|Sunday, October 3
Updated: October 4, 12:51 PM ET
Grace joins elite company
ST. LOUIS -- While it wasn't as rewarding as a return trip to the playoffs, Mark Grace finished with the most hits in the 1990s.
The Chicago Cubs first baseman was 0-for-3 against St. Louis on Sunday and finished with 1,754 hits, seven ahead of Texas' Rafael Palmeiro. Grace also led in doubles with 364, two more than Houston's Craig Biggio.
Instead of champagne, Grace toasted himself with a can of beer.
"Here's to Grace," he said.
"If you asked 20 people who know the game of baseball, if you asked them a week ago who would get the most hits in the decade, I'll bet you 19 of 20 would say somebody besides Mark Grace."
Every player who has led a decade in hits, except career hits leader Pete Rose, is in the Hall of Fame. Rose almost certainly would be if he hadn't been banned from baseball for gambling. Those on the list include Honus Wanger (1900s), Ty Cobb (1910s), Roberto Clemente (1960s) and Robin Yount (1980s).
Grace, who has always played in the shadow of Cubs greats like Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa, was keenly aware of his new place in history.
"I'm not a spectacular player," he said. "I'm not a flashy player. I don't do dances. I don't wear fancy sunglasses or fancy earrings. But one thing you can depend on is that I'll be out there playing first base and that I'll be getting a lot of hits."
Grace has been with the Cubs since 1988 and he's only the second player in team history to be the opening-day starter at the same position for an entire decade.
The Cubs' 67-95 record and last-place performance in the NL Central clearly bothered Grace, who lobbied strongly for the return of manager Jim Riggleman. Despite his personal success, he said it was an extremely disappointing season for the Cubs.
"This season has hurt me to my soul," he said. "But, I know this is something I can look back on. A lot of good things happened for me personally this year, which will take a little bit of a sting away from this season."
In addition to the decade hits and double mark, Grace got his 2,000th hit Aug. 2. He batted .309 with 16 home runs and 91 RBI, and would trade it all for a winner.
"This is a big-market team," Grace said. "New York's teams win. Southern California's teams win, except this year. Chicago deserves a winner on both sides, north and south side."