Tom Boswell surpasses all others in the sportswriting field when it comes to analyzing history and using that to place present day developments in their appropriate context. That is why it is particularly disappointing to see his highly selective use of history in his column on Cal Ripken's assault on 3,000 hits ("On Final Ascent to 3,000, Ripken Towers Above," July 28).
He is right that few have approached the 3,000-hit milestone with the kind of performance Ripken has posted in the past few months. But his implication that most others have limped sadly past that mark belies the evidence. He notes Tony Gwynn's injured calf muscle? So what -- players get hurt, especially when getting older (see Ripken, Cal-1999). That does not diminish the fact that Gwynn is hitting .330.
What is most striking, however, is that Boswell simply ignores a number of players in recent memory who had good to excellent seasons in the year they broke the 3,000 mark. Carl Yastrzemski slugged .450 with 87 RBI; Eddie Murray hit .323 with a .516 slugging percentage; Dave Winfield hit 21 homers and slugged .442; and of course, there is Pete Rose, who hit over .300 with 103 runs scored. These are not the numbers of "parched [men] crawling across the desert sand toward an oasis" as Boswell would have it. In fact, among the 13 players reaching 3,000 since 1970, at least eight of them had very good years in that milestone season, and virtually all of them made significant contributions to their teams.
Perhaps most shameless in Boswell's argument is that, among all of these players, he chose Rod Carew as a contrast to Ripken's impressive power stats in 1999. Even in his prime, Carew never hit for much power, and in his last seven seasons (a time in which he hit around .320), he never hit more than three homers in a year.
Ripken should be saluted for his impressive sprint towards 3,000. But that can be done without Boswell's revisionist and selective history.
-- Tom Hetlage
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