A three-time MVP of Japan's Central League, Matsui signed a US$21 million, three-year contract before the 2003 season and has played in every game in a Yankees uniform -- he played 1,250 straight games for the Yomiuri Giants, too. Eleven players started in left field from opening day in 1990 until Matsui arrived in New York.
Tailed by a large contingent of Japanese reporters eagerly recording his every move, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game in pinstripes. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .287 with 16 homers and 106 RBIs.
This year, he seemed more comfortable against the better major league pitching and found his power stroke -- he hit 50 homers in his last season in Japan. He finished the regular season with 31 homers and drove in 108 runs, emerging as an MVP candidate with his more renowned teammate Gary Sheffield.
"I appreciate the fact that everybody considers me in that way," Matsui said. "Today that all led to today's victory, so I'm just very happy."