by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Being a Mariners fan for the last couple of years has been a matter of feeling sorry for the fans of all other baseball teams. Fans heavily invested in the fate of the M's could then walk about trying not to seem all that superior to the ordinary run of humanity.
This year things are different. There are still superlatively great Mariners in the game, but they are now, alas, playing for New York or Chicago or (get thee behind me Lou!) Tampa Bay.
The real Mariners... but before I tell you about the real Mariners, we pause for this:
Why does Condoleeza Rice have that odd name? Because her parents, Risotto and Sticky, thought that somebody in the family ought to have an elegant name. This insight has been brought to you by Uncle Ben. Now back to the game.
The real Mariners... who are they? Very few of them in this American national sport are actual Americans as we in the U.S.A understand this term. There are Dan Wilson and Bret Boone. At least one, Bobby Madritsch, is a Native American. Most of them, however, are Americans as the atlas understands this term: Dominicans, Venezuelans, Brazilians, Cubans.
And many are Asians. In fact, the only one who has avoided disgrace, Ichiro Suzuki, is Japanese. Last night a new pitcher, the Korean Cha Seung Baek, left after giving up six runs in the second inning.
Ichiro (his last name is almost never used - a practice begun when he was playing ball in his native Japan, where there were too many Suzukis) is far and away the favorite Mariner of most fans, including this one.
And not only because of his skill on the diamond, where he is on track to capture several all-time baseball records, but because of his whole personality.
And his personality, like that of Marcel Marceau and Buster Keaton, must be read almost entirely from his gestures. His English is by now sufficiently improved so that he does not require an interpreter at his side for the ordinary business of the dugout, but he practically never speaks on the air.
A plate appearance by Ichiro begins with a series of gestures and bodily motions as predictable as those of a priest at the altar.
In the on-deck spot, he regularly limbers up with several deep knee bends, his knees pressed closely together. He is, I should add, about the size and weight of an early adolescent weaned on sushi.
Once in the batter's box, he holds the bat in his outstretched right arm perfectly still and perfectly perpendicular to the earth. It is as if he were measuring the proportions of the pitcher.
Just before putting the bat onto his left shoulder, he reaches over with his left hand and plucks at his right sleeve.
This routine is so familiar, and so unmistakably easy to duplicate, that I have seen Little League boys do a perfect Ichiro.
But we pause now for this message from your dentist. We'll be right back.
You should avoid direct sun exposure to things other than your skin.
Smile when the sun shines, but keep your lips together. Jimmy Carter, for instance, suffers from periodic pre-cancerous lesions to his gums.
Now Bobby Madritsch has finished his warmup pitches, and it is a relief to see that he is wearing long sleeves, as demanded by the other team.
The tattoos that cover both of his arms can be as distracting to the batter as if he had set up a totem pole on the mound. Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.