players but managed to witness one of their great career defining moments.
With A-Rod and Ichiro closest to 3,000 hits, I wonder where their celebrations will be. If CC Sabathia wins 95 more decisions, he will be a 300 game winner. Which uniform will he be wearing then?
Let’s appreciate those events, even if the uniform is a bit jarring.