Today in Sports History: September 30th

9/30/1972 - Clemente gets 3,000th hit in final AB

In his final at-bat of the final game of the regular season, Roberto Clemente sends a pitch from the Mets' Jon Matlack to the outfield wall for a double. It was the 3,000th hit of his big league career, adding another accomplishment to one of the best resumes in baseball. Over the course of his career, Clemente won two World Series titles, 12 Gold Gloves, an MVP in both the World Series and regular season, and he made 12 All-Star teams. He was without a doubt one of the greatest players in baseball history.

"I had no idea he was sitting on 3,000," Matlack would later tell "I threw a pitch off the plate and he reached out and hit it to center. The crowd was going crazy and I didn’t know why. So I looked back at the scoreboard and it read, ‘Congratulations on 3,000 hits!’"

After the game, Clemente dedicated his hit to the Pittsburgh Pirates fans, the people of Puerto Rico, and Roberto Marin, his first softball coach who spotted him swinging at a tin can with a branch and took him under his wings. Clemente was the first Latino player to reach 3,000 hits, and just the 11th overall.

Sadly, Clemente's 3,000th hit was also the final at-bat of his career. Later that year, the 38 year-old Clemente died in a plane crash while trying to deliver rations to a needy country, making his 3,000th base hit all the more significant.

9/30/1992 - George Brett gets No. 3,000

George Brett of the Kansas City Royals collects the 3,000th hit of his career, accomplishing it just a few weeks after Robin Yount of the Milwaukee Brewers. Brett received a standing ovation from the road fans at Anaheim Stadium, and he was so lost in the moment that he got picked off at first base. "I was right in the middle of a sentence to (Angels first baseman Gary) Gaetti and they picked me off," Brett said. "He asked me if my wife was here and I said, yes, and I had friends here from Kansas City... He didn't even let me finish the sentence. Believe me, my mind wasn't on being picked off."

Getting to 3,000 was one of Brett's biggest accomplishments in Kansas City, though he would always be known for the infamous "Pine Tar Incident," in which he was called out on a home run for having too much pine tar on his bat. "I have that bat I used for the 3,000th hit on a wall in my basement," Brett said in 2003, "and I guarantee you it has far more pine tar on it than the one I got called out for. The 3,000th-hit bat is ugly. It's a mess. Pine tar all the way up it."


(David Wright looks on during the Mets' loss on the final day of the year. Photo by Kathy Willens, AP)

9/30/2007 - Mets complete amazin' collapse

The New York Mets get trounced 8-1 on the last day of the season, capping off the worst September collapse in the history of baseball. With 17 games to go, the Mets had led the National League East by seven games, yet they finished the season 5-12 and allowed the Philadelphia Phillies to sneak into the playoffs.

Several factors made the Mets’ meltdown truly unprecedented. For one, they were the heavy favorites at the start of the season to represent the National League in the World Series; their $118 million salary was by far the highest in the NL and they had led the division since April 8th. But the Mets lost four straight home games to the Phillies in August and three straight to them in September, allowing Philadelphia to make the divisional race competitive.

The Mets finished the season with a seven-game home stand: three games against the Washington Nationals (who finished 73-89), one against the St. Louis Cardinals (78-84), and three against the Marlins Florida (71-91). All they had to do was win just two home games against those sub-.500 teams and they’d make the playoffs. They won just once.

New York still had a chance to make the playoffs on the final day of the season. Tied with Philadelphia for first place in the division, a win versus Florida would force a one-game tiebreaker. The Mets trotted out 300-game winner and future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to face the last-place Marlins. It was a catastrophe. Glavine pitched the worst performance of his illustrious career and was pulled after only a third of an inning. The Mets’ season ended before they even got the chance to bat -- after one inning it was 7-0 Florida.

In contrast, the Phillies won their final game of the year and advanced to the postseason. Mets manager Willie Randolph survived firing, however his tenure in New York wouldn't last long -- after a bad start to the 2008 season, Randolph was sacked.

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