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Ichiro Suzuki, Meet Stan Musial

Ichiro Suzuki Joins Elite yet Obscure Company

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki joined elite company when he achieved the 4,000th hit of his professional career.

If you are keeping score at home, that's 2,722 hits in Major League Baseball combined with his 1,278 hits during his time in Japan. That brings him to some elite company, but I am not talking about Pete Rose or Ty Cobb. Ichiro Suzuki is now one hit shy of tying Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals for hits in a baseball career (minors and majors).

The debate here is obvious and well represented on both sides. On one hand, fans feel that Ichiro's milestone should not be recognized because he did not achieve it entirely in Major League Baseball. On the other, people argue that the superstar played in an equally competitive league in Japan. It leaves a lot to interpretation and yields to the discussion of other players under the same criteria.

Remarkably, researching the topic brings up one of the most historic names in the history of baseball and the face of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise -- Stan Musial.

Utilizing Baseball-Reference.com to look at Stan Musial's career (visit Musial's page by clicking here), you can see his statistics over both his major league and minor league years. Musial started his professional career in 1938 as a pitcher in the minor leagues and would stay at that position for his first three professional seasons. In 1941, he made the move to the outfield, showed an impressive ability to hit, and found himself on the major-league roster of the Cardinals the following season.

During those first four years of professional baseball, Musial compiled 371 hits.

His big league career was interrupted by his dedication to his country and his service in 1945 as he fought in World War II. He returned the following year and played another 18 years, through 1963, before hanging up his spikes for good. His major-league career would come to a close with an impressive 3,630 hits.

Added together, that's 4,001 hits over the course of the baseball career of Stan Musial. A career that saw three years as a pitcher and an entire year lost to military service.

Ichiro has achieved something very special with hit number 4,000 in his major league career. One more and he will have the same number of hits as "The Man."

Bill Ivie is a freelance writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals here on Yahoo! You can find more of his baseball musings on his own site, i70baseball. You can find Bill on Twitter @poisonwilliam.

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