258 ... plus one
Ichiro breaks single-season hits record with, you guessed it, three singles
Posted: Friday October 1, 2004 10:36PM; Updated: Saturday October 2, 2004 2:25AM
SEATTLE (AP) -- No. 258 for Ichiro Suzuki was like so many others, a little ground ball up the middle.
Only this one made history -- a hit cheered 'round the world.
"Through my career, I think this is the best moment," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I can't really put it into words."
Suzuki later got another hit, giving him 259 this season and a major league-leading .373 average.
Suzuki chopped a leadoff single in the first inning, then put himself in the record book with a bouncer in the third.
"I think that's the most emotional I've ever gotten in my life," said Suzuki, who is known for his steely, methodical approach.
Fireworks exploded after Suzuki's big hit reached the outfield, creating a haze over Safeco Field, and his teammates mobbed him at first base.
"Goose bumps aren't even the right word," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. "That second hit almost brought tears to my eyes. ... If you're talking about sending a guy up for a hit, this guy is the best ever."
With fans still cheering, Suzuki ran to the first-base seats, bowed respectfully and then shook hands with Sisler's 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman, and other members of the Hall of Famer's family.
"My father would have been delighted," Drochelman said later. "He would be so happy to know such a fine young man was doing so well."
Across the Pacific, fans in downtown Tokyo watched Suzuki in sports bars and on big-screen monitors.
"I would like to give him my heartfelt congratulations," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said. "He has made extra efforts in addition to having a natural gift."
Added Suzuki's father, Nobuyuki: "You can tell how happy and proud I am just by looking at me. The tears just won't stop flowing."
Fans at the ballpark booed when plate umpire Joe West called a rare third strike on Suzuki in the eighth. Reliever Michael Tejera got the strikeout.
But fans were back on their feet when Suzuki left for substitute Hiram Bocachica with two outs in the ninth. Melvin made the move to let Suzuki get one more ovation, and the right fielder jogged in to cheers.
"I just hope people realize the monumental effort it took to surpass this record, which has stood so long," said Seattle hitting coach Paul Molitor, who joined the Hall of Fame this summer.
Sisler set the hits record in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns over a 154-game schedule. Suzuki broke it in the Mariners' 160th game
Ron Villone (8-6) allowed two runs in five innings to earn his second victory as a starter this season. His only mistake came on Mark Teixeira's two-run homer in the first. Texas added an unearned run in the eighth, but it wasn't enough to offset Seattle's 18 hits -- 17 of them singles.
Bret Boone had three hits and drove in two runs, including an RBI single that made it 8-3 in the eighth.
Drese ran the count full in the third, and Suzuki hit a bouncer up the middle, out of the reach of shortstop Michael Young. As the cheers got louder, Teixeira shook Suzuki's hand at first base.
"It was an honor to be here and see it," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "I wish I'd been in the stands instead of the dugout."
After Suzuki's 258th hit, he scored his 100th run of the season when the Mariners batted around in the third, taking a 6-2 lead on six hits. Suzuki batted twice, hitting a long fly that Laynce Nix caught on the run for the third out.
There was a scary moment for Suzuki in the top of the third. The Gold Glove right fielder chased a foul ball by Ken Huckaby that landed in the stands, and casually hopped up on the low, padded fence -- but then lost his balance.
Suzuki fell awkwardly and came down straddling the fence, but was OK.
"I was very excited tonight. Maybe I was going along with that. I'm glad nothing happened," he said.
The crowd was on its feet and players in both dugouts were standing at the top rail when Suzuki led off the bottom of the first. He quickly matched Sisler's mark, bouncing a single over the head of third baseman Hank Blalock.
Fans chanted "I-chi-ro! I-chi-ro!" and he acknowledged the ovation, briefly taking off his batting helmet.
Each member of the Sisler family was in high spirits, fully expecting Suzuki to claim the record over the weekend.
"I'd be totally shocked if Ichiro didn't get it," grandson Bo Drochelman said. "We're here to celebrate baseball and my grandfather."
Suzuki's first-inning single was his 919th hit in the majors, breaking the record for most hits over a four-year span. Bill Terry of the New York Giants set the previous record of 918 hits from 1929-32. Suzuki has 921 hits in four seasons.
The 30-year-old Suzuki, a four-time All-Star, was a huge star in Japan during his nine seasons with Orix in Japan's Pacific League. He got 1,278 hits playing in his home country, and he left Japan with a .353 hitting average.
Earlier this season, Suzuki became the first player to collect at least 200 hits in each of his first major league seasons. His 222 singles this year also are a major league single-season record.
Suzuki was the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, his first season playing in the United States. He's also been a star with his defense in right field, winning three Gold Gloves in his first three seasons.
Notes: Suzuki got a standing ovation before the game, recognized as the team's player of the year by the Seattle chapter of the baseball writers association. ... The crowd of 45,573 was the ninth sellout this season. ... The last time Seattle had seven hits to open an inning was June, 1, 2003, in the first at Minnesota.