Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro

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9780399164101: Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro

Welcome to the Yankees, Ichiro! An homage to one of the great baseball players of our era, Baseball Is Just Baseball is a wide-ranging selection of Ichiro’s most startling and provocative observations. Updated to reflect his move to New York in July 2012, the book also includes a revised Introduction by acclaimed nonfiction writer David Shields.

When Ichiro was traded to the Yankees on July 23, 2012, the news made headlines around the world. He will finish out the year in pinstripes before becoming a free agent in 2013. Ichiro is a ten-time All-Star, ten-time Gold Glove winner, 2001 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year, and a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame.
Experience reality rather than your expectation of reality. Believe in yourself. Don’t take yourself seriously, but find an activity to be passionate about and take that activity very seriously. Don’t buy the hype. Dissolve hate into love. Care more about the process than the product. Find joy in the seeking itself. Such are some of the simple but profound ideas embodied in this prize of a little book—a document of not only a popular athlete but an impressively thoughtful human being.

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Review:

Anyone with even a passing interest in baseball can't help but look on in amazement at the 2001 Seattle Mariners. After losing heavy hitters Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in back-to-back seasons, the Mariners have gone on to play "a new ... beautiful brand of team baseball." Mariners' rookie right fielder Ichiro Suzuki--who "like Madonna or Cher or Pelé, went only by his first name," as author David Shields writes in the introduction to his compilation Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro--is the first Japanese position player to play in the majors.

There's an exhilarating fascination surrounding the young, sphinxlike All-Star and the global audience that tunes in to watch him snag home-runs-in-the-making from the sky. A fixture of baseball highlight reels, he's the first rookie ever to draw the most overall votes for the 2001 All-Star Game (held at Seattle's Safeco Field). Ichiromania even inspired fans to camp out overnight for a chance to claim a bobblehead doll cast in his likeness. Ichiro is much more than Japan's version of Michael Jordan--he's a cultural phenomenon (it's reported that Ichiro's the most recognizable person in Japan, with the emperor running a distant second).

Author David Shields is no stranger to the Seattle sports scene. He chronicled the 1994-95 season of the Seattle SuperSonics in his critically acclaimed book Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season. Shields, too, was swept up by Ichiro's "smart, subtle play" and humble persona, and compiled this collection of Ichiro quotations. The slim volume is packed with elegant wisdom, unexpected observations, and a refreshing sense of optimism from No. 51. Shields wonders, "Was I trying to impart philosophic significance to simple athletic excellence? Maybe the words acquired a lyrical glamour as they got translated from Japanese to English?"

When Ichiro was asked to analyze a particularly acrobatic catch, he replies: "It was a fly ball; I caught it."

On why he hasn't gotten into any arguments with major league umpires: "So far nothing has bothered me."

Individually, Ichiro's "haunting aphorisms" possess the beautiful complexity of Zen koans; together they read like The Tao of Ichiro. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From the Back Cover:

During a game between the Mariners and A's in Oakland, fans in the right field bleachers taunted him with racial epithets and threw quarters and ice at him. A man who hit Ichiro in the head with a quarter stood and took a bow. Afterward, asked what happened, Ichiro said--according to the translator, Ted Heid--"Something came out of the stands and hit me." Ichiro immediately said something to Heid, who said, "I must correct my previous interpretation. Ichiro said, 'Something came out of the sky and hit me.'" Asked how much money he collected, Ichiro said, "I couldn't tell if it was rain or money coming down." Asked if something like this had ever happened to him in Japan, he said, "Of course it happened there. Any time you come in as a visiting team, things fall out of the sky. The gods once threw an aluminum can at me."

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