Posted September. 30, 2008 08:29,
Isao Harimoto, a Korean Japanese whose Korean name is Jang Hoon, became the first baseball player in Japan to record 3,000 hits in 1980. He added 85 more hits the next year then retired. Before retiring in 1980, Katsuya Nomura had held Japans career hit record of 2,901.
Many in Japan had thought the mark of 3,000 hits was unbreakable. Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, however, is closing in on Harimoto`s mark, having exceeded 3,000 hits in July throughout his career in Japan and the United States. On the record, he said, I first thought of Harimoto.
Ichiro has 3,083 hits over his 17 pro seasons while Harimoto needed 23 to set the Japanese mark of 3,085.
The U.S. season is longer than Japans, but no one doubts that Suzuki would have set the record had he remained in Japan. Debuting with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan`s Pacific League in 1992, Suzuki began to stand out in 1994 by recording 210 hits and posting a batting average of .385.
He then led the Japanese leagues in batting average for seven consecutive years. Harimoto also won seven batting titles, though not all in a row. Harimoto predicted in 1995 that Ichiro would get more than 3,000 hits and win seven batting crowns.
Suzuki has a higher career batting average (.340) than Harimoto (.319) and average hits per game (1.38 to Harimotos 1.12), but Harimoto, former slugger of the Yomiuri Giants, hit far more homers (504) than Suzuki has (191).
Despite his fame, Koreans do not like Ichiro much for his comment made in the run-up to the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Ichiro said he would play such a great game that no team could think of beating Japan for the next 30 years. A U.S. news report also said his Seattle Mariners teammates threatened to beat him up this season given his sour relationship with them.
Whatever his personal side might be, Ichiro is undeniably the top switch hitter of the 21st century. He could threaten Pete Roses Major League Baseball record of 4,256 career hits given that Ichiro has had 200 hits for eight straight years.