- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki joined Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only players with 4,000 career hits in the highest levels of professional baseball. Ichiro's accomplishment comes with a little bit of a twist because his are the combined total between Japan and the American major leagues.
On Wednesday, Ichiro's 4,000th hit occurred when he singled to left off Toronto Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey in the first inning. The game was stopped as Ichiro received a standing ovation. Ichiro's teammates bounded out from the home dugout and met him at first base to give him hugs and high fives.
"It was supposed to be a night that was special to me," Ichiro said through a translator after going 1-for-4 in the Yankees' 4-2 win. "But you know what happened tonight, I wasn't expecting when my teammates came out to first base, that was very special. To see the fans, I wasn't expecting so much joy and happiness from them. That's what made it very special tonight. Not just the number, but all the things that happened with it. That came with it. It was very special."
In his seven seasons in the Japanese Pacific League, Ichiro collected 1,278 hits. During his 13 years in the United States, he now has 2,722 major league hits. He surpassed Lou Gehrig for sole possession of 59th place on the all-time major-league hit list.
Ichiro, who will turn 40 in October, has one more season remaining on his two-year, $13 million deal. He realizes the debate over the worth of his 4,000 overall hits but knows if he reaches 3,000 in the States, there will be no discussion.
"I don't think anyone will say anything about 3,000 from any fan or media," Ichiro said through a translator before hitting No. 4,000.
Rose is the all-time hits leader with 4,256, while Cobb had 4,189.
"It's not a goal that I have," Ichiro said of catching Rose. "It's not a number that I'm looking at. I'm just coming to the ballpark every day, seeing if I'm in the lineup, keeping my schedule so that I'm in the lineup so that I can perform and do what I can to contribute to this team.
Since his first MLB season in 2001, Ichiro has 375 more hits than any other player and needs 34 more this season to tie Richie Ashburn for second place with his 13th consecutive 150-hit season to begin a career, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Only Paul Waner had a longer streak with 14 consecutive 150-hit seasons from 1926-39.
Ichiro's first hit came in 1992 for the Orix Buffaloes.
"After I got my first hit, at that point, if I would've said to you guys my goal is to have 4,000 hits, I think everybody would've called me an idiot, but now after just years and years of just getting hits every day, I've come to this point," Ichiro said.
On Tuesday, after Ichiro doubled in the third and singled in the seventh of the day game of the split doubleheader, he came up in the eighth with his first crack at 4,000. Ichiro could sense the Yankees fans were aware of the accomplishment.
"That last at-bat, they actually knew," Ichiro said. "The fans really showed me that they actually know. It made me feel good that they know and also that they are cheering me on."
Ichiro grounded out. But later on Wednesday, he came through and now is the third man to play in the highest levels of professional baseball with 4,000 hits.
"I didn't have 4,000 hits my whole career going back to T-ball," Joe Girardi said with a smile on Tuesday. "To me, it's an incredible feat and he's some kind of hitter."
Ichiro Suzuki joined Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only players with 4,000 career hits in the highest levels of professional baseball.