TOKYO (AP) Ichiro Suzuki's latest milestone has been a really big hit in Japan.
Newspapers published special editions for the morning rush hour, the national broadcaster led with the news, and fans and dignitaries paid tribute Thursday after Suzuki raised his career hits total in the Japanese and North American major leagues to 4,257, passing Pete Rose's record Major League Baseball total.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised Suzuki's mark as ''an amazing record.''
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''A Japanese athlete has once again made a monumental contribution,'' Abe said, ''and I feel tremendous pride.''
The 42-year-old Suzuki singled in the first inning against the San Diego Padres and doubled in the ninth to move past Rose, who had 4,256 hits over 24 seasons.
Suzuki had 1,278 hits for Orix in Japan's Pacific League (1992-00) and the rest with the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees and his current team, the Miami Marlins.
In his 16th season in Major League Baseball, Suzuki has 2,979 hits in the majors and is rapidly approaching the 3,000-hit club.
''He is like a national treasure,'' office worker Tadahito Inaga said. ''It will be fun to watch him go for 3,000.''
Japan's national broadcaster NHK reported that Suzuki ''broke the record for most hits ever by a Major League ballplayer'' while acknowledging the record is unofficial because it spans two professional leagues.
Rose has previously played down the comparisons.
Rose was quoted recently by the USA Today newspaper as saying: ''I'm not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he's had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they'll be counting his high-school hits.''
The debate over Suzuki's mark is reminiscent of when Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh passed Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs in 1977.
Japanese fans regarded it as a world record but many in the U.S. said the records were not equivalent, as Japanese ballparks tended to be smaller.
Oh, who would finish his career in Nippon Professional Baseball with 868 home runs, also had high praise for Suzuki.
''To do this at 42, he is an inspiration to baseball fans around the world,'' Oh said. ''I look forward to following him as he continues to get more hits.''
The Japanese professional baseball hit record is 3,085 held by Isao Harimoto in 2,752 games.