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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

When Winter Never Ends

Great read.

DAY 1: FEB. 4, 2018

“There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord.”
—Musashi Miyamoto (circa 1584-1645), samurai and artist

Ichiro Suzuki steps out of the cold into the small restaurant that serves him dinner most nights. It’s winter in Kobe, Japan, where he once played professional baseball and where he comes during the offseason to train. His wife, Yumiko, is back home in Seattle. He is here alone, free from the untidy bits of domestic life that might break his focus. Every day, he works out in a professional stadium he rents, and then he usually comes to this restaurant, which feels like a country inn transported to the city. It’s tucked away on the fifth floor of a downtown building and accessible by a tiny elevator. Someone on the staff meets Ichiro at the back door so he can slip in unseen. Someone else rushes to take his coat, and Ichiro sits at a small bar with his back to the rest of the diners. Two friends join him. Inside the warm and glowing room, the chef slips on his traditional coat as he greets Ichiro in mock surprise.

“Thanks for coming again,” says the chef, wearing Miami Marlins shorts.

“You guys made me wait outside,” Ichiro jokes.

Ichiro is a meticulous man, held in orbit by patterns and attention to detail. This place specializes in beef tongue, slicing it thin by hand and serving it raw alongside hot cast-iron skillets. They do one thing perfectly, which appeals to Ichiro. Tonight he’s got dark jeans rolled up to the calf, each leg even, and a gray T-shirt under a white button-down with a skinny tie. His hair looks darker than in some recent photos, maybe the lighting, maybe a dye job. Either way, not even a 44-year-old future Hall of Famer is immune from the insecurities and diminishments that come with time. This winter is the most insecure and diminished he’s been.

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 07, 2018 at 01:32 PM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: ichiro, longform, mariners

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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 07, 2018 at 01:34 PM (#5634990)
I couldn't decide whether to use that quote in the summary, or this one:

Ichiro walks through the hotel lobby at exactly the same time as the day before, 11:46 a.m., repeating his routine to the minute. He's a funny self-deprecating guy who often makes light of his own compulsive behaviors, which extend far beyond his baseball-related rituals. He said in a Japanese interview that he once listened to the same song for a month or more. There's enlightenment in obsession, he says, because focus opens perception to many things. It boils life down.

"I'm not normal," he admitted.

He gets stuck in patterns. In the minors, sometimes his 10-minute bedtime swinging ritual stretched to two hours or more. His mind wouldn't let him stop. For years, he only ate his wife's curry before games, day after day. According to a Japanese reporter who's covered him for years, Ichiro now eats udon noodles or toasted bread. He likes the first slice toasted for 2 minutes, 30 seconds, and the second slice toasted for 1 minute, 30 seconds. (He calculates the leftover heat in the toaster.) For a while on the road he ate only cheese pizzas from California Pizza Kitchen. He prefers Jojoen barbecue sauce for his beef. Once Yumiko ran out and mixed the remaining amount with Sankoen brand sauce -- which is basically identical -- and Ichiro immediately noticed. These stories are endless and extend far beyond food. This past September, a Japanese newspaper described how he still organizes his life in five-minute blocks. Deviations can untether him. Retirement remains the biggest deviation of all. Last year, a Miami newspaperman asked what he planned on doing after baseball.

"I think I'll just die," Ichiro said.


I went with the first since it's the start of the story.
   2. The Ghost of Logan Schafer Posted: March 07, 2018 at 01:51 PM (#5634999)
It will be interesting to see the attendance increase in Seattle this season. Fans will go just to see him in pre-game warmups.
Ichiro will never have a farewell tour like Jeter or Big Papi because the LEAGUE will decide when he's through, not Ichiro.
It's really great that the baseball gods allowed this to happen by telling all of those Mariner OFs to get hurt.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 07, 2018 at 01:55 PM (#5635003)
These stories are endless and extend far beyond food. This past September, a Japanese newspaper described how he still organizes his life in five-minute blocks. Deviations can untether him. Retirement remains the biggest deviation of all. Last year, a Miami newspaperman asked what he planned on doing after baseball.

"I think I'll just die," Ichiro said.


