Did Albert Pujols pass Eddie Collins on hits?
When Albert Pujols lost to the Mets on Wednesday and went 2 for 4, Eddie Collins was tied for 10th on the career hit list. Or they tied up Collins. Or maybe he was still young. It depends on where you look.
One thing is certain: Pujols, who is enjoying a farewell tour with the St. Louis Cardinals, had 3,314 hits when he entered Thursday afternoon’s game. For Collins, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox from 1906 to 1930, Mercier is the total of his hits.
Good news? Collins has an official amount. Bad news? The fan is hard to find. And the difference is that baseball stats are set in stone, much more than many would imagine, due to the most predictable factor: human error.
The Baseball Reference, a typical first stop for people looking for such numbers, says Collins ended his career with 3,315 hits – more than the Pujols on Thursday morning. MLB.com’s accounting coincides with the old Total Baseball Encyclopedia, with Collins tied with the Pujols at 3,314. Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Baseball and its clubs, had 3,313.
Elias’ number is official – so St. Louis is celebrating the feat on Wednesday – but since Elias does not have a searchable website, everything is hidden from fans and journalists who are doing their own research.
The baseball reference, which collects statistics from several sources, differs from the official Elias numbers, but both agree that Collins has hit 24 of his 25 seasons. Where they differ in 1920: Elias gave him 222 hits that year, but his baseball reference is 224.
As Alan Schwarz and others have noted previously, the difference has been described in archived retrospective research of each box score since 1906. In the double header of September 4, 1920, the official record book has Collins 0 for 3. In the second game. But the box scores of the time suggest that he is actually 2 for 4. The retrosheet blames the error for a “swap” in which the sum of one player is accidentally recorded to another player. The authenticity of that box score is the difference between being on the 10th or 11th spot on Collins’ career chart as of Thursday morning.
There is no simple explanation for MLB.com, which credited Collins with 10 hits from 1906 to 1907, but baseball reference and Elias gave him 11 credits.
Elias may want to correct major statistical flaws in the Hall of Famer’s hit numbers, but it is understandable why the company does not want to delve into the controversial numbers for the first few decades. 20th Century: In Collins’s career alone, the retrosheet has identified 173 box score differences. Apply to all players of that era, and it can be thousands of revisions, each of them little more than newspaper box scores to serve as proof.
Pujols can make things easier by collecting two more hits and passing Collins on each list. If he catches fire this season and collects 122 more hits – given his age and character – he can start a new debate about whether he has more hits than Cap Anson.
The Hall of Famer Anson, who notoriously helped create baseball’s color line, had 3,012 hits by most accounts, but when the MLB’s Special Records Committee decided that the National Association was not a major league, he took 423 other hits. Many baseball historians believe that is wrong.
If those hits were ever to be reinstated, Anson would rise to seventh on the list, dropping the parade of the Hall of Famers one by one.