A chilly late Tuesday afternoon in the Bronx was the setting for the 2003 New York Yankees home opener, fresh off a 5-1 start to the season in which the Yankees averaged almost 11 runs through those first six games. While the disappointment of Derek Jeter's dislocated shoulder on opening day in Toronto still lingered, it was uplifted with the debut of a "rookie" named Hideki Matsui. In the bottom of the fifth inning that day, Matsui would be become the first Yankee ever to hit a grand slam in his debut off of Twins pitcher Joe Mays. As recalled by ESPNNewYork.com senior writer Andrew Marchand, Matsui was humbled by the moment,
” “I never dreamed of it,” Matsui said after he took Joe Mays deep in the fifth of the Yankees 7-3 win over the Twins. “Certainly I feel a little relief.” ”
Almost ten years later, the historic bat used that day is now fully entrenched in Cooperstown in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. On Wednesday, Jeff Idelson, president of the MLB Hall of Fame, Tweeted the below message congratulating Matsui, along with the picture of the bat to be displayed:
“Thanks for showing America your class, dignity+Great ability, #Matsui. Cooperstown wishes you much health+Happiness.”
Affectionately known as "Godzilla" to the Yankees faithful, Matsui officially announced his retirement from baseball a week ago today. Factoring in significant time missed due to injury in the 2006 and 2008 seasons, Matsui averaged 20 home runs and 85 runs batted in during his seven-year stint in the Bronx. However, the 2009 season, and specifically the 2009 World Series, was when Matsui would go down in the annals of Yankees history. In that series, he would bat .615 as the primary designated hitter and would knock in six RBIs in the clinching Game 6 to lead the Yankees to their 27th title, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies. With that torrid performance, Matsui would become the first Japanese-born player to win the World Series Most Valuable Player award.
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