Jeter passes Wagner for most hits by a shortstop

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

It was just a dribbler that the Cleveland third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, attempted without success to field bare-handed in the sixth inning Saturday as Derek Jeter crossed first base with his 3,431st career hit.

That single moved Jeter into sixth place on the all-time hit parade ahead of the major leagues’ first great shortstop, Honus Wagner. This was a very big deal.

DJ has passed quite a few legends on the hit list this year, Hall of Famers such as Eddie Collins, Paul Molitor and Carl Yastrzemski. But Honus Wagner? Now you are talking actual royalty.

Wagner, who was known as “The Flying Dutchman,” goes back to the game’s early days. He broke into the National League in 1897 with the old Louisville Colonels, a club that was absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, and played in the very first World Series, in 1903. Wagner was a great star of the dead-ball era, an athletic master at shortstop and one of the game’s best hitters. He won eight batting titles and finished with a career .328 average.

Wagner was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. He was elected in the original class of 1936 with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Wagner accepted his position as a role model to youth and famously demanded a trading card sponsored by a tobacco company be removed from circulation so adamantly opposed was he to tobacco usage. The few cards from that 1909 set remain the most precious pieces of memorabilia among collectors.

Years after his retirement as a player Wagner was a coach for the Pirates. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms when he played but did by the time he coached. His No. 33 has long been retired by the Pirates.

By passing the old Dutchman, Jeter now has more hits than anyone who ever played shortstop. The only players ahead of him on the career hit list are mostly outfielders — Pete Rose (who also played first, second and third base but not shortstop), Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (also a first baseman) and Tris Speaker.

This was not lost on the Captain, who knows his baseball history and did not have to be told who Wagner was anymore than any of the other greats he has passed.

“He’s the last one on the list that ever played shortstop, so this one really hit home,” Jeter said. “To have the most hits of any player at one position is pretty special.”

Jeter is 83 hits behind Speaker and probably does not have enough time left (46 games) to make a run for fifth place. But being No. 6 on this list is an enormous accomplishment, not to mention appropriate. After all, 6 is the official scorers’ designation for a shortstop.

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