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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapter 106

Today’s Marlins countdown features baseball’s hit king.

Ichiro Suzuki up to bat
Ichiro Suzuki
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s edition of the All-Time Marlins Countdown features a wizard, a legend, and the hit king. It’s a pretty packed Sunday because the 2014 NL Comeback Player of the Year and the knuckleballer who threw the first ever pitch for the Florida Marlins are also included in today’s edition! Enjoy Chapter 106 of the All-Time Marlins Countdown...

105. Ichiro Suzuki (イチロー 成績)

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Long before he was a household name across the Seattle, Washington area and then the entire country, Ichiro made his debut in professional baseball with the Orix BlueWave of Japan’s Pacific League in Nippon Professional Baseball. Drafted in 1991, Ichiro joined the BlueWave in 1992 as an 18-year-old. By 1994, Ichiro was a star. He won seven straight batting titles, Gold Gloves, and Best Nine awards, given to the best player at each position. Ichiro was also crowned back-to-back-to-back MVP awards and he helped the BlueWave to a 1996 Japanese Championship title. After nine professional seasons in Japan, the 27-year-old phenom pursued a new challenge: Major League Baseball.

On April 2, 2001, Ichiro became the first-ever Japanese-born position player and the 15,424th player to debut in Major League Baseball history. Despite a new language, culture, and almost 5,000 miles from home, he didn’t skip a beat. In his rookie year with the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro tallied the most plate appearances, at bats, hits, and stolen bases in the league, was named an All-Star, and earned Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also named the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP. He is only the second player in MLB history to win both awards in the same year (Fred Lynn became the first in 1975).

I could go on and on gushing over the many times Ichiro found himself among league leaders in various categories, juggling countless awards, or surpassing all-time greats as he continued to climb career-wide leaderboards. But I do realize that this is a Marlins countdown, so I will do my best to summarize Ichiro’s career prior to his stint with the Marlins…

  • 2001 ROY and 2001 MVP (previously mentioned above)
  • 10x All-Star (2001-2010)
  • 10x Gold Glove winner (2001-2010)
  • 3x Silver Slugger winner (2001, 2007, 2009)
  • 2x Batting Title (2001, 2004)
  • 60.2 WAR over 14 seasons (from ages 27-40!)

Ichiro, however, is so much more than fancy award titles or various values that attempt to quantify worth; these things are for heroes. He isn’t a hero. Ichiro is a legend, and, as Babe Ruth told Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in The Sandlot, legends never die. Decades from now when I’m telling my grandkids about Ichiro, I won’t be rattling off the seasons he led the league in hits or reciting his career slash line. I’ll be telling my grandkids the stories about Ichiro learning phrases in Spanish so that he could talk trash to opposing players while on the base-paths, or about the apology letter Ichiro once wrote to the man who crafts his bats by hand after he had destroyed a bat after a strikeout, or that Ichiro would visit the graves of players whose records he had broken, or about that final game of the 2015 season when Ichiro took the mound for 18 pitches to make his first ever pitching appearance.

Ichiro’s career was winding down when he came to Miami in 2015, but he accomplished one of baseball’s most amazing feats in a Marlins uniform: 3,000 career hits in Major League Baseball. The Marlins had an 11-game homestand in late July of the 2016 season. I went multiple games hoping to soak in history, but settled for hit #2,997. A few days later, on August 7, 2016, Ichiro tripled for his 3,000 hit in MLB. It was one of the most magical moments in my baseball memory.

Miami Marlins v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Legend has it that Ichiro wanted to play until he was 50. If anyone could do it, it would be him. After three seasons with the Marlins, Ichiro returned to the Mariners for just a few games. In 2019, Ichiro came full circle. MLB’s Opening Series was taking place in Japan, a two-game battle between the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. With 4,367 professional hits under his belt, the 45-year-old returned home to take the field for the final time. He came off the field, hugging teammates and thanking the crowd. Ichiro’s brilliance was tangible, one that was felt on the cheeks of his teammate Yusei Kikuchi in the dugout, every emotional fan in the Tokyo Dome, and even those of us at home.

