Sports 101

There are exclusive clubs that only baseball's premier players belong to. One of them is the 3,000-hit club. San Diego's Tony Gwynn, Tampa Bay's Wade Boggs, and Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr., who started their careers at about the same time (nearly 20 years ago), all have a chance for admittance. If they make it, it will be the first time three players reach that goal in the same season. Elsewhere, St. Louis's Mark McGwire was just one home run away from hitting No. 500 and becoming only the 16th player to accomplish that feat before last night's game against Gwynn's San Diego Padres. He's on the road to the ultimate quest - beating Hank Aaron's major league record of 755.

Q: So what's the big deal about the 3,000-hit club?

A: The milestone requires such a high level of play over such a long period that few players make it or even come close. Even the legendary Babe Ruth (2,873 hits) and Rogers Hornsby (2,930) fell short.

Q: What other players have reached the 3,000-hit mark?

A: Players include Ty Cobb (4,191), Willie Mays (3,283), Rod Carew (3,053), Pete Rose (4,256), and Eddie Murray (3,255).

Q: Who among the 500 club might McGwire pass this season?

A: Eddie Murray (504), Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks (512), and Ed Mathews (512) look to be in range.

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