Ichiro Suzuki moved into the rarest company Wednesday night, joining Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only men to reach 4,000 hits in the major leagues.
The validity of some of his hits, accomplished in the U.S. and Japanese major leagues, may be debatable, but the moment was not. It was a rare respite for the New York Yankees from The Summer of Alex Rodriguez and it came in the first inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 victory. Play stopped for a celebration that surprised Suzuki.
“At first I was trying to stop [his teammates] from coming [out of the dugout],” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “But it was just because I was so happy and overjoyed with the way they supported me. … When I look back on this, that’s what’s going to make this very special.”
The Toronto Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey, last year’s National League Cy Young winner, gave up the hit.
“You never want to be the guy that gives up the milestone, at least I don’t,” Dickey said. “That being said, what an incredible achievement, and the manner in which he has done it has been equally impressive.”
Suzuki got 1,278 hits during his career with the Orix Blue Wave in the Nippon Professional Baseball League and 2,722 in America (with 189 coming as a Yankee). Some have argued that if Suzuki gets to combine U.S. and Japanese hits, then major- and minor-league hits should be combined. But even by that standard, Suzuki is remarkable.
ESPN’s Stats and Information people found that only five players — Rose, Cobb, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Arnold “Jigger” Statz — had 4,000 hits when major- and minor-league totals were considered.
“I didn’t have 4,000 hits in my whole career and you can go back to T-ball,” Manager Joe Girardi joked. “To me it’s an unbelievable feat, and he’s some kind of hitter.”