Ichiro Beat Pete
By John B Holway
We’ll never know how many hits you might have gotten if you had played in America before the age of 26, as Pete Rose and Ty Cobb did.
But you did go head-to-head with them for 15 seasons in the States, ages 27 through 42. And you beat them both. You are the world Hit King for the ages 27-41: The results through July 10:
Age Pete Ichiro Ty
Thru 26 899 (1278)* 1600
27 210 242 127
28 218 208 208
29 205 212 201
31 198 206 161
32 230 224 191
33 185 238 143
34 210 213 197
35 215 225 201
36 204 214 189
37 198 184 211
38 208 178 157
39 185 136 79
40 140 102 175
41 172 91 114
42 121 55 –
___ ___ _____ ____
16+ yrs 2970 2990 2589
*130 games/year. Pro-rated for 162 games, that would be about 1,600 hits.
Of course, Ichiro and Rose played up to eight games a year more than Cobb. That’s almost 130 extra games, total.
Cobb stopped after ag1 41, but Rose went on to play four years more, collecting another 315 hits to pass Ty.
Thru 26 899 1600
27-42 2970 2589
Total 4256 4189
Cobb was most dazzling before 27, while Ichiro was in Japan. In one three-year stretch, he batted .420, .409, and .390.
No way the Japanese star could have matched him at the same ages. Ichiro’s highest in Japan was his last year, when he hit .387. His next season, in Seattle, he batted .350. So his Japanese hits weren’t exactly “high school hits,” as Rose reportedly sneered.
I do not believe Ty would have made 4,000 hits today. In fact, I have said, with possibly some exaggeration (but possibly not), that if Ty or Babe Ruth were playing today, they might not even make the Tiger or Yankee outfields.
I’m assuming Cobb as he historically was (201 pounds), playing against today’s stars as they actually are (up to 275 pounds).
1. The competition level was much lower then. The population was much smaller. In Ty’s time each major leaguer represented 75,000 white American males. Last time I estimated, about 20 years ago, the ratio was about 1:300,000 males – white, black, Latin, and Pacific. The increase in population has far out-stripped the increase in teams. We’re way over-due for another expansion.
Cobb faced Walter Johnson about eight games a year; today he faces pitchers with Johnsonian stuff about two or three times every series.
2. Today’s players are three to six inches taller, 30-70 pounds heavier, and much better coached and conditioned.
3. Ty ended in the 1920s, the hit-happiest decade ever, when the rules and the ball combined so that .400-hitters came along every other year. In 1930 National League pitchers gave up an average batting average of .303! Today’s hitters would explode against that kind of pitching.
1976. The Montreal Olympics. Steroids burst into the news when East German swimmers were accused of using them. Three years later, beginning at age 38, Pete out-performed Ty and Ichiro at every age and retired after the geriatric age of 45.
I strongly suspect steroids.
I have argued that Pete’s gambling should be reviewed, based on the latest scientific information, and his Hall of Fame status possibly re-examined. But if he did use steroids, then in my eyes at least, he and all other users, both unmasked (Bonds, A-Rod, and others) and masked (Ryan, Aaron, and others), should also be excluded.
Meantime, on an age-by-age basis, which is the only fair way to compare, Ichiro is the king of hits.
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Fenway in the ’40s
I finally got around to reading one of your stories, and it is great. Thanks for sharing.
Hope you can take some constructive criticism from a long-time editor: You mentioned that Bob was your age twice. Also, you spelled Allgaier wrong down in the story.
Thanks again and I’ll try to read more often. (Jim Patterson)
(Thanks, Jim. That’s because Bob is twice my age. Just kidding.)
A fun read. Great anecdote about Mrs. Pesky selling things for them. (Jay Berman)
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