This 14-card insert set celebrates some members of the 3000 hit and 3000 strikeout clubs (at the time of the set's production, of course). Obviously it doesn't include every member of either group as 28 hitters and 16 pitchers currently belong. Players that joined the hit club after the production of the set (not including Ripken, see below) were Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, (possibly the only member who won't make the Hall of Fame) Craig Biggio and Derek Jeter. The pitchers include Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz--all fairly good bets for the Hall.
Three cards each came from the Fleer, Focus, Ultra and Mystique sets while the final two hailed from Showcase (all at various odds). You might also recall that Fleer produced memorabilia versions of these, possibly because I've had the opportunity to show this one off several times:
The base versions of the insert were cool themselves, though, and definitely worth collection. They come from a time when inserts were extremely abundant but not necessarily as lazy as the ones we're subjected to due to Topps' sorta soon-to-expire monopoly. The design is simple but aesthetically pleasing: the card is die-cut in the shape of a "3000" and includes a photo of the player that takes up about a quarter of the card, plus the date of the accomplishment. The back discusses why the player was able to achieve 3000 hits or Ks.
Here's all 14 cards from this Hall of Fame-studded set:Bob Gibson: Gibson was a fierce competitor who would probably have an aneurysm in today's hitter-friendly MLB--the league famously lowered the pitching mound after the dominance of pitchers like this Hall-of-Famer. This is one of the cards that notes the victim of the subject, and interestingly enough it points out that Cesar Geronimo was #3000 for both Gibson and Nolan Ryan, whom you'll see in a bit. Bob finished with 3,117 Ks, good for 14th in the very exclusive club.
Cal Ripken, Jr.: Cal who? Oh yeah, that guy. The front of the card lists "2000 Season" as the date of the accomplishment because the Iron Man was nine hits short to start the season. On April 15 against the Twins in Minnesota, Rip went 3-5, and his hit against Carrasco marked his place in history. Cal was one of a small handful of players to tally 3000 hits and 400 HR. He finished with 3184 all told, good for 14th in history (though I could see Jeter passing him soon).
Carl Yastrzemski: This is a very well-done, informative card back that notes several useful facts about Yaz's career: he had to replace Boston legend Ted Williams, he's the last triple crown winner and was the first AL member of the 3000/400 club. He finished with 3419 hits (just beating out Cap Anson and Honus Wagner), good enough for an excellent 6th on the exclusive list. Jim Beattie of the Yankees was the victim of the historic moment in 1979.
Dave Winfield: Winfield was a ridiculously talented athlete and made the most of it in a Hall of Fame career. Winding down his career with the Twins in 1993, he singled off fellow future-HOFer Dennis Eckersley. Winfield currently sits at #19 on the list with his 3110 hits, though nipping at his heels is Derek Jeter, so the 20th spot awaits him shortly. Jeter, however, won't join Dave as part of the even more exclusive 3000/400 club. Winfield is one of a small number of players from this group to have played for several teams, (Padres, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Twins, Indians) a reflection of the shift in player movement thanks to free agency.
George Brett: Brett was the type of competitor I think Gibson would have liked on his team (just look at the pine tar incident if you need proof) and used his prodigious hitting prowess to join this club, and subsequently the Hall of Fame. Another lifer with a single team, the card notes two key stats in George's career: batting titles in three different decades (a club in which he's the sole member) and a .390 average in 1980, the highest since the insane .406 Ted Williams produced in the magical 1941 season. Brett put those hits to good use and finished with 3154 (15th overall), including #3000 against Tim Fortugno of the Angels in 1992.
Lou Brock: Easily the best base-stealer of this group, (938, 2nd all-time as the back notes) Brock was an excellent all-around hitter as well. The erstwhile Cub tallied 3023 hits, 24th all-time, and singled off Dennis Lamp of the Cubs in 1979 to make history. Lou played on some great Cardinals teams and won it all with them in 1964 and 1967, plus another pennant in 1968, the year they lost to my Tigers.