This actually sounds like he needs professional help.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 07, 2018 at 01:57 PM (#5635007)
RTFA.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 07, 2018 at 02:52 PM (#5635023)
Sounds like Ichiro could be on the spectrum...
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: March 07, 2018 at 03:35 PM (#5635047)
"He doesn't need to get better at swinging a bat."

yes, yes he does.

overall, though, the article does a better job than most in not confusing obsession with dedication - as most sports stories tend to do. dedication is putting in extra work even though you don't feel compelled to do so.
   7. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 07, 2018 at 06:58 PM (#5635111)
This actually sounds like he needs professional help.


No

Sounds like Ichiro could be on the spectrum...


Probably.

Have you ever known anyone who has achieved to the level of being one of the 20 best(well at his peak) people in the world at their profession? I would imagine most are somewhere on the spectrum. My wife's ex-husband is a one of the top 3 neurosurgeons here and he's on the spectrum. Reasonable guy and all, but definitely unique. A mate of mine has played in symphonies all over the world, amazing muso, but a little over the top. I hear stories from people I know about extraordinarily high achievers and they seem to be all unique in their own way.
I would imagine this is a feature and not necessarily a bug for this level of achievement in a chosen field.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: March 07, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5635119)
I would imagine this is a feature and not necessarily a bug for this level of achievement in a chosen field.


A feature for the career, certainly. A bug for civilian life, maybe.
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 07, 2018 at 07:53 PM (#5635138)
Have you ever known anyone who has achieved to the level of being one of the 20 best(well at his peak) people in the world at their profession?

I can think of two: A book dealer (Larry McMurtry**) and a military writer (Tom Ricks). Subjective, I know.

** More famous as a writer, but not in the top 20 by most measures.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 07, 2018 at 08:24 PM (#5635148)
Have you ever known anyone who has achieved to the level of being one of the 20 best(well at his peak) people in the world at their profession? I would imagine most are somewhere on the spectrum.

I've known 3 Noble Prize winning Economists. None of them seemed to be.
   11. AT-AT at bat@AT&T Posted: March 07, 2018 at 08:24 PM (#5635149)
This is so depressing. I thought Ichiro was a cool dude, with humor and rich Japanese parents.
I wanna die right now !
   12. PreservedFish Posted: March 07, 2018 at 08:27 PM (#5635151)
Have you ever known anyone who has achieved to the level of being one of the 20 best(well at his peak) people in the world at their profession?


I don't think I have. Interesting tangent though.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 07, 2018 at 08:37 PM (#5635153)
I don't know how you would rank social psychology researchers/professors, but a good friend of mine from undergrad is probably in the top 20 if there is such a thing. He's incredibly smart and dedicated to his work, but not on the spectrum at all.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: March 07, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5635162)
"On the spectrum" seems wrong here, unless we're using it in a really casual way to mean something like "seems quirky." I don't think anyone would claim that most high achievers are autistic.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2018 at 09:46 PM (#5635172)
"Spectrum" is tossed around too easily (including by me) but I have had the good fortune to know some folks in the top of their fields (top 20? who knows?) ... and, I'd say nearly all of them have an unhealthy obsession with their work. Unhealthy in at least the social sense and I suspect some in the physical and mental senses as well. Now most of them are more than socially capable enough to network, provide pleasant dinner company, etc. so probably not on the spectrum. But in the office for 10-12 hours a day then home to read journals or write for 4-6 hours. I've known guys in their mid-60s still pulling all-nighters -- and not because they were poor time-managers but because they were still trying to publish 6 papers a year and submit grant proposals and serve on boards and stay at the front of their discipline.

And I don't think any of them would have had it any other way. Obsession or love or dedication -- call it what you want, they had it and seemed to have little control over their behavior but seemed happy in their way. But you work 16 hours a day and never take a break from your specialty and social relations pretty much have to suffer. Lots of divorces (and many not but very patient spouses), probably even more people with strained relations with their kids, seemingly very few friends (but broad professional networks).

