September 27, 1914 (Game 1) – Nap Lajoie Notches His 3000th Hit
Honus Wagner became the first player in modern baseball history to record 3,000 hits on June 9, 1914 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some historians also recognize Cap Anson of the Chicago Colts as a member of the 3,000 hit club, but all of his hits came in the nineteenth century under significantly different rules.
Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie’s star power helped to make the early American League a success. When he signed with the Cleveland club in 1902, his former team disputed the validity of the contract. As a result, Lajoie did not travel to Pennsylvania for two years (missing all away games against the Athletics). In 1902, his .378 average led the American League. To start the 1903 season, local media held a poll to rename the team that had been the Blues and the Bronchos in its first two campaigns. “Naps” was the runaway favorite.
1902 was the first of 10 years LaJoie would hit above .300 for Cleveland. He led the league in hits in 1904 (208 hits), 1906 (214), and 1910 (227 hits). All of those hits piled up into quite a career.
The Yankees were visiting League Park on the second-to-last weekend of the baseball year. In Game 1, Guy Morton and his abysmal 1 and 13 win-loss record was on the mound for Cleveland. He was facing off with Marty McHale.
The play-by-play account of this game has been lost to history, but we know that one of Cleveland’s seven hits on the day was Lajoie’s 3000th. The Cleveland Press reported that, “Lajoie, of Cleveland, made his three-thousandth big league hit in the first game. It being a two-base hit, the ball being taken out of play and presented to Lajoie as soon as he reached second.”
The Cleveland club went on to win 5-3. However, they would finish the season with only 51 wins–dead last in the American League.
Twenty-nine players have joined the 3,000 hit club since Wagner and Lajoie reached the milestone in 1914. However, none have been so dominant or so beloved that the team was re-named in their honor. Lajoie finished his career with 3,243 hits, 2,052 of those came with the Naps. He remains the all-time franchise hits leader, 87 ahead of Tris Speaker. Modern, long-tenured stars like Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton are more than 400 hits behind Lajoie. The Indians active hits leader is Carlos Santana 1,143.