Ichiro Suzuki Joins Two Other Baseball Greats With 4,000th Hit

Ichiro Suzuki got his 4000th hit on Wednesday, joining Ty Cobb and Pete Rose as the only baseball players to reach that milestone.

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Last night, baseball fans celebrated a milestone for one of the game's best hitters. Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki had his 4,000th career hit in New York's 4-2 win over Toronto. Suzuki joins Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only major leaguers to reach the 4,000 hit mark.

But NPR's Tom Goldman reports he won't be listed as such in the record book.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: That's because Major League Baseball doesn't recognize all 4,000 of Ichiro Suzuki's hits - 1,278 of them came during his first nine seasons as a pro ballplayer in the Japanese Pacific League. But last night's 2,722nd major league hit still stirred players and fans alike.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Line drive, base hit, there it is, 4,000 hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: And it was like so many others, an opposite field single, as heard on the YES Network. It was off Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a fitting match really. A quirky pitch hit by a quirky player. An ESPN profile of the man known around baseball simply as Ichiro detailed how he sewed his gloves by hand, stored his bats in a hardcover case with a chemical rod to control the humidity and how he answered questions through an interpreter with his back turned to reporters.

But last night, Suzuki faced his inquisitor on the field at Yankee Stadium and talked through his interpreter in emotional terms about how his teammates left the dugout to hug him after the big hit.

ICHIRO SUZUKI: (Through Translator) You know, I wasn't expecting that. I didn't think everybody would come out. You know, I really got choked up.

GOLDMAN: Suzuki certainly has the resume to counter some pre-milestone grumbling that his 4,000 hits don't resonate like Pete Rose and Ty Cobb's did: All-Star appearances, Gold Glove Awards in Japan and the majors and, of course, the batting titles and hit records, all with his unique, slap-at-the-ball style.

Jay Jaffe writes the Strike Zone blog for Sports Illustrated.

JAY JAFFE: It's not quite accurate to say that he dominated because, you know, his singles didn't quite add up to the same kind of value as the sluggers of the era, but in his own way, he was certainly the best of a certain type of hitting and showed that a Japanese position player could succeed here in the majors, and that's been quite unique.

GOLDMAN: Which is not lost on other Japanese players. After last night's hit, Suzuki bowed to the fans, his teammates and to Toronto second baseman Munenori Kawasaki, whom Jaffe says obviously looks up to Ichiro Suzuki.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ICHIRO'S THEME")

BEN GIBBARD: (Singing) Go, go, go, go, Ichiro. Rounding third and heading for home.

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