The best balance I saw was probably from a super-couple. She probably was top 20 or close, he probably got there. In the years I knew them, they did stick well to a pattern where he had the kids from 3 onwards on Mon/Wed and she had them Tues/Thurs and he came in on Sat and she came in on Sun. (I wonder how the kids turned out.) But I'd guess they managed to hold it to about 60 hours a week most of the time. But then she was the sort of person who, advising her first year females students, had no shyness about telling women she'd just met when they should plan their pregnancies.

There's a big difference with athletes though. A high-flying academic or business-person or politician or whatever is an adult when their obsession takes hold. No doubt they were highly dedicated students in their teens and started getting the bug for their discipline in college and put lots of hours in but they got to make "responsible" "informed" decisions about their careers and lives. To be a top athlete, you've got to start playing basketball 10 hours a day when you're 12. And you've got no fall back position if you aren't good enough.
   16. Jose Canusee Posted: March 07, 2018 at 09:59 PM (#5635178)
Big Papi's next job: Host of a reality TV show hunting former players called "Where in the World is Ichiro Lincecum?
   17. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5635527)
"Spectrum" is tossed around too easily (including by me) but I have had the good fortune to know some folks in the top of their fields (top 20? who knows?) ... and, I'd say nearly all of them have an unhealthy obsession with their work. Unhealthy in at least the social sense and I suspect some in the physical and mental senses as well. Now most of them are more than socially capable enough to network, provide pleasant dinner company, etc. so probably not on the spectrum. But in the office for 10-12 hours a day then home to read journals or write for 4-6 hours. I've known guys in their mid-60s still pulling all-nighters -- and not because they were poor time-managers but because they were still trying to publish 6 papers a year and submit grant proposals and serve on boards and stay at the front of their discipline.


I have reported directly to two different people who have been on the Forbes 400 list. Being wealthy =/= being great in the field, but they were up there. Both were incredibly obsessive, one needing to micro manage the smallest detail and the other needing to spend every waking hour (except those when he was ... er ... fraternizing with the distaff members of the staff) trying to think of new ways to monetize areas in his industry. Because their roles in business required no small amount of socializing and networking, they were moderately comfortable with others, but what they really wanted to do was earn more money. The first would bring boiled eggs from home every morning and took the salt shaker from the restaurant in the high rise office; the latter had a concessionaire pay him for the privilege of being the coffee service in the corporate offices.

There's a big difference with athletes though. A high-flying academic or business-person or politician or whatever is an adult when their obsession takes hold. No doubt they were highly dedicated students in their teens and started getting the bug for their discipline in college and put lots of hours in but they got to make "responsible" "informed" decisions about their careers and lives. To be a top athlete, you've got to start playing basketball 10 hours a day when you're 12. And you've got no fall back position if you aren't good enough.


Back in the 1990s, I represented a then MLB all star in issues relating to his divorce. He was once in the top 10 in WAR and has a bunch of black and grey ink. I probably wouldn't suggest(*) that he was one of the 20 best in the world, but was reasonably close. I can't say I spent a lot of time with him, but he seemed reasonably well adjusted and had baseball in a decent context with the rest of his life. I also had the opportunity in a different case to be co-counsel with an attorney who, in the 1960s, had played for the Senators and Tigers; he had completely moved on and treated his playing days as nothing more than you and I would talk about things that happened in college.

(*)Well, in the legal pleadings, I did emphasize that he was a tremendously great player. One of the allegations by the wife was that he had fraudulently told her that since his contract had ended he had no expected future income; I pointed out that he was 31 years old and was so great that he had just lead his league in hits so obviously no one could possibly have relied on the statement.
   18. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5635539)
Too late to edit, but in looking up details of the former ballplayer turned attorney, I noticed that BB-ref now has burial information listed. I'm betting Alan is the only former MLB player to be in B'nai Jeshurun Jewish Cemetery, Demopolis, AL.

Useless anecdote. Alan played with Don Zimmer while on the Senators. Apparently the Gerbil would hide in airplane overhead luggage compartments and jump out to scare fellow travelers and flight attendants.
   19. GregD Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:14 PM (#5635540)
Enjoying this thought experiment. Like lots of people in my field, I know well 2-3 people who are clearly among the most-important historians alive. And some others who have won MacArthurs and so on. I would not say any of them are really obsessive in quite this way. They are disciplined; they produce. But they also can turn off. In fact it is some of the people below their level who are the kind of single-minded obsessive we are talking about.

