Ichiro's retirement: Looking back at top moments from the future Hall of Famer's career
In his prime, no one could hit like Ichiro. These six moments are some of his best
Ichiro Suzuki was a one-of-a-kind ballplayer. One of the most efficient hitters ever and a fantastic defensive outfielder with blinding speed, Ichiro played his final MLB game on Thursday and left at the Tokyo Dome.
The stats speak for themselves: A .311 career batting average in 18 seasons, 10 gold gloves, 10-time All Star Game appearances, an MVP award in his rookie season -- and that's just in America. He was a phenom from the moment he arrived in the United States from Japan.
With Ichiro retiring, here are some of the top moments from his illustrious, inevitably Hall of Fame career.
April 11, 2001: The throw to third
Ichiro's quintessential moment came on the defensive side of the ball in his rookie season -- in fact, it was in his eighth game. He fielded a ground ball hit into right field against the Athletics and pulled up with a flawless curl hop with Terrence Long heading to third base from first. Ichiro threw a strike right on the money to punch Long out, getting his rookie MVP campaign off to a rousing start. MLB base coaches didn't know how strong Ichiro's arm was yet. This was a wake-up call.
All of his 2004 season: .372 batting average and 262 hits
Ichiro hit on a different level in 2004. He had batted over .300 in each of his first three seasons, including a .350 clip in 2001, tied with Larry Walker for the batting title that season -- but this was his best batting season. Ichiro batted .372 in 2004, netting himself the batting title over Barry Bonds, and he broke the single-season hits record on Oct. 1 against the Rangers. He would end the season at 262 hits, including a single in his final at-bat.
July 10, 2007: An inside-the-park home run at the All Star Game
Ichiro was crazy fast in his prime. In 2007 at the All Star Game in San Francisco, he smoked a pitch into right field that hit off the wall awkwardly. Ichiro glided around the bases for a stand-up inside-the-park home run. It's the only inside-the-park homer ever hit in the Midsummer Classic. The AL won, 10-9, and Ichiro took home MVP honors.
June 15, 2016: Passing Pete Rose with 4,257 professional hits
Who owns the career hits record will, of course, always be disputed. Ichiro finished his professional career with 4,367 hits in 27 seasons between Japan and the MLB. He finished with 1,278 hits in Japan. But no matter which side of that fence you fall on, Ichiro's 4,257th hit was something special. It came when he was with the Marlins in a game against the Padres in the dead of June. He sent a double down the right-field line in the top of the ninth. He made it look as easy as ever, despite getting the hit at 42 years old.
Aug. 7, 2016: His 3,000th MLB hit
Yeah, 2016 was a big year for Ichiro. Less than two months after passing Rose in all-time professional hits, Ichiro recorded his 3,000th career MLB hit with a triple, joining Paul Molitor as the only players to record No. 3,000 on a three-bagger. Ichiro finished the season hitting .291, but it was all about the milestones for the legend.
March 21, 2019: His final ovation
Ichiro took the field for the final time in the bottom of the 8th inning. Mariners manager Scott Servais came to take him out of the 4-4 game and for the second time in as many days, the Tokyo Dome gave Ichiro a huge ovation as his teammates congratulated him on his historic career. It was a production worthy of one of the best hitters ever.
BONUS: Pitching against the Phillies
You can't talk about Ichiro's best moments without mentioning his pitching! In 2015, a 41-year-old Ichiro took the mound for the first time in his career against the Phillies with the Marlins. He finished with a career ERA of 9.00 after throwing one inning -- giving up two hits and a run -- but it was a fun and deserved moment for Ichiro and Marlins fans.
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