Ichiro Suzuki bowed as his New York Yankees teammates crowded first base to celebrate his 4,000th career hit that put him in the company of Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.
Suzuki lined a 1-1 pitch off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey past third baseman Brett Lawrie in the first inning last night at Yankee Stadium. New York won the game 4-2.
“It’s supposed to be a number that was just special to me, but what happened tonight I wasn’t expecting,” Suzuki said after his teammates interrupted the game to join him at first base. “I wasn’t expecting so much joy and happiness from them.”
The 39-year-old Suzuki tipped his cap to the crowd as he took his defensive position in right field in the second inning.
Suzuki has 2,722 hits in Major League Baseball and 1,278 in Japan’s Pacific League. Rose had 4,256 hits and Cobb tallied 4,191 hits.
“[Mine] is a record that is from two leagues,” Suzuki told reporters before last night’s game. “Those guys did it in one league. I don’t think you have to put me in that same category as them.”
Before beginning his major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2001, Suzuki played seven seasons for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League, where he collected 1,278 hits. Among major league players, Suzuki now ranks 59th with 2,722 hits, one more than Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.
Hit After Hit
“After I got my first hit, if at that point I said to you guys, ‘My goal is to have 4,000 hits,’ I think everybody would have called me an idiot,” Suzuki said. “Now, after years and years of just getting hits every day, I’ve come to this point. What is important is just going out there and doing what you can do every single day.”
Suzuki had at least 200 hits in 10 straight seasons after coming to the Mariners, joining Rose as the only players to reach the milestone in 10 seasons. Rose’s longest run of consecutive 200-hit seasons was three.
“From Japan to the Mariners and continuing with the New York Yankees, Ichiro’s historic milestone is testament to his position as one of the greatest hitters in the game of baseball,” the Mariners said in a statement.
Suzuki was the first Japanese position player to be signed by a major league team and holds records including the single-season mark for hits with 262 in 2004. In his first season with the Mariners, who paid $13 million for the right to negotiate a contract with him, he led the American League with a .350 batting average and 56 stolen bases and was selected the league’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
A 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner for his defensive prowess in the outfield, Suzuki joined the Yankees in a trade with the Mariners on July 23, 2012, and signed a two-year contract with New York in December.
“I didn’t have 4,000 hits in my whole career, and you can go back to tee ball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “To me, it’s an unbelievable feat, and he’s some kind of hitter.”