104. Casey McGehee

Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs drafted McGehee, a corner infielder from California State University, Fresno, in the 10th round of the 2003 Draft. He rose steadily through the minor leagues, but spent parts of three seasons in Triple-A. He made his debut with the Cubs on September 2, 2008, but appeared in only nine games before being claimed off of waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

In his first full season in the big leagues, McGehee slashed .301/.360/.499 for the Brewers. He received votes for the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, but the award would end up going to Marlins rookie Chris Coghlan. McGehee played well the following year, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 104 runs, but began to struggle mightily during the 2011 season. The Brewers traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who then traded him to the New York Yankees.

By the end of 2012, McGehee was a free agent coming off a .217/.284/.358 season. He opted to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan for the 2013 season. He put up the best numbers of his career in Japan and the Marlins took notice. They signed him to a deal for the 2014 season, where he took over the starting role at third base.

In 160 games with the Fish, McGehee put up 177 hits for a batting line of .287/.355/.357 and was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year. Despite the strong season, the Marlins traded McGehee to the San Francisco Giants in the offseason. The Giants, however, released McGehee mid-season and he re-signed with the Fish. He unfortunately struggled to hit upon his return, batting .182 over 60 games. The Marlins parted ways with McGehee after the season.

After playing briefly with the Detroit Tigers in 2016, McGehee returned to Japan. He played two seasons with the Yomiuri Giants. His success returned in Japan where he hit .300 with 39 home runs over 272 games. He has not returned to the big leagues.

103. Charlie Hough

Florida Marlins v Chicago Cubs Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Hough was drafted out of South Florida’s Hialeah High School by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th round of the 1966 Draft. He made his professional debut with the Ogden Dodgers under manager Tommy Lasorda. Lasorda is said to have moved Hough to the pitcher’s mound, telling the Sun-Sentinel that his lack of speed made the decision easy:

By 1970, Hough was in Triple-A throwing his newest pitch: a knuckleball. Lasorda, Goldie Holt, a career minor leaguer turned scout and manager, and knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm taught Hough the pitch that would propel him to the big leagues. After holding a sub-2.00 ERA in 49 Triple-A games, Hough made his major league debut in a 9th inning, two-on, two-out jam. He got the Pittsburgh Pirates left-fielder Willie Stargell to strikeout and recorded his first big league save. Hough would go back and forth from the Dodgers to Triple-A for a few seasons before solidifying himself as a big league pitcher.

Across 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Hough appeared mostly in relief. He saved a career-high 22 games in 1977 and appeared in his second World Series. He was on the wrong side of history, however, as he gave up Reggie Jackson’s third home run in Game 6. This allowed Jackson to tie Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs hit in a single World Series game.

Mid-way through the 1980 season, the Texas Rangers purchased Hough’s contract from the Dodgers. Although Hough had pitched mostly in relief for the first 12 seasons of his career, the 1992 season with the Rangers served as a turning point. The last 13 seasons of his career, Hough pitched all but three games as a starting pitcher. By 1984, Hough started a league-leading 36 games, going the full-distance in 17 games. Two years later, the 38-year-old righthander was named to his first All-Star game. Over his 11 seasons with the Rangers, Hough put up records that are still standing today. He remains the Rangers all-time leader in wins (139), losses (123), complete games (98), and strikeouts (1,452).

Before joining the Florida Marlins, Hough briefly teamed up with Carlton Fisk on the Chicago White Sox. Both Hough and Fisk were 43-years-old.

The last stop of this journeyman’s career was with the youngest team in baseball. Hough joined the Florida Marlins in their inaugural 1993 season, starting the first game in the franchise’s history. The Marlins faced off against the Dodgers, managed by Lasorda, Hough’s first manager in the minor leagues. Hough struck out the first batter he faced and helped the Marlins to their first ever win.

Hough finished his career in 1994 with the Marlins, becoming the last player born in the 1940s to appear in a big league game. Over his 25-year career, Hough had exactly 216 wins and 216 losses and pitched more than 400 games as both a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher. He was also the New York Mets pitching coach from 2001-2002.