Ichiro Makes History; Cubs Break Hearts

Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners made world headlines friday: he now holds the all-time record for hits in a single season. Tonight, with two games remaining on the schedule, he got his 258th and 259th hits, surpassing George Sisler on a special night:

No. 258 for Ichiro Suzuki was like so many others, a little ground ball up the middle.

Only this one made history, a hit cheered 'round the world.

Suzuki set the major league record for hits in a season Friday night, breaking George Sisler's 84-year-old mark with a pair of early singles as the Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 8-3.

"Through my career, I think this is the best moment," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I can't really put it into words."

Suzuki later got another hit, giving him 259 this season and a major league-leading .373 average.

Suzuki chopped a leadoff single in the first inning, then put himself in the record book with a bouncer in the third.

Fireworks exploded after Suzuki's big hit reached the outfield, creating a haze over Safeco Field, and his teammates mobbed him at first base.

With the fans still cheering, Suzuki ran over to the first-base seats and shook hands with Sisler's 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman, and other members of the Hall of Famer's family.

"My father would have been delighted," Drochelman said moments later. "He would be so happy to know such a fine young man was doing so well."

Across the Pacific, fans in downtown Tokyo watched Suzuki in sports bars and on big-screen monitors. A crowd also gathered at the city hall in Suzuki's hometown in Aichi prefecture.

"Baseball is America's sport, so for a Japanese player to go over there and break that record is truly amazing," office worker Shigeru Uchida said. "I think Ichiro has changed the way people look at the game. He's shown that it's not just about power. There's a lot of skill and technique involved."

As far as I'm concerned, Barry Bonds can take a flying leap. With his poor attitude, the apparent lack of a "team" mentality and the steroids scandal sitting in his back yard, I can never appreciate what he has done. No one, outside of San Fancisco, gives a crap about his numbers. No matter how many HRs he hits, he'll never be what Henry Aaron was. Ichiro's record should stand beside Sisler, since Sisler did it in a shorter season, but certainly he is amongst the best "pure" baseball players in the game today.

On a side note, the Cubs broke my heart today, as they got as close as they can get to elimination from the post-season. Just a week after being a "sure thing", they have completely fallen apart:

The tombstone officially will read Oct. 2 or Oct. 3, whatever day the final nail gets slammed into the coffin and the 2004 Cubs are mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

But death came long before that, in the form of seven games against the Mets and Reds -- two teams a combined 28 games below .500. The Cubs could defeat them only twice.

When the Braves showed up at Wrigley Field for a Friday matinee, the Cubs found their backs firmly planted against their ivy-covered brick walls, likely needing a sweep and an Astros or Giants loss to keep their season alive.

Yet instead of it being a day of atonement, the Cubs' day was fit for a funeral, an official burial of the team that Sports Illustrated and so many other publications picked to win the World Series.

Because the Cubs wouldn't have it any other way, Friday's loss transpired in the cruelest of ways. For 8½ innings, the Cubs showed little life, falling behind 5-1 after Dewayne Wise and Mike Hampton -- the Braves' No. 8 and 9 hitters -- belted two-run homers. Then the Cubs scored three times in the bottom of the ninth, giving their Prozac-desperate fans a glimmer of hope, only to strand the game-tying run at first base and lose the game 5-4.

Afterward, the Cubs all but admitted they are done. Sure, they sit just 1½ games back with two days left in the regular season, but one had to look no further than Friday's starter, Kerry Wood, to get a sense of the disconsolate mood that permeates the clubhouse.

"I expected to be back in the playoffs, going for a World Series," Wood said after allowing five runs on 10 hits in seven innings. "But we came up short -- it is what it is."

Certainly, this is a day for celebration. Ichiro has elevated the game to a whole new level. However, tomorrow, I shall mourn, as the Cubs have wasted another year of my life.
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