In honor of Ichiro’s retirement, the 10 greatest moments of his HOF career
He’s baseball’s all-time hit king, was named to 10 straight American League All-Star teams, and is one of only two players ever to win MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season.
He had an ability to put the bat on the ball unlike anybody else, was one of the fastest players of his generation, could surprise you with his power at the plate, and was a human highlight film in right field whether it was due to his arm, glove, or otherworldly agility.
He is Ichiro Suzuki, and after playing two games with the Seattle Mariners to start his 29th pro baseball season, he has hung up his cleats for good.
Ichiro announced his retirement Thursday in Tokyo after a 5-4 Mariners win over the A’s (the same result as his first game as a member of the Mariners), not far removed from a rousing ovation as manager Scott Servais took him out of his final game for a defensive replacement.
One final goodbye for a legend.
Ichiro tips his cap to the Tokyo crowd as he leaves his last MLB game. pic.twitter.com/2FgBfpmIV2
— ESPN (@espn) March 21, 2019
With Ichiro’s playing career having come to a close, let’s look at the most memorable moments provided by an all-time great.
Top 10 greatest Ichiro plays
This is when America really took notice of Ichiro’s talent. In his rookie season of 2001, he threw a frozen rope to nail Oakland’s Terrence Long trying to go from first to third on a base hit. It prompted a memorable call by Mariners Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus and was just one of several great moments in a season in which Ichiro was an All-Star and took home both the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.
George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns had 257 hits for the St. Louis Browns in 1920, setting a major league record. It lasted an incredible 84 years – until Ichiro came along. After his 2001 debut, it seemed like it would be only a matter of time until he became the new single-season hit king. In 2004, he did just that, passing Sisler on Oct. 1. Ichiro finished the year with 262 hits, a record that nobody has come close to touching since.
3. The Spiderman catch.
This might actually be the greatest catch of all-time. Seriously, who does that?
Ichiro didn’t start playing in America until he was 27. At the age of 42, he tripled off the wall in right field at Colorado’s Coors Field for his 3,000th hit. He needed just 15 years to meet a milestone that is pretty much automatic admission to Cooperstown. Not bad for the first position player to ever make the move from Japan to the majors.
Not only does Ichiro have 3,089 MLB hits, he also owns 1,278 from his nine seasons prior in Japan. Put them together and it makes him the all-time pro baseball hit king, a title he passed Pete Rose for in 2016.
6. Walk-off HR off of Mariano.
Mariano Rivera is widely considered the greatest closer of all-time. Walk-off homers were a rarity off the Yankees legend. But when he met Ichiro in 2009, it was the Mariners legend who provided the classic moment.
Not only was Ichiro an incredible hitter, he had elite speed on his side, as well. So when fellow Mariner great Ken Griffey Jr. had to chase down Ichiro’s hit off the wall in right field during the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco, there was pretty much no chance of keeping him from scoring on the play. That unconventional homer helped him become the second Mariners player to win the All-Star Game MVP award, following in the footsteps of Griffey.
Speaking of Ichiro’s speed and All-Star Games, his first trip to the midsummer classic had another memorable moment created by his feet. Facing Randy Johnson, another famous former No. 51 for the Mariners, in front of a home crowd at Safeco Field, Ichiro beat Johnson to first base on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first inning. He followed up with a steal of second base in what was his first exposure on a big national stage in America.
When the Miami Marlins made a rare trip to Seattle for a series in 2017, many wondered if it would be the last time Ichiro played at Safeco Field. While that ended up not being the case, he gave Mariners fans quite the thrill in his last at-bat of the series, drilling a home run to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Ichiro’s 2018 run with the Mariners may not have lasted long, but it at least produced one special play that made everybody remember why he means so much in Seattle. In just the second game of the season, he went over the wall in left field to rob Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez of a home run. Simply put, it was vintage Ichiro.
Yep. That happened.
One last throw for the road.
At 45 years old, Ichiro could still chuck it. In one of his final games ever, an exhibition against the Yomiuri Giants in the Tokyo Dome ahead of Seattle’s two-game 2019 season-opening series against Oakland, Ichiro uncorked one last laser of a throw from right field to keep a runner from advancing from second base to third. Much like David Bell’s reaction when he caught Ichiro’s original ‘Star Wars’ throw, the look on current Mariners third baseman Ryon Healy’s face tells the story.