Number 2 in pinstripes is now number six on Major League Baseball’s all-time hit list. On Saturday against the Cleveland Indians, Derek Jeter collected his 3,431st career hit, surpassing Honus Wagner for sole possession of sixth place and collecting what may be the last major milestone of his 20-year major league career.
Facing Indians starter Corey Kluber in the sixth inning of the afternoon game in Yankee Stadium — a game the Yankees would go on to lose 3-0 — Jeter beat out an infield chopper that Lonnie Chisenhall attempted to barehand but could not. The play was scored a hit by the official scorer. At the very least, it was a clearer hit than the one which Jeter recorded Friday night to tie Wagner. Hit 3,430 was an infield grounder to shortstop Jose Ramirez, who fielded it while making a spin move, then fired to first base where Carlos Santana dropped the ball:
A bit of home cooking, perhaps, but in the grand scheme of things, hardly out of line with what happens in the other 29 ballparks — David Ortiz to the contrary.
Though the 40-year-old shortstop ended the day batting just .276/.327/.331 — numbers that represent career lows in both on-base and slugging percentages — Jeter has been on the upswing lately. Since taking July 24 off, he’s hitting .310/.344/.397 over his last 61 plate appearances, with hits in 13 of his 14 games played in that span.
Jeter began the season with 3,316 hits, trumped Paul Molitor (3,319) on April 6 and moved past Carl Yastrzemski (3,419) on July 28. As for passing Wagner, who starred for the Louisville Colonels (1897-1899) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1900-1917) and was among the original quintet of players elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936, his actual hit total is in dispute. According to Baseball-Reference.com, at least, Jeter had already surpassed him on July 29 with his 3,421st hit.
The Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Baseball, recognizes the 3,430 total, which was culled from the old Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guides. However, in the process of putting together the landmark Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, first published in 1969, researchers discovered all manner of statistical discrepancies, no surprise given the haphazard nature of manual record keeping. They also had to tabulate pre-1903 official NL totals, since the league's records only extended back that far. Wagner's 10 "extra" hits stem from his first six seasons. Via Mike Lynch of Sports-Reference.com, here are the seasons in question, with the Baseball-Referece total listed before the Elias total:
- 1897: 81, 83
- 1898: 176, 180
- 1899: 196, 197
- 1900: 201, 201
- 1901: 194, 196
- 1902: 176, 177
Changes to the official totals were approved by MLB's Special Baseball Records Committee back in 1969, but Elias never accepted the committee ruling even while subsequent sources — most notably statistician Pete Palmer, whose data has fueled the Total Baseball encyclopedias, the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia and Baseball-Reference.com — did. Furthermore, Elias also does not recognize the National Association, the first organized major league, which operated from 1871-1875. This means that in their eyes, Cap Anson's official hit total is 3,081, while the Palmer-based sources credit him with 3,435 — meaning Jeter has a bit more work to do to be number six on the list without dispute.
Here's a look at the top 20 via the two sources. Note that while a few other players have minor discrepancies — including Ty Cobb, who held the all-time record until Pete Rose surpassed him in 1985 — it's Anson with the only one large enough to change the rankings:
Cal Ripken Jr.
For as much as we tend to see baseball statistics as static and permanent, the history of those numbers is full of many battles over the results of countless hours of research. For more on that topic, see MLB official historian (and Total Baseball co-author) John Thorn here.