That could mean:

1) The people I know now were that way before their status and then relaxed

or

2) In fields where long-form writing is the measure, there are aspects of sociability and outside interests that help you figure out how to write in a way that other people can understand. There may be a basic difference between fields where the geniuses can only talk to 5 people and those where the geniuses by definition have to be able to communicate at least to thousands.
   20. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5635541)
I'm betting Alan is the only former MLB player to be in B'nai Jeshurun Jewish Cemetery, Demopolis, AL.


I see he attended Auburn University. War Damn Eagle!
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:30 PM (#5635549)
Back in the 1990s, I represented a then MLB all star in issues relating to his divorce. He was once in the top 10 in WAR and has a bunch of black and grey ink. I probably wouldn't suggest(*) that he was one of the 20 best in the world, but was reasonably close. I can't say I spent a lot of time with him, but he seemed reasonably well adjusted and had baseball in a decent context with the rest of his life. I also had the opportunity in a different case to be co-counsel with an attorney who, in the 1960s, had played for the Senators and Tigers; he had completely moved on and treated his playing days as nothing more than you and I would talk about things that happened in college.


Did he show you his MVP award?

   22. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:33 PM (#5635551)
I see he attended Auburn University. War Damn Eagle!


Much better sleuthing work than I would expect for someone from the plains. And each word was correctly spelled. Well done, Aubie, well done.

Did he show you his MVP award?


Do folks who get enough token votes to finish in the top 20 get a sliver of the trophy?

At one of the games when he got me comp tickets, I sat next to the wife of another player who was wearing a miniature version of a world series ring on her necklace.
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:39 PM (#5635555)
Do folks who get enough token votes to finish in the top 20 get a sliver of the trophy?


TP seemed to be the only guy who fit all your categories.

   24. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:40 PM (#5635557)
Apparently the Gerbil would hide in airplane overhead luggage compartments and jump out to scare fellow travelers and flight attendants.


This does not surprise me in the least.
   25. Batman Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:47 PM (#5635562)
#18 got me looking through bb-ref's burial location information. The only player listed as being buried in France is Eddie Grant, who was hit by a shell in the Argonne Forest a few weeks before the end of WWI. A highway in the Bronx is named after him.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: March 08, 2018 at 02:49 PM (#5635566)

#18 got me looking through bb-ref's burial location information. The only player listed as being buried in France is Eddie Grant, who was hit by a shell in the Argonne Forest a few weeks before the end of WWI. A highway in the Bronx is named after him.



I hope they call it Electric Avenue.
   27. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 03:25 PM (#5635599)
Ahh, heck the divorce case was never sealed and the part I worked on is all public record ...

TP seemed to be the only guy who fit all your categories.


Nope, but One Dog briefly was Terry's teammate. Ex claimed that, coming off a year when he lead the AL in hits and was top ten in runs and steals, he said he wouldn't be able to get a contract and she relied on the statement in signing the consent decree. Ex also claimed that he delayed signing his FA contact until after the decree was executed, but he actually signed during the first week of the open free agency period which starts shortly after the World Series. It was the only time in my professional career that being a baseball obsessed nut has helped.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: March 08, 2018 at 03:39 PM (#5635611)

Nope, but One Dog briefly was Terry's teammate.


I obviously saw him, but he was 32 by the time he was a hit king.

Nails and Luis Gonzalez were also candidates, but Dykstra appeared to be in the middle of a deal, and it doesn't appear Gonzalez has ever been divorced.
   29. Batman Posted: March 08, 2018 at 03:54 PM (#5635619)
According to an appellate decision from that divorce, the wife "alleged in her motion that when they were negotiating the divorce agreement, the husband 'took the position' that he was no longer employed as a professional baseball player and that he had no future prospects of employment as a professional baseball player."  

