10/01/2004

ICHIRO!!!

After a very busy week with my wife away on business and with an incipient cold/whatever, tonight was time to kick back and watch the Seattle Mariners play baseball. It was a special night because Seattle mariner right fielder and leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki was gunning for the all time season record for base hits. The record was set way back in 1920 by a guy called George Sisler.

ichiro's pursuit of the record only really came into focus after the All-Star game when he just started hitting the crap out of the ball, averaging way over .400 in July and August. With three games left in the season he needed one to tie and two to break the record. This was after failing to tie the record in four at bats in Oakland the day before.

Predictably and yet amazingly, he tied the record in his first at bat. The, making a defensive play in right field he almost castrated himself chasing a foul nall into the stands. He jumped up on the padding around the seats, lost his footing and fell awkwardly. Fortunately he must be made of sterner stuff than mere mortals and all was well for his next AB, when he just pounded a ball up the middel to break the record.

What's really remarkable about Ichiro is that he ahs totally thrown the major leagues for a loop. He doesn't hit like anyone else. I've never seen anyone with that hitting style in the last 25 years (my entire life in North American). Ancient baseball pundits haven't either, which extends the timeframe of uniqueness. If Ichiro has any parallels in MLB at all, it probably dates back to 1920 or before, in other words, the year Sisler set the curent record.

Just to emphasize the point, the top 10 numbers in hits per season were all set on or before 1930, except for one player in 2001. That player was (oh, please, don't tell me you haven't guessed already) Ichiro Suzuki, in his first year in the major leagues. All but two of the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame.

Suzuki is just coming up to 31 (on October 22, just 5 days before my birthday - except I'm not going to be 31) and has spent four years in the US. He has the most hits in four consecutive seasons ever, in his only four seasons in the US.

The statistics are impressive, but perhaps the most impressive thing about him is his dedication to excellence and his own unique way of doing it.

Also, how far have we come from the days of World War 2 when a Japanese player can be so idolized (or at least appreciated) by a large segment of American society?

Add to this the impending retirement of latino Mariners icon Edgar Martinez (who also had a nice game with the bat in an 8-3 win), and it was really quite the cosmopolitan night at the ballpark.

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