Paul Waner becomes seventh member of the 3,000-hit club

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

Paul Waner didn’t want any help in recording his 3,000th career hit.

The right fielder became just the seventh member of the 3,000 hit club on June 19, 1942. But he didn’t want to reach the milestone a moment too soon.

“One thing I’m glad about is the official scorers didn’t overlook the close ones to give me hits, just so I could get to the 3,000th quicker,” Waner told the United Press after recording the milestone hit.

Waner, then a member of the Boston Braves, delivered hit No. 3,000, a single off right-hander Rip Sewell, in the bottom of the fifth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But he could have earned his 3,000th hit a few days earlier if not for his own objection.

Waner was sitting on 2,999 hits in a game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 17. He reached base on a ball hit to Reds’ shortstop Eddie Joost, who knocked it down but couldn’t field it. It was initially scored a hit; that is, until Waner had something to say about it.

“The scorer immediately called it a hit and the umpire prepared to give me the ball as a souvenir,” Waner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But, I shook my head and said I didn’t want it, and the scorer reversed the decision and called it an error.”

Instead, Waner’s 3,000th hit came two days later, against his former team. He played his first 15 major league seasons with the Pirates, leading the league in batting average three times and earning four All-Star selections and the 1927 National League Most Valuable Player Award in Pittsburgh. After finishing his 15th season with the Pirates, Waner signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers as a free agent in Jan. 1941, then joined the Boston Braves in May 1941 after Brooklyn released him.

When Waner reached base for his 3,000th knock, the umpires paused the game to present him with the ball. The Braves lost the game 7-6, but his achievement, witnessed by his son Paul Jr. in the stands, made the day memorable.

“I never gave this 3,000-hit business much thought until last spring,” Waner said. “But it sure is the greatest thrill of my career.”

Just six players achieved the same feat before Waner: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie and Cap Anson – all of whom had been elected to the Hall of Fame by 1942. Ten years later, Waner joined them, when he was inducted in 1952.

Waner, who earned the nickname “Big Poison” while playing in the Pirates outfield with his brother, “Little Poison” Lloyd Waner, would not be joined in the 3,000-hit club by another member until 1958, when Stan Musial became the eighth player to reach the mark.

Reaching the 3,000-hit milestone at age 39 wasn’t enough to convince Waner to call it quits yet, though.

“No, I think I’ll hang around a while,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t think the old warhorse is ready to be let out to pasture yet.”

Waner finished his career three years later with a .333 career batting average and 3,152 total hits in 20 seasons with four major league teams.

Janey Murray was digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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