Ichiro passes Cobb; Marlins open to 2016 return

Day after matching MLB legend in professional hits, outfielder collects No. 4,192

Ichiro passes Cobb; Marlins open to 2016 return

ST. LOUIS -- It took just two pitches for Ichiro Suzuki to take care of business on Saturday night in the Marlins' 6-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. On a 1-0 John Lackey fastball, Ichiro lined a single to right field for his 4,192nd professional hit, counting his totals from Japan and Major League Baseball. Ty Cobb had been second all-time with 4,191.

In nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro had 1,278 hits. The 41-year-old Miami outfielder also is closing in on 3,000 big league hits. The 10-time All-Star had two on Saturday, giving him 2,915.

After his first-inning single, Ichiro's bat and the baseball were collected by Major League Baseball to be authenticated. The Busch Stadium crowd gave the future Hall of Famer a big ovation, and Ichiro tipped his cap.

"I really wasn't expecting the reaction that I did get," Ichiro said through his interpreter, Allen Turner. "Obviously the fans here know their baseball, and they are very high-class fans. I knew that coming in. Obviously I had to focus on my next play. But I was moved."

Among his numerous accomplishments, Ichiro set the MLB mark for most hits in a season. In 2004, he compiled 262, topping Hall of Famer George Sisler's mark of 257, set in 1920. Sisler played part of his career with the St. Louis Browns.

Ichiro reminded that Sisler is buried outside of St. Louis. Before the 2009 All-Star Game, which was played at Busch Stadium, Ichiro visited Sisler's grave site.

The reasons the Marlins initially signed Ichiro as a free agent in January remain in place today. The organization has been so impressed by the veteran that they are open to bringing him back in 2016.

It's unclear if Ichiro is thinking that way, but Miami officials have already talked about him remaining in South Florida.

"I know that it's been discussed internally," manager Dan Jennings said. "Just watching him play and his contribution night after night. Certainly achieving some of the milestones, and the way he's respected in that clubhouse by his teammates and what he does and what he brings on the field, there is still plenty left in the tank."

MLB doesn't list Ichiro's total hits among their records, but passing Cobb is being noted as a tremendous accomplishment.

"I think that's for people to decide and to talk about and decide for themselves," Ichiro said of what the total number means. "There is really nothing I can do. That's for them to judge."

Ichiro, who turns 42 in October, respects the history of the game. He's visited the Hall of Fame before, and he plans on returning to study up more on Cobb.

"I go to the Hall of Fame," Ichiro said. "I've been able to touch his bat and I've read some of the letters that he wrote. I don't know about him too much. But now I want to go back to the Hall of Fame and be able to get to know him more and maybe look at more of his stuff."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.