Hideki Matsui, a popular outfielder and designated hitter for 20 seasons with Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, the New York Yankees and three other major league teams, announced his retirement Thursday.
Matsui, known as “Godzilla,” hit .282 with 175 home runs in 10 big league seasons with the Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays. He batted .147 in 34 games with Tampa Bay last season before the Rays released him in August.
Matsui finished second to Kansas City shortstop Angel Berroa in the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year balloting, made two All-Star teams and won the 2009 World Series MVP award with New York after hitting .615 (8 for 14) with three home runs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He joined Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as the third player to hit .500 or better with three homers in the same World Series. In October, San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval became the fourth hitter and the first non-Yankee to achieve the feat.
Matsui signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Yankees as a free agent in December 2002 after a successful 10-year run in Japan, during which he won three Central League MVP awards. After the 2005 season, the Yankees kept him in the fold with a four-year, $52 million extension.
Derek Jeter called Matsui one of his “favorite” teammates.
“I’ve said it numerous times over the years, but it’s worth repeating now. I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites,” Jeter said in a release. “The way he went about his business day in and day out was impressive. Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki. He was someone we counted on a great deal and he’s a big reason why we became World Champions in 2009.”
Known for his durability, Matsui appeared in 1,768 consecutive games to begin his career before a fractured wrist ended the streak in 2006.
The Japanese news outlet Sanspo earlier reported Matsui’s retirement.