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10/02/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB news: Ichiro!"
MLB news: Ichiro sets 2 hits records
By Michael Toeset
As predicted on this website, Ichiro Suzuki on Friday got the two hits (plus one) he needed to break George Sisler’s 84-year-old season hits record.
With Sisler’s family in the stands, Ichiro singled in his first at-bat, equaling the total of 257 that was set in 1920. Then, in his second at-bat against Texas starter Ryan Dreese, Ichiro singled again, sending the 45,573 fans at Safeco Field into a frenzied celebration – Seattle’s own version of playoff fever. As Ichiro’s teammates mobbed him at first base, the night sky lit up with a fireworks display four decades in the making. He eventually made his way over to Sisler’s family, bowed to them and shook the hand of Sisler’s daughter.
The 30-year-old Ichiro, who leads the majors with a .373 average, also set another record Friday night, albeit one not as prominent as the single-season hits mark. His leadoff single was his 919th career hit, breaking the record for most hits over four seasons. That record had stood nearly as long as Sisler’s; it was accomplished from 1929-32 by Bill Terry.
Ichiro’s record-breaking 258th hit came in Seattle’s 160th game and his 159th game, which, unfortunately is judged deserving of an asterisk by some due to the fact that Sisler played when the major league season was only 154 games long. (More on that in a separate article.) Nonetheless, the record now belongs to Ichiro, a player who when he came over from Japan had scores of Americans doubting his ability. He has done nothing but prove his detractors wrong, posting All-Star numbers every season:
2001: .350 avg, 242 hits, 127 runs, 56 SB
2002: .321 avg, 208 hits, 111 runs, 31 SB
2003: .312 avg, 212 hits, 111 runs, 34 SB
2004: .373 avg, 259 hits, 101 runs, 36 SB
None of that really should have been a surprise, as Ichiro won the Japanese Pacific League batting title seven years in a row, the only seven years he was a full-time player. For reference, his stats during that run (note that the season is about 30 games shorter in Japan):
1994: .385 avg, 210 hits, 111 runs, 29 SB (his 210 hits are a Japanese record)
1995: .342 avg, 179 hits, 104 runs, 49 SB
1996: .356 avg, 193 hits, 104 runs, 35 SB
1997: .345 avg, 185 hits, 94 runs, 39 SB
1998: .358 avg, 181 hits, 79 runs, 11 SB
1999: .343 avg, 141 hits, 80 runs, 12 SB
2000: .387 avg, 153 hits, 73 runs, 21 SB
Ichiro’s record-setting night drew attention from all across the globe, and in his homeland, where the time was about noon when he got hit No. 258, residents went wild. The country’s leader, Junichiro Koizumi, even took time out to congratulate Ichiro on the milestone.
After the game, Ichiro told reporters, “Through my career, I think this is the best moment.”
It certainly was the best moment of the season for Mariners fans, and it is a vindication for all those who put their faith in the talent of the scrappy little hitting machine.
Although there are only two games left in the season, Ichiro has a shot at yet another record, this one the at-bats mark set by Willie Wilson in 1980. Wilson recorded 705 at-bats that year, and Ichiro needs 11 more to break it. It’s doubtful that he’ll surpass that total, but then again, Ichiro has time and again proved doubters wrong.
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