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Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro Hardcover – September 13, 2012

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Editorial Reviews 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Baseball Is Just Baseball is an ethereal joy unto itself." --James Norton, Flak Magazine

"This book is deliciously wonderful. It looks nice, it feels nice, and it is filled with nice things."

"There's a scene in Downtown 81, wherein a hooker asks Jean-Michel Basquiat if he'd 'like to go out.' Basquiat replies, 'I'm already out.'...If, like me, you [find this remark] funny and clever, then you'll probably dig Shields's little book."--Mike Seely, Tablet

"Shields has located a charming narrative inside the roar of Ichiro Mania."--James Martin, FFWD Magazine

"Through his introduction and quote selection, Shields turns Ichiro's comments into Eastern wisdom, revealing a person who values Zen qualities such as simplicity and harmony and who revels in challenge, not achievement." Insider

"David Shields's. . . . sense of postmodern irony is so advanced that I cannot be sure whether or not he is serious." --Robert Lipsyte, The New York Times

“An ideal holiday stocking stuffer!”—Bronx Banter

“Serene reading and a provider of insights into the superstar.”—The Epoch Times


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press (September 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399164103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399164101
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of sixteen books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and I Think You're Totally Wrong (published in January 2015 by Knopf and forthcoming as a film later this year). He has four more books forthcoming over the next fifteen months: Life Is Short--Art Is Shorter (Hawthorne Books), That Thing You Do With Your Mouth (McSweeney's), War Is Beautiful (powerHouse Books), and Other People (Knopf). The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and two NEA fellowships, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Esquire, Yale Review, Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and Believer. His work has been translated into twenty languages.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GBeckwith on October 4, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners, NHK Television, Japan's equivalent to PBS, in an unprecedented move, negotiated to broadcast not a few, as is the norm, but ALL of the Mariners games in 2001. (Even Hideo Nomo, a local hero in his own right, who went to the LA Dodgers, didn't receive this much broadcast coverage.) Now the two most watched baseball teams in the Land of the Rising Sun are the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and the Seattle Mariners.
As a long-time resident of Japan I have watched Ichiro make behind-the-back catches since he was in high school. I was amazed when, during one of the All-Star games (they play a series), Ichiro shifted from the outfield to the pitchers' mound and threw like he did such a thing every day.
While friends and I attend a few games a season, I'm just not a big baseball fan...until Ichiro plays on TV. After-work cocktails with "the boys" more often than not starts with someone asking, "Did you see what Ichiro did today?" Expletive-deleted comments are usually centered around "unbelievable!" Now these sessions include "Baseball is Just Baseball".
Ichiro is a hero to all of us here in Japan and this book shows, beyond the remarkable playing skills, why. In a time when big bats are usually accompanied by big mouths, Ichiro shows the world that it just doesn't have to be that way.
Great reading and here's hoping David Shields can put out a new volume every year.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brett R. Winn on August 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have never been a 'die-hard' baseball fan till this year when Ichiro stepped up to the plate. He put the fun back into baseball. Thanks to David Shields we now have an idea of just how much fun Ichiro is having as a baseball player. This book of Ichiro's quotes on baseball- from lighthearted and whimsical to thought-provoking words of wisdom- can be applied to our everyday life. This is a must-have book for any baseball fan. You'll want to share this one with your friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hunter B. Williams on November 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a terrific way to find out about the inscrutable superstar! His batting average is matched by his efficiency with language. Even my 3-year old son enjoys the short quips in this book.
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By A Customer on July 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book, especially for Mariner fans, was a nice look at one of Seattle's most loved baseball players. The book holds a nice variety of quotes from various newspapers from the East coast to Japan. By reading this amusing and highly enjoyable book, the reader is able to learn a number of different things about Ichiro, such as his success in Japan to his struggles (not many, but some) in spring training. A nice touch to these quotes is that each time Ichiro speaks, his words are put in italics. This book portrays Ichiro as who he is: a man here to play baseball.
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