When did 3000 hits become a big thing? Of course, only two players- Pete Rose and Ty Cobb- finished their careers with over 4000 hits. Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker round out the top 5 all time in career base hits. The first player to ever get over 3000 hits in the major leagues is a somewhat controversial story; and none of it was his fault.
According to www.baseballreference.com, Cap Anson finished his career with 3435 hits. He has since been credited as being the first to accomplish the feat with his 3000th hit on July 18, 1897. However, a screwy change to the official scoring system in the 1887 season allowed for walks to count as hits as well. Because of that, Anson was credited with 60 more hits than he actually got because of the 60 walks he drew in 1887. Anson also started his professional career playing in the National Association- for the Rockford Forrest Citys and the Philadelphia Athletics from 1871-1875. A battle in the baseball research community exists over whether the National Association should be considered a major league. However, it is the one that preceded the National League, which came into effect in 1876. While I, nor bbref discount the National Association as a Major League, Anson's 423 hits he picked up in the NA would drop his MLB career hit total to 2952.
The next to reach 3000 career hits was the great Pittsburgh Pirates SS Honus Wagner, who finished his career with 3420, just 15 hits shy of what Anson was credited with. Of course, if you want to discount Anson, which I feel there is no reason to, Wagner would be considered the first to do so. Those who feel that way are giving a way easier path to the number for Honus because of the time he played. It wasn't Anson's fault that he played in a time when baseball was in its infancy. For the record, Wagner got his 3000th hit in the 1914 season.
Napoleon Lajoie also got his 3000th hit in the 1914 season. He would finish his career in 1916 with 3243 career hits. If not for a bizarre 1902 season which included the National League's Philadelphia Phillies to put an injunction to keep Lajoie from playing games in Philadelphia after he jumped from the National League to the new American League a year earlier, Lajoie would have finished his career with more MLB hits.
It wasn't until 1921, when Cobb accomplished the feat, that another player would top the 3000 hit mark. Cobb got his 4000th hit in 1927 and his career hit mark of 4191 would stand until it was passed by Rose in 1985. Lajoie got his 3000th hit on this date in 1914. At the time the all time hit list would read:
1. Cap Anson- 3435 hits
2. Honus Wagner- 3070 hits
3. Napoleon Lajoie- 3000 hits.
Quite different than what we see in today's game.