The divorce judgment was on December 8, 1995, coming off the season when he led the AL in hits. He'd been granted free agency a month before the judgment and didn't sign with the Mets until a few days after. I guess he was technically unemployed.
   30. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 04:10 PM (#5635625)
I obviously saw him, but he was 32 by the time he was a hit king.


He lead the AL the year before at 31, then the NL the next year at 32. I think my only reference to 20s was whether he was one of the top 20 players in the game.

According to an appellate decision from that divorce ...


After more than 20 years, I'm glad my memory of the allegations are correct. We lost at the intermediate appellate court, won at the state supreme court, then weren't involved when it went back to the trial level for further consideration.

   31. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: March 08, 2018 at 04:12 PM (#5635628)
I'm betting Alan is the only former MLB player to be in B'nai Jeshurun Jewish Cemetery, Demopolis, AL.


Rather surprised to see Demopolis has a Jewish cemetery. I know it as the last outpost of quasi-civilization en route to Arkansas from here; it makes Selma look like a bustling metropolis. Though Uniontown makes Demopolis seem like a bustling metropolis, come to think of it.
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 08, 2018 at 04:46 PM (#5635643)
Though Uniontown makes Demopolis seem like a bustling metropolis, come to think of it.
What would a place called Demopolis possibly be other than a city full of people?
   33. Zach Posted: March 08, 2018 at 05:45 PM (#5635663)
Ichiro doesn't seem like an Aspergers case so much as someone who is borderline OCD.

I've known a few Nobel laureates, plus a few MacArthur winners. None of them stood out to me as being Aspergers cases -- just very dedicated to their jobs, with better than average results.

It's hard to be a big time experimentalist without the ability to attract and manage the large group of grad students and postdocs who actually perform the experiments.
   34. dlf Posted: March 08, 2018 at 05:50 PM (#5635666)
Rather surprised to see Demopolis has a Jewish cemetery. I know it as the last outpost of quasi-civilization en route to Arkansas from here; it makes Selma look like a bustling metropolis.


If you want tiny, next time you are heading that way on Hwy 80, stop at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill maybe 15-20 minutes outside of Demopolis. I'm not sure which has a greater number: regular posters at BBTF or Faunsdale, AL, but it's got a great little bar.
   35. The Honorable Ardo Posted: March 08, 2018 at 06:28 PM (#5635672)
I thought that long-form sports writing was decaying; not so. Frank Deford or Gay Talese would be proud of this piece.
   36. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: March 08, 2018 at 07:27 PM (#5635683)
I thought that long-form sports writing was decaying; not so. Frank Deford or Gay Talese would be proud of this piece.


Co-sign.
   37. Howie Menckel Posted: March 08, 2018 at 08:00 PM (#5635688)
Thompson has been known as a major talent for these for a decade or so.

If he has the right editor, his takeouts absolutely sing. if not, the reader falls down a rabbit hole and never escapes. I can tell because I have seen many examples of each. of course there are many creative people in that box - all they need is the right partner.
   38. AT-AT at bat@AT&T Posted: March 08, 2018 at 09:04 PM (#5635722)
Big Papi's next job: Host of a reality TV show hunting former players called "Where in the World is Ichiro Lincecum?


My laptop monitor is ruined. too much lolcecum !
   39. Howie Menckel Posted: March 08, 2018 at 11:54 PM (#5635804)
The Golf Channel has been replaying "Seve: The Movie" from 2014 of late.

this is the story of Severiano Ballesteros from Spain, who became a magnificent professional golfers (3 British Open wins, 2 Masters wins) and with a charisma in the Arnold Palmer ballpark (if that ballpark even fits anyone else).

similar drive - had zero interest in anything else in life as a youngster. the difference is that his father didn't demand that interest, which is important. he claimed it himself. it matters.

might be worth it even if you don't follow golf, if a hyperfocused drive for excellence is what intrigues.

the player compared to him in this era is Phil Mickelson, in terms of seeing the playing field - in this case a golf course - in a way that others don't/can't.
   40. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 12, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5637086)
I thought that long-form sports writing was decaying; not so. Frank Deford or Gay Talese would be proud of this piece.


Wright Thompson is an excellent writer, but everything he writes is so damn melancholy.

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