Suzuki gets 4,000th hit between MLB and Japan
Ichiro Suzuki stood near first base after lining a single for
his 4,000th hit, hugging his teammates one by one, basking in the
resounding cheers of an adoring Yankee Stadium crowd.
In that moment it did not matter that his name would not be
listed in Major League Baseball’s record book next to Ty Cobb and
Pete Rose, the only two players to reach the milestone solely in
the major leagues.
Everyone involved Wednesday night knew: this was quite an
”I was overwhelmed,” Suzuki said of the reception.
The 39-year-old outfielder slashed a single the opposite way in
the first inning off Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey that bounced
just beyond diving third baseman Brett Lawrie for hit No. 4,000 in
a career split between Japan and the major leagues.
”It’s an astronomical number,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe said. ”He’s set a new standard in baseball and I offer Ichiro
my heartfelt congratulations.”
With his 2,722nd hit in the big leagues he passed Yankees Hall
of Famer Lou Gehrig in his 13th season in the United States. The
speedy outfielder amassed 1,278 hits in nine seasons with Orix of
Japan’s Pacific League.
Rose finished with 4,256 hits and Cobb had 4,191, but Suzuki is
not thinking about catching Rose.
MLB does not recognize Suzuki’s overall mark, but players and
coaches around the league marvel at the rarely heard number.
”It’s an amazing feat,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
”It’s a testament to how hard he’s worked, how long he’s been in
the game, how he stays healthy, how he goes about his
Suzuki was surprised when his teammates streamed out of the
dugout and surrounded him at first base, Curtis Granderson giving
him the first hug. Suzuki said he felt bad that the game was being
stopped for him and he tried to prevent the Yankees from coming
onto the field, but he was grateful.
The broad grin that broke out when he saw his team said it
”It was supposed to be a number that was special to me, but
what happened tonight I wasn’t expecting,” Suzuki said. ”When my
teammates came out to first base it was very special, and to see
the fans. I wasn’t expecting so much joy and happiness from them
and that’s what made it very special tonight.”
Suzuki acknowledged the fans by doffing his helmet and bowing
several times, the final one toward the Blue Jays’ dugout.
”You never want to be the guy that gives up the milestone,”
Dickey said. ”That being said, what an incredible achievement. The
manner that he’s done it is equally impressive. Just the longevity,
the endurance, the durability. Having played with him in Seattle,
it was a real treat to play with him and it couldn’t have happened
to a more professional hitter.”
When he went to his position in right field for the second
inning, Suzuki tipped his cap to the fans who greeted him with a
Ken Griffey Jr., a former teammate with the Seattle Mariners,
congratulated Suzuki with a message shown on the video board at
The Mariners tweeted a statement: ”Ichiro’s historic milestone
is testament to his position as one of the greatest hitters in the
game of baseball.”
Suzuki’s postgame news conference with the Japanese media lasted
a whopping 47 minutes.
A .353 hitter in Japan in a career that began in 1992, Suzuki
became the first Japanese-born non-pitcher to sign with a major
league team. He smoothly made the move from Orix to the Mariners in
2001 when he was 27. He was selected AL Rookie of the Year and MVP
in his first season, when he batted .350, had 242 hits and stole 56
Suzuki had at least 206 hits in each of his first 10 years in
the majors, peaking in 2004 when he set the record for hits in a
season with 262, topping George Sisler’s mark of 257 established in
1920. He has a .320 career average in the majors.
According to STATS, Suzuki has the most hits through the first
13 seasons of a big league career. Paul Waner is second with 2,648
hits for Pittsburgh from 1926-38.
”It’s unbelievable, 4,000 hits,” Alfonso Soriano said after
hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer that led New York to a 4-2
victory over the Blue Jays. ”To get 4,000 hits, you have to be a
The slender 10-time All-Star seemingly can place the ball
wherever he wants with a slashing swing that makes him look more
like an epee-wielding fencer than a professional baseball
With a fashion sense nearly as unique as his swing, Suzuki often
wears skinny jeans cuffed at the bottom to show off a rainbow of
shoes and socks. Sporting clothes by his favorite designer, Thom
Browne, he looks more like a 20-something than a graying star.
Despite his age, Suzuki should have a good shot at the revered
major league mark of 3,000 hits. He is signed for one more year
with New York at $6.5 million, and the 10-time Gold Glove winner is
still an outstanding outfielder.
Ever since he was an 18-year-old rookie for Orix who didn’t
think he was ready to be called up to the big club, Suzuki’s
approach has been one at-bat at a time. And his thought process
wasn’t any different when he tried to embrace the idea of 3,000
major league hits, an accepted marker for a Hall of Fame
”I don’t make goals that are so far away,” Suzuki said. ”What
I do is do what I can every day and really build off that and see
where that takes me.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Armstrong in Tokyo contributed to this