TOKYO (AP) — Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh paid tribute to Hideki Matsui after the Oakland Athletics' outfielder hit his 500th homer.
"Five hundred is a figure that carries a lot of worth in the major leagues," Oh said Thursday. "To keep hitting home runs during a tough schedule while maintaining your conditioning is not easy."
Matsui has 168 home runs in the majors and 332 for the Yomiuri Giants.
Oh hit a record 868 home runs over 22 seasons with the Giants, helping his team win nine straight Japan Series championships between 1965-73. Oh shares the Japanese single-season home run record of 55 with Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
Only eight players have hit more than 500 homers in the history of Japanese professional baseball.
On Wednesday night in Detroit, Matsui homered and drove in three runs in Oakland's 7-5 victory.
"I'm happy to get it over with, and it is even better that it helped us win a game," Matsui said through an interpreter. "It isn't like I've been aiming for this, because I don't really combine numbers from Japan and here. To me, they are two separate leagues."
Matsui led off the sixth inning with his milestone homer — his first since June 16 — to put Oakland up 3-2.
"I never dreamed he would achieve what he has achieved," Matsui's father, Masao, told NikkanSports newspaper. "I hope he does everything he can to help his team win."