Robin Yount said on the leadup to his 3000th hit that it wasn’t going to be a big deal. The man who took more pride in his Milwaukee Brewers winning ballgames than personal stats found out he was wrong – the 3000 hit plateau was a huge deal. On September 9, 1992, a crowd of 47,589 packed Milwaukee County Stadium to see history made when Yount became the 17th MLB player to reach the mark. He tied Roberto Clemente for 16th on the list.
“It really turned into something more than I thought,” Yount said. It was as exciting a moment as I’ve ever had.”
Yount admitted that he finally had gotten caught up in the pressure to get the historic hit at home. The Brewers were about to embark on a road trip that wouldn’t bring them back to Milwaukee until September 18. Yount had already faced Cleveland starter Jose Mesa three times on the night and failed to get the hit. He had struggled in his career against Mesa, going 1-13 in his previous at bats.
Yount fouled off the first pitch in the seventh to fall behind 0-1 in the count before lacing a single off Mesa to right-centerfield for No. 3000. Mesa chuckled after the game and said, “Well, now he’s 2 for 14.”
Yount’s teammates quickly joined him at first base in joyous celebration, hoisting him on their shoulders as a brief biography played on the scoreboard. The crowd also celebrated and gave Yount a ten minute ovation. Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner were rightfully among the first to reach Yount after the hit.
Gantner said, “I know he was tense. I was pretty choked up. You could just feel the emotion inside him.”
“The numbers have just accumulated machine-like,” Molitor said. “You have to see Robin over a period of time to admire his perseverance, endurance, competitive desire to win.”
Yount’s good friend George Brett applauded in the Kansas City Royals dugout when video of the hit played on the Royal’s stadium scoreboard. Yount had already told reporters that if not for Brett’s bad knees, he would have reached 3000 hits first (Brett was 22 hits behind Yount in their careers). He felt that Brett was a far better hitter.
Brett said, “I’m very happy for him. I’d be lying if the first time I saw him as an 18-year-old, I said, ‘Boy, that guy is going to get 3000 hits.’ I remember him as a skinny kid who was playing shortstop and had some ability.”
Yount happened to be a week shy of his 37th birthday, and that put him in an elite class. Only Yount, Ty Cobb (at age 34) , and former teammate Hank Aaron (at age 36) reached 3000 hits before their 37th birthday. All-time hit leader Pete Rose reached the mark 21 days after his 37th birthday. Derek Jeter got to 3000 just 13 days after the birthday.
Yount also found himself alongside Willie Mays as the only players with 3,000 hits, 200 home runs, 200 stolen bases and 100 triples.
A few days before the Cleveland game, Yount told reporters that longevity, consistency, and being relatively injury-free put him in place to make history.
Yount said, “It’s kind of hard to believe. If I can do it, it seems like a lot more people should have been able to do it. I had a couple pretty good years, but the way I look at it is that I’ve been just good enough to keep my name in the lineup–never too great and never too bad.”
Yount had been so consistent in his career that he was almost predictable. His got his first big league hit in 1974 – and his hit milestones happened every six years after that, always late in the season and always against Cleveland:
On August 16, 1980, Yount knocked a fourth inning double off Sandy Wihtol in Cleveland for No. 1000
On September 6, 1986, Yount’s seventh inning single off Don Schultze in Milwaukee became No. 2000
But despite his long career and all the achievements, Yount still downplayed his efforts, saying, “Statistics don’t tell the whole story. There are .250 hitters I hate to face in the clutch, and I respect them more than I do some hitters who may hit for a higher average.”
Brewers manager Phil Garner knew that Yount wasn’t motivated by personal statistics and cared more about what he could do to help his team win. Garner said, “I believe that Robin could be two hits away from 3,000 on the final day of the season and I could ask him to bunt every time up and he’d do it, accepting that it was in the best interest of the team.”
Despite Yount’s special hit, the Brewers went on to lose the game 5-4 after reliever Darren Oliver threw the ball away for an error in the ninth inning, which led to the tying and winning runs scoring. Yount actually lined out to end the game. Milwaukee fell 5.5 games behind Toronto after the Blue Jays picked up a 1-0 victory over Kansas City.
After the game, fans lined up at souvenir stands awaiting for special shirts commemorating the event to be brought out. Meanwhile, Yount went to the clubhouse and reflected on his moment in the spotlight. He later told reporters, “It was a great feeling. You don’t get a feeling like that very often. It was something that I was going to let last as long as I could.”
The Brewers went on to finish with a 92-70 record, four games behind the Blue Jays. As for Yount, he played one more season before retiring early in 1994. The Brewers retired his jersey No. 19 that season. In 1995, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999, he entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.
Yount’s 3142 hits are a Brewers record. He also has Brewers career records for games, at-bats, runs, doubles, triples, RBIs, total bases, walks and strikeouts.
In 2016, Yount auctioned off 71 items from his personal memorabilia collection, including the bat used to get hit No. 3000 and the ball. The 71 items fetched just under $200,000 with the bat and ball coming in at the highest marks – the bat sold for $48,841 and the ball $34,176. The bat and ball were signed and inscribed.
My book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee is available to be ordered on the McFarland website. Also is listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
(The story you just read is not part of the book)