Albert Pujols Joins Illustrious Club
Albert Pujols is only the fifth player in Major League Baseball history to drive in 2,000 runs. Three of the other four are in the Hall of Fame while Rodriguez will first appear on the ballot in 2022. The elite list is made up of five of the all-time greatest hitters.
Adrian Constantine Anson, better known as “Cap,” compiled his 2,075 RBI during the early days of professional baseball. His first season was with the Rockford Forest Citys [sic] of the National Association at the age of 19. He then spent the next four seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association. Upon the creation of the National League in 1876, he joined the NL’s Chicago White Stockings, where he played until retiring after the 1897 season at the age of 45. (The White Stockings changed their name to the Colts in 1890. In 1898, they became the Chicago Orphans and are now known as the Chicago Cubs, which became their name in 1903.)
Anson’s career high of 147 came in 1886, and that was one of eight seasons with 100 or more. What makes Anson’s career stats even more impressive is that he did not play 100 or more games in a season until 1884, which was his 13th season. He made the Hall of Fame in 1939, 17 years after his death and the fourth year of the Hall’s existence.
The second player to drive in 2000 or more runs needs no introduction. George Herman “Babe” Ruth played for the Boston Red Sox from 1914 to 1919 as a pitcher and part-time position player. While his pitching was outstanding, his hitting was even more prodigious, and he became an everyday player in 1919. Upon being sold to the New York Yankees in December 1919, his career hit monumental heights as he shattered every slugging record. He remained in New York until he joined the Boston Braves in 1935 for his final season, when he played in only 28 games.
Breaking the Record
Ruth broke the career RBI record during the first leg of a double header against the Detroit Tigers in Yankee Stadium on July 9, 1933. He tied Anson with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third off Schoolboy Rowe and passed him with another two-run homer off Rowe in the bottom of the fifth of a game the Yankees ended up winning, 11-7.
His career high of 168 came in 1921, the same year that he broke the career home run record. (Coincidentally, that also happened against the Tigers. Side comment on his record-breaking home run: he broke his own record 575 times). He hit 100 or more in 13 of his 22 seasons in the majors. His last RBI came as a member of the Boston Braves on Wednesday, May 29, 1935 – his second-to-last game. Ruth drove in one run during the Braves’ 8-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the Baker Bowl, bringing his career total to 2214.
The third member of the 2000 RBI Club was the man who broke Ruth’s record, Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron. Aaron spent 21 seasons as a member of the Milwaukee (1954-65) and Atlanta (1966-1974) Braves, where he terrorized the pitching staff of every other team in the National League. After an off-season trade, he then spent his final two seasons (1975-76) as a member of the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers. He hit 100 or more RBI in 11 seasons. Also, his total was in the 90s in five seasons, in the 80s twice, 70s once, 60s thrice, and 35 in his final season. In 1957, he hit a career-high of 132 RBI to help the Braves win the World Series – their only title in Milwaukee and the only title for Aaron.
Joining the Club and Breaking the Record
Aaron hit his 2000th RBI against the Houston Astros on July 3, 1972 in the Astrodome. It came in the form of a three-run homer off Jim York in the top of the seventh and extended the Braves’ lead to 11-6. The Braves went on to win, 13-9. Then, he broke Ruth’s record on May 15, 1975 against the Texas Rangers in Arlington Stadium. Playing for the Brewers, he hit a sacrifice fly to center in the top of the first, scoring center fielder Bill Sharp. His last RBI came in the final at-bat of his storied career, on October 3, 1976 against the Tigers at Milwaukee County Stadium. A single to the shortstop scored catcher Charlie Moore, giving Aaron 2297 for his career.
The fourth member of the 2000 RBI Club is Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, who spent 22 seasons in the majors. He played for the Seattle Mariners (1994-2000), Texas Rangers (2001-03), and New York Yankees (2004-13, 2015-16). Rodriguez had 100 RBI or more in 14 different seasons, with his career high of 156 coming in 2007.
Joining the Club
Rodriguez joined the 2000 RBI Club against the Baltimore Orioles on June 13, 2015 in Camden Yards. In the top of the sixth, with Chase Headley on first, he hit a two-run homer to right-center off Bud Norris. Rodriguez’s final RBI came in the final game of his career, at Yankee Stadium on August 12, 2016 against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the bottom of the first, facing Chris Archer, he hit a double to right-center that scored Brett Gardner from first. This set Rodriguez’s career RBI total at 2086. He is the most recent to reach the plateau before Albert Pujols.
Statistics cited in this work came from Baseball Reference.
(Statistical note: The Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball’s official stat keeper, does not count RBI that occurred before 1920, when the league recognized it as an official statistic. Consequently, they list Babe Ruth’s RBI total as 1992 and do not have one at all for Cap Anson, who played from 1871 to 1897. However, Baseball Reference, Fan Graphs, and Baseball Almanac do, since records of all games played prior to 1920 do exist. Their numbers for Ruth and Anson vary, however. BR lists Ruth’s total as 2214, BA lists it as 2213, and FG lists it as 2217. BR lists Anson’s total as 2075, while FG lists it total as 2076. BA, however, lists it as 1879, since they do not count games played before the establishment of the National League in 1876.)
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