The 39-year-old Suzuki hit a liner off Toronto’s R.A. Dickey that bounced just beyond diving third baseman Brett Lawrie in the first inning Wednesday night for the milestone hit.
“It’s unbelievable, 4,000 hits,” Alfonso Soriano said after hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer that led New York to a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays. “To get 4,000 hits, you have to be a great hitter.”
Pete Rose with 4,256 hits and Ty Cobb with 4,191 are the only two players that have reached the number solely in the major leagues.
Suzuki’s teammates streamed out of the dugout and surrounded him at first base, Curtis Granderson giving him the first hug. A grinning Suzuki then faced the cheering fans and bowed, doffing his helmet. He bowed several more times, facing the Toronto dugout with the last one.
“It was supposed to be a number that was special to me but what happened tonight I wasn’t expecting,” Suzuki said. “When my teammates came out to first base it was very special, and to see the fans. I wasn’t expecting so much joy and happiness from them and that’s what made it very special tonight.”
When he went to his position in right field for the second inning, Suzuki tipped his cap to the fans who greeted him with a standing ovation.
“You never want to be the guy that gives up the milestone,” Dickey said. “That being said, what an incredible achievement. The manner that he’s done it is equally impressive. Just the longevity, the endurance, the durability. Having played with him in Seattle, it was a real treat to play with him and it couldn’t have happened to a more professional hitter.”
Ken Griffey Jr., a former teammate with the Seattle Mariners, congratulated Suzuki with a message shown on the video board at Yankee Stadium.
The Mariners tweeted a statement: “Ichiro’s historic milestone is testament to his position as one of the greatest hitters in the game of baseball.”
Suzuki’s postgame news conference with the Japanese media lasted a whopping 47 minutes.
According to STATS, Suzuki has the most hits through the first 13 seasons of a big league career. Paul Waner is second. He had 2,648 for Pittsburgh from 1926-38.
Even though the approach to the unprecedented milestone didn’t generate a lot of buzz in the United States because it doesn’t count in the record books, players have great respect for Suzuki’s accomplishment.