YOKOHAMA--Hanshin's "Iron Man" became golden on Saturday at Yokohama Stadium.
Tomoaki Kanemoto, who has played every inning in 1,199 consecutive games, had a long wait to record his 2,000th career hit, but came up with a clutch seventh-inning RBI single in a 6-3 win over the Yokohama BayStars.
"That took a while," joked Kanemoto, who became the 37th player in Japan pro history with 2,000 hits, earning him entry in the Meikyukai, or Golden Players Club.
Kanemoto had gone hitless in 18 plate appearances--with three walks--the longest wait of any player on the verge of his 2,000th hit. Shinichi Kudo of the Taiyo Whales needed 17 trips to the plate to reach No. 2,000 in 1975, as did the Yomiuri Giants' Isao Shibata in 1980.
"It didn't really feel like it was that long, but I wanted to get that next hit as soon as possible," said Kanemoto, who went 1-for-4 with two RBIs in front of the crowd of 29,866--mostly Hanshin fans.
"And I'm glad it came at a good time to help the team. I'm happy to be wearing the Hanshin uniform, and hope to get as many hits as I can as a Tiger."
"I'm glad he finally got the hit. It was time for him to get it," said Hanshin skipper Akinobu Okada.
Okada also heaped praise on Kanemoto, the team's cleanup man since coming to Hanshin in 2003 as a free agent.
"He has been our best hitter since the first day he arrived here. No matter if he has been hot or not, he has been the cornerstone of our offense," the skipper said.
Kanemoto's milestone was a liner to right off loser Hayato Terahara (1-2) after a go-ahead RBI triple by Takahiro Arai, who himself reached the 1,000-hit plateau in the first inning.
Arai was first to his milestone, wasting no time by lining a double to right to set up Hanshin's first run. But the day belonged to Kanemoto, whose first hit came in 1993 as a member of the Hiroshima Carp.
Marty Brown, now the Carp's skipper, played with Kanemoto in Hiroshima and said recently he is a hard worker.
"He has the same body type as he had back then--not filled out--but you could see he has taken tremendous care of himself. He has a great work ethic."
The combination of his work ethic and ability have kept Kanemoto, in his 17th season, on the field for so many consecutive games.
"Since passing the age of 30, he has really stepped up the training and is just in terrific shape," former Hiroshima manager Koji Yamamoto recently said.
"His body has gotten stronger each year, and his skills have also improved."
The 40-year-old, nicknamed "Big Brother," got his first hit on Aug. 8, 1993, at Hiroshima against the Yakult Swallows. Kanemoto was the CL RBI leader in the 2004 and won the league MVP award in 2005, the last time the Tigers went to the Japan Series.
Hanshin took the lead after Arai doubled to put runners on second and third and Kanemoto hit a little tapper to second for an RBI groundout.
The BayStars got even in the second on back-to-back singles by Takahiro Saeki and Yuki Yoshimura and a fielder's choice.
Shuichi Murata's two-run homer in the third put the BayStars ahead 3-1, but the cushion disappeared in the fourth on Norihiro Akahoshi's two-out, two-run single.