baseball is just baseball

Reviewed by G. Louis Heath, Ashford University

5 December 2012       archive

Originally published in 2001, this compilation of Ichiro aphorisms, usually delivered in response to reporters' questions, is a revision and update for 2012. This new volume extends Ichiro's laconic Zen-like quotes to include his move from the Seattle Mariners and his early career with the New York Yankees, begun at age 38. Ichiro's understated, candid observations and quippy responses evoke Yogi Berra for me. Though Ichiroisms are not formatted as oxymoronically as Yogi-isms, there is a resemblance borne in all the more for me in that both share Yankee stripes.

I had a lot of fun looking up Yogi Berra sayings as I read this slim volume. That game of find and compare took far more time for me than reading the book, which I managed to complete during muted ads for the Iowa-Purdue November 10, 2012 football game (which Iowa lost on a last second field goal, Purdue's first victory in Iowa City in 20 years). The book is 183 pages long but the vast majority of pages feature only a terse quotation. A number of trees near where the Mariners play died unnecessarily.

Baseball Is Just Baseball requires only a book note, not a full review. Hence, I will continue the pithiness.

So, other than more quotes for more years, why this book? I'd say that Ichiro has deepened his MLB/USA experience and his often cryptic words reflect this in a range of tones, including sharp-witted, utterly humble, and deceptively perceptive. It's worth getting this new stuff out.

What I got swacked with, I think, in part, was a cross-cultural perspective, nuggets of Japanese culture, nudging up against and needling American pro baseball and social "experience" (a favorite Ichiro word), as construed by one of the most disciplined athletes ever. So much so, near the end of the book, I began to think I was reading enigmatic sayings of a 14th Century samurai set in a modern context.

This is not so much a book to be read as one to be savored. You can use it like a reference book to check out Ichiro's take on sections titled "Believe In Yourself," "See Beyond Yourself," "Dissolve Hate Into Love," and "Be Struck By The Significance Of Being Alive."

The book title, Baseball Is Just Baseball, is Ichiro's reply to a reporter who asked him whether he thought he'd have trouble adjusting to the major leagues. His response is somewhat Yogi-esque and very Ichiro-ese.

This is a book worth ordering for a university or public library. Beyond that, its market is the inveterate baseball fan who collects widely and deeply. And, of course, it is just right for the numerous Ichiro fans in the USA and Japan.

Shields, David, ed. Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro. New York: Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group, 2012. 183 pages. $14, hardcover.

Copyright © 2012 by G. Louis Heath

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