Nolan Ryan: Whew, I thought we'd forgotten about pitchers for a second. (the set only includes three for some reason) This set would be a sham without the Ryan Express, though, as he sits at an untouchable first on the list with 5714 Ks in his 27 seasons, which works out to a ridiculous 212 per season without taking into account pitching fewer starts at the end of his career. The next best total? Randy Johnson, who'll forever sit at almost 1000 fewer than Lynn Nolan. This is one of those baseball records that will remain untouchable, along with Cy's 511, Joe D's 56 and Cal's 2632, among others. As previously noted, Ryan joined Gibson in fanning Cesar Geronimo for #300, this time against the Reds.
Paul Molitor: Molitor played for the Brewers, Blue Jays and finally the Twins, the team with which he clubbed #3000, a triple against KC's Jose Rosado in 1996. That's notable because as the linked article mentions, he was an alum of the U of Minnesota, and Tony Gwynn, who followed Molly on the list, also netted his 3000th with a team in the same state as his alma mater. Paul ended his career with 3319 hits for an excellent 9th place on a legendary list.
Robin Yount: Another Brewer for the list--this time a lifer--Yount snagged #3000 against Cleveland's Jose Mesa in 1992. (of course Joe Table would go on to give up a much more famous hit five years later) His 3142 hits place him 17th, one hit and one spot better than the upcoming Tony Gwynn. Hall of Fame voters were idiotic as usual and gave him a low vote count on the ballot that year, but he still made it in on his first attempt in 1999.
Rod Carew: Carew, of the Twins and Angels, is one of those players I've never been a huge fan of, likely because he was before my time and because he didn't have the most exciting career compared to others. Still, he was an outstanding hitter, as his 3053 hits (23rd all time) and .328 career average would attest to. #3000 (a single, of cousre) came against the Twins' Frank Viola, a pretty good pitcher in his day.
Stan Musial: I didn't pick this set because of this, but I just read George Vecsey's excellent Stan Musial: An American Life and this is a great opportunity to recommend it to baseball readers everywhere. In many ways, Stan the Man has been an underrated Hall of Famer despite a career highlighted by ridiculous numbers which would have been even better if not for wartime interruptions (a common theme of that era). Another member of the vaunted 3000/400 club, Musial doubled off the Cubs' Moe Drabowsky in 1958 to join the club. As the link notes, the top three in NL average that year were Willie Mays, Musial and Aaron, an all-3000 hit club group. Stan ended his career with 3630 hits, good for fourth. Again, read the book, he was a very interesting guy and you'll love it!
Steve Carlton: Our last pitcher, Lefty had some gaudy Hall of Fame credentials, many of which are mentioned on the back of the card. A bit of a nomad considering the era, Carlton pitched for the Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, White Sox, Indians and Twins. His 4136 Ks are fourth behind Roider Clemens and #3000 came against Tim Wallach of the Expos in 1981.
Tony Gwynn: San Diegoans (we may never learn what that means) might remember this guy. August 6, 1999, the date he singled against he Expos' Dan Smith for #3000, was a very noteworthy day for Tony: exactly six years prior he tallied hit #2000, plus it was his mother's birthday--how cool is that? Another guy that played all his games for one team, Gwynn totaled 3141 hits, good for 18th all time. (and again, one hit behind Yount) A .338 career hitter, I doubt we'll see another one like him in my lifetime, if ever.
Wade Boggs: A player who superstitiously ate chicken and who enjoyed arguing with Barney Gumble about the greatest British Prime Minister ever, ("PITT THE ELDER!") Boggs famously homered off of Chris Haney of Cleveland in 1999 for #3000 while playing for the Rays at the end of his career (the feat has since been equaled by Derek Jeter). After 10 more hits, he finished 26th on the list and rode that accomplishment, along with his bevy of batting titles and records to the Hall of Fame in 2005.
A set with a great looking design and filled with undeniably excellent players, the only thing it's lacking is the rest of the members of each club. (no Rose, Cobb or Aaron, the top three hitters?) I hope you enjoyed yet another complete set, and I hope to be back with some new ones soon after getting a lot of work done with COMC and SportLots!