July 10, 2001
Safeco Field, Seattle
American League 4, National League 1
Over the All-Star break we’ll look at Ichiro’s performance in each of the last ten All-Star Games — a streak that began ten years ago today, on July 10, 2001, and sadly ends on Tuesday.
In the summer of 2001, All-Star host city Seattle was in a complete baseball frenzy. The Mariners entered the All-Star break with a blistering 63-24 record, on their way to a record-tying 116-win season, and Safeco Field was on its way to drawing a franchise-record 3.5 million fans. Among the eight Mariners selected to play in the game was red-hot rookie Ichiro, the Majors’ first-ever Japanese position player. Ichiro was handily shattering the notion that a Japanese player couldn’t hack it in the bigs, entering the game batting .347 with 134 hits.
Ichiromania was in full swing. The charismatic star earned a then-record 3,373,035 All-Star votes, merchandise bearing his likeness was in sky-high demand, and he was the focus of international media attention throughout the All-Star festivities. The nationally televised contest essentially served as his American coming-out party.
Ichiro lead off the bottom of the first with a sharp grounder to first baseman Todd Helton, who tossed it to N.L. starter Randy Johnson, racing toward the bag. Ichiro outran the Mariners’ former #51 for an infield single, as seen on the June 10 Baseball Card of the Week…
Ichiro then stole second. He later grounded out in the third, and again in the fifth. He played five innings in the outfield, starting in center and then shifting to right in the fourth.
I would’ve loved to have gone to the game, but tickets were far beyond my budget. However, I was lucky enough to go to the ’79 game at the Kingdome, which I wrote about for the Seattle Weekly — I’ve since reconsidered that last line.
Anyway, I did sorta catch the first few innings of action from the top floor of a parking garage across the street from Safeco’s centerfield stands, and then I watched the rest of the game on TV in the nearby Pyramid Brewery beer garden. Afterwards I saw Barry Bonds and some other players in the Sheraton lobby, then I went home and wrote this Onion-esqe article, Riots Shut Down All-Star Game, containing this silly, made-up quote:
“I very much frowning at dishonorable conflict” said Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. “Thank you.”
Read more about the 2001 All-Star Game here.