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  • Ethan Semendinger

Should There Be An “Ichiro Suzuki” Day in the MLB?

Following Roberto Clemente Day, we look at another player in more modern MLB history who may be deserving of a day in his honor.

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After Roberto Clemente Day occurred around the MLB last week, Ethan today points to another special baseball player who also had to break barriers to get into the MLB, while paving a path for fellow players of his background.


Let’s have the MLB celebrate “Ichiro Suzuki Day”!


Note: We originally published this article on September 20th, 2021

 

Setting the Stage:

How does somebody get a day across the MLB in their honor? First of all we need to see what players have been given this honor. In the 2021 season, the MLB has had three days that were dedicated to a player in history. On April 21st there was Jackie Robinson Day, on June 2nd was Lou Gehrig Day, and on September 15th was Roberto Clemente Day.


It’s very hard to find 3 better players who are as transcendent of the sport of baseball. Especially when we consider what each of these men had to go through during their playing careers. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and was instrumental in desegregating baseball and was a true professional even while having to endure rampant racism. Lou Gehrig was a stalwart and an everyday workhorse (or Iron Horse if you will) and was batting ALS. Roberto Clemente faced very similar challenges to Jackie Robinson as he was the first prominent Latin-American in the MLB, all while being a large proponent of humanitarianism.

Each of those three men are legends of baseball. Each of those three men deserve to be remembered by the MLB for years to come. However, the big question comes with if any other players may also be deserving of the same honor.


And, thus the way that I see it a few different requirements need to be met:

  1. They were a hallmark player of their generation and a surefire Hall of Famer on the field

  2. They persevered through adversity during their playing career

  3. They are transcendent beyond the game of baseball and the MLB

Now, if these are the 3 requirements we can surely develop a list that includes many more players. Today I’m going to make the case for Ichiro Suzuki.

 

The case for ichiro:

Does