It started on Sept. 17, 2000 in a ballpark that was long ago reduced to a parking lot.
It ended on June 14, 2014.
Jimmy Rollins is the Phillies’ new all-time hits leader. His long pursuit of the record ended when he stroked a single off Edwin Jackson in the fifth inning of the Phillies' game against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. The hit gave Rollins 2,235 for his career, one more than Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who walked onto the field to raise the new record-holder’s arm as the crowd stood and cheered.
It took more than 2,000 games and 8,300 at-bats for Rollins to set the new record, and he had some very memorable hits along the way. Several of them came in the postseason and don’t count toward his new team record.
This is a remarkable feat for the player that some scouts thought was too small to make it to majors. With a little help from the new record-holder himself, we take a look back at some of the top hits of Rollins’ career.
The first hit
Sept. 17, 2000
The situation: Four years after being drafted in the second round out of Encinal High School in Alameda, Calif., 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins made his big-league debut at shortstop for manager Terry Francona at Veterans Stadium. He batted second that day behind Reggie Taylor in a 6-5 win over the Marlins. Rollins walked his first time up then tripled down the rightfield line against Marlins right-hander Chuck Smith in the third inning for his first big-league hit. “Watch him fly,” Harry Kalas said on the TV broadcast as Rollins motored around second base.
Rollins remembers: “What’s funny is I should have been struck out on a two-strike curveball, but the umpire called it a ball. I don’t remember the umpire’s name (it was Matt Hollowell), but he was a guy we’d had a lot in the minors on the way up. He should have rung me up. I looked back and he kind of looked at me like, ‘I gave you that one.’ I remember I hit a curveball. I’d never seen a curveball like that. I was thinking triple out of the box. I wasn’t stopping.”
July 15, 2006
AT&T Park, San Francisco
The situation: Rollins became the youngest player to reach 1,000 hits as a Phillie when he drove a triple to the deep gap in right-center in the seventh inning of a 14-6 win over the Giants. The pitcher was a clean-shaven Brian Wilson.
Rollins remembers: “Brian Wilson -- before the beard. I wasn’t swinging the bat well. I just went up there and tried to swing hard. It went to right-center. It was the farthest ball you could hit in the league without going out. I remember going home after the game and my mom bought a cake to celebrate.”
September 4, 2012
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
The situation: Rollins had collected seven hits in the previous four games, putting him one away from 2,000. His wife and young daughter made the trip to Cincinnati. In the fifth inning, he got the hit, a double off Mat Latos in a 2-1 loss.
Rollins remembers: “Chopper over [first baseman Joey] Votto’s head. It was my daughter’s first trip to a road game. I had to get it done because the next day was an early day game and she needed her rest.”
May 18, 2001
The situation: Rollins hit his first big-league homer May 2, 2001 against Brian Bohanon and his second two days later against Livan Hernandez. Two weeks later, he hit his third career homer off Cardinals lefty Steve Kline and it still stands out for a few reasons. Rollins, batting from the right side, crushed a 2-0 pitch into the suite level at the Vet in the bottom of the eighth. He knew he got it all and flipped the bat as he started his home run trot. That did not sit well with the veteran Kline, who glared at Rollins as he rounded first and second and shouted unprintable words at the youngster as he rounded third and went to home.
Rollins remembers: “It was a bomb. I had a lot of energy that day. A couple of the veteran players on that team were apparently upset with my energy. The hitting coach (Richie Hebner) told me some of the veterans wanted me to channel my energy. All right, I’ll channel it. I was so ticked off, I hit it into the second deck. Even during batting practice I was hitting them in the second deck. I was upset but it was nothing to do with the pitcher. It all culminated into the release on that ball. I could hear some noise as I rounded third base, but I wasn’t sure what [Kline] was saying. I was in my own little world. I blacked out.”
October 3, 2004
The situation: Finishing up his fourth full season, Rollins smacked a grand slam off the Marlins’ Matt Perisho in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Phillies posted a 10-4 win on the final day of the season. Two days earlier, manager Larry Bowa had been fired after four seasons on the job.
Rollins remembers: “I got here when Tito (Francona) was the manager, but he really wasn’t my manager. Larry was really my first manager. He had always been in the dugout. When you came back to the dugout after getting a hit or something, he was the first one to greet you. If you hit a home run, he’d be smiling and joking. Now, all of sudden, he wasn’t there and that’s when I really realized it.”
