NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez homered on the first pitch he saw on Friday to become the 29th Major League Baseball player with 3,000 hits.
The Yankee Stadium crowd rose up to applaud Rodriguez as he came to the plate in the first inning.
The designated hitter, who was suspended for all of last season for violating MLB’s doping policy, immediately responded by launching the first offering from the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander into the right-center field seats.
The 39-year-old Rodriguez was treated to a roaring ovation from the Bronx audience and was mobbed by his manager and team mates in front of the dugout after he trotted around the bases.
The homer was his 13th this season and 667th of his career. The 39-year-old Rodriguez ranks fourth on the all-time home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
It was the latest in a series of milestones reached by Rodriguez, who has moved up the all-time offensive lists in quiet fashion.
This season Rodriguez had already eclipsed Willie Mays (660)in home runs, and Bonds and Yankees great Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse”, in career runs batted as he became the fourth player ever to reach 2,000 RBIs.
There have been no milestone packets prepared for Rodriguez’s achievements, such as prepared for the now retired Derek Jeter when he became the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits, or special merchandising efforts to cash in on them.
Instead, Rodriguez’s exploits have been modestly detailed in a pre-game handout with notes on each player.
The Yankees have downplayed the feats in view of his doping history and a dispute over marketing bonuses written into a renegotiated contract signed before revelations of his doping.
Rodriguez had been set to receive $6 million for passing Mays on the home run list, but that issue will now have to be settled with the club, which does not believe they owe him.
Rodriguez, however, has won back the affection of home fans as he has produced well above expectations and helped the Yankees contend in the American League East.
Despite losing luster due to doping, Rodriguez’s feats have put him in rare company.
Rodriguez joined Aaron and Mays as the only players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 600 homers. Rodriguez and Aaron are the only players ever with 600 home runs, 3,000 hits and 2,000 RBIs.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry/Andrew Both