When Tony Gwynn slashed a single into centre field in the first inning on August 6, 1999 at Olympic Stadium, he became the first player to register their 3,000th big league hit outside of the United States.
Numbering just 13,540, the small but boisterous Montreal crowd rewarded the eight-time batting champ with a lengthy standing ovation, while Gwynn’s Padres teammates poured onto the field to congratulate him.
“Every time I came to the plate they were pulling for me,” Gwynn said of the Montreal fans to reporters after the game. “They were great.”
Gwynn’s milestone hit secured Expos hurler, Dan Smith, who didn’t make it out of the first inning, a spot in baseball history.
“To get it my first time up was huge,” Gwynn told reporters. “For me it’s a great day.’”
But the Padres legend wasn’t finished there, he proceeded to notch three more hits to lead his club to a 12-10 win.
Making his history-making single even more special was that it was Gwynn’s mother, Vendella’s 64th birthday, and she was on hand to celebrate along with the longtime Padre’s wife, Alicia, and his daughter, Anisha.
Gwynn recorded his milestone hit in his 2,284th game, making him the third fastest to 3,000 hits, behind only Ty Cobb (2,135 games) and Nap Lajoie (2,224 games).
“When you talk about 3,000 hits, you talk about passion and a love for the game,” Gwynn told reporters. “I love playing the game.”
The helmet, cleats, pants and bat from Gwynn’s 3,000th hit game now reside in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection. You can read about how they got there by following this link: http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/museum_bound/index.htm
Gwynn, who played his entire 20-year career with the Padres, retired in 2001 with 3,141 hits. His eight National League batting titles tied him with Honus Wagner for the most in history. Gwynn’s big league resume also boasts a .338 career batting average, 319 stolen bases, five Gold Gloves and 15 all-star selections. He also competed in two World Series but the Padres lost both times (1984, 1998). For his efforts, he was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility.
Overall, in 178 career contests versus Montreal, Gwynn hit .316. He performed better against the Expos at Olympic Stadium, batting .332 in 92 games. The only time he played in Toronto was in the 1991 All-Star Game. Hitting leadoff, he was the National League’s starting centre fielder that game and went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
To view some (not so great quality) YouTube footage of Gwynn’s 3,000th hit, visit the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page.