September 27, 2005
Citizens Bank Park
The situation: Rollins had equaled Ed Delahanty’s century-old record by extending his hitting streak to 31 games the night before. His bid to set a new club record was in jeopardy (he went 0 for 3 in his first three at-bats) until he led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a base hit up the middle against Mets right-hander Juan Padilla. The hit gave Rollins a 32-game hitting streak, and he kept it going through the end of the season, hitting in 36 straight games in a remarkable month that saw him collect 49 hits and bat .402. Rollins pumped his fist as he ran to first on the record-setting hit, but was stranded on base and the Phillies, making a bid for the NL wild card, lost, 3-2.
Rollins remembers: “I hadn’t been thinking about the streak because we were in the race. All I was thinking was that I finally got on base and had a chance to score a run.”
September 30, 2007
Citizens Bank Park
The situation: The Phillies went into the final day of the season needing a win over Washington to clinch their first NL East title in 14 years. Rollins had two hits that day, a tone-setting leadoff single against Jason Bergmann in the first inning and a triple to right field against Luis Ayala in the sixth inning. It was Rollins’ 20th triple of the season, a modern-era club record. Most importantly, the Phils won, 6-1, to win the division by a game over the Mets. The victory ignited a party at Citizens Bank Park and was the spark for a great run of five division titles and a World Series victory a year later.
Rollins remembers: “Bottom of the first, 2-2 single up the middle, stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chase. I knew New York was losing. I was like, ‘Here we go. I really think that hit propelled us that day.
“The triple -- I was stuck on 19 for a while. Milt Thompson (the hitting coach) was saying, ‘You’ll get it on your last at-bat, a little drama.’ I was like, ‘Of all guys, Ayala,’ because I never hit him. The count was 3-and-2 and I said to myself, ‘Don’t be dumb. He’s going to throw a slider, sit on it.’ He threw it. I knew Austin Kearns was in right field and he could throw but I went for it. I remember going hard into [Ryan] Zimmerman. If I didn’t go for it, I would have been upset. The crowd was just incredible that day.”
On their way
October 5, 2008 -- NLDS Game 4
Miller Park, Milwaukee
The situation: The Phillies were an easy out in the 2007 postseason. They came back with a vengeance in 2008 and beat the Milwaukee Brewers three games to one in the NLDS. The Phils won the first two games at home and were beaten in Game 3 in front of a raucous crowd in Milwaukee. The next day they took the series with a 6-2 victory. Rollins quieted the big crowd when he led off that game with a home run against Jeff Suppan on a full-count pitch. The Phils never trailed and took a boatload of momentum in the NLCS and beyond.
Rollins remembers: “That series got our postseason going in '08. We lost the night before and the stadium was so loud with the roof closed and those boom-boom sticks. We didn’t want Game 5. We didn’t want to face CC Sabathia. Being down 1-0 in the first inning wasn’t in their plans.”
October 19, 2009 -- NLCS Game 4
Citizens Bank Park
The situation: Seems like just yesterday. Bottom of the ninth inning, Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS. The Phillies were one out from losing and having the Dodgers tie the series at two games apiece. The crowd of 46,157 was in full roar when Rollins came to the plate with two men on base and his team down a run. He hit a 1-1 fastball from Jonathan Broxton into the gap in right-center for a two-run double. The dramatic win gave the Phillies a three-games-to-one lead in the series. Two days later, they punched their ticket back to the World Series.
Rollins remembers: “I can still see it. My mindset was to try to hit a single. Tie the game. I was just trying to catch the ball with my bat, almost like playing ping-pong, because he threw so hard. I look back at the video now and I’m like, ‘Damn, you swung hard.’ But in my mind I was playing ping-pong, just trying to tie it.
“When I came around third I saw Ryan [Howard] coming at me like a linebacker. I was like, ‘Please don’t hit me.’ My intent was to jog to home plate and celebrate there, but they got me.”
March 31, 2014
Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas
The situation: Rollins entered the new season with 199 homers. Always one with a flair for the dramatic, he belted a grand slam off Rangers right-hander Tanner Scheppers on opening day to key the Phillies' 14-10 win. The home run was Rollins' first hit of the new season and it came on the day he set the National League record with his 14th straight opening day start at shortstop.
Rollins remembers: “I was in the dugout right before that and I was like, ‘It would be cool to have your first hit be a grand slam on opening day.’ I remember growing up going to Oakland A’s games and looking at the size of Mark McGwire, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to hit too many home runs.’ I guess I proved myself wrong.”