Hit No. 2,874 moves Vizquel past Ruth

Hit No. 2,874 moves Vizquel past Ruth

Hit No. 2,874 moves Vizquel past Ruth
NEW YORK -- Waiting at Omar Vizquel's locker after the Blue Jays' 4-2 loss in Wednesday's matinee against the Yankees was a Baby Ruth chocolate bar.

Despite his team's loss in the opener of its doubleheader, Vizquel had a sweet taste in his mouth.

Vizquel passed legendary slugger Babe Ruth to move into sole possession of 41st place on the all-time hits list with an eighth-inning RBI double to right field, his second hit of Game 1.

The 24-year veteran had a large smile on his face postgame and didn't shy away from admitting how proud he was to pass the Bambino.

"This guy has been a legend for the game for a long time, and to mention my name right next to his just makes me feel so little," Vizquel said. "I never, ever thought in my career of baseball, which has been a long one, that I was going to come close to compare my hits to the Babe.

"It's just unbelievable. It's very emotional, especially here in New York, the 'House' he built. It's just an amazing feeling."

Vizquel tied Ruth on the all-time hits list with a single in the fourth inning off Andy Pettitte before passing the Hall of Famer in the eighth with the double off David Robertson. Of all the accomplishments Vizquel has accumulated throughout his storied career, including 11 Gold Glove Awards, passing Ruth is what will stand out to him the most when he looks back on his career.

"This one ... is more important than the fielding numbers, because when I started switch-hitting one year before I made it to the big leagues, I was probably hitting left-handed for eight months before I made it to the big leagues, and everyone was wondering if I was going to last long in the big leagues," Vizquel said.

"I proved them wrong."

The hit was the 2,874th of Vizquel's career, which has included stops in Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, Texas, Chicago (White Sox) and Toronto.

Vizquel, 45, singled out a number of people who helped him become the player he is, including former Major Leaguers Vic Davalillo, Charlie Manuel, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield. He says each one of them taught him something during his career.

The native of Venezuela also credited 13-year veteran Bobby Tolan for teaching him how to hit left-handed as a 20-year-old while he was playing in the instructional league as a member of the Mariners. Vizquel said he would show up to the park and start hitting at 7 a.m. each day with Tolan to master the art of switch-hitting.

"I started a little late; if I would have started a little earlier, maybe I would have had 3,000 hits," Vizquel joked.

Vizquel said his glove is what has helped him stay in the game for so long, but he also believes that the practice he got during those early mornings in the instructional league, as well as playing winter ball, proved to be turning points for him early in his career.

Vizquel will sign the bat he used to pass Ruth and put it with a collection of other baseballs and bats he has kept over the years.

"I have about eight balls right now, and I have about five bats that have been very special to me -- and some lineups also," Vizquel said.

Vizquel began his career with the Mariners and recorded his first hit against Storm Davis of the A's on April 6, 1989, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

When Vizquel began his career, current teammate Mike McCoy was just 8 years old, but McCoy said he has been a fan of Vizquel for as long as he can remember and is honored to share this moment with him.

"I'm proud of him; it's really awesome," McCoy said. "I couldn't be happier for him. I've got to know him a little bit, and I love the guy. It's quite an accomplishment."

While it was Vizquel's bat that put him in the spotlight on Wednesday, McCoy will remember the slick-fielding shortstop for his glove -- particularly how he used to handle one-hoppers and turn double plays with Roberto Alomar when the two starred up the middle for the Indians from 1999-2001.

"When I was growing up, he was one of my favorite players," McCoy said of Vizquel. "When I was in high school, I had his model glove, and he was one of my favorites. It has been a great experience for me, getting the chance to play with him."

Vizquel, a three-time All-Star, is third on the hits list of active players behind Yankees stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He plans to retire at the end of this season and admits that it will be difficult to say goodbye to the game he loves.

"It's been great; this is the best job a guy can have," Vizquel said. "This has been so cool. I've met so many people. I've made some great friends, very few enemies. When that happens and you can leave this game with the chest really high, it's a really special moment."

Blue Jays manager John Farrell has spoken highly of Vizquel all season and said that while he might be hanging up the cleats, the infielder is sure to stick around in the game as a coach if that's what he desires.

Farrell feels that Vizquel is still capable of playing the game and has injected Toronto's young roster with some much-needed veteran leadership.

"When you start talking about the names you are mentioning, this is an outstanding career, and he is finishing up on a strong note," Farrell said.

Vizquel's season high for hits is 191, which came in 1999 -- the only season in which he has recorded 180-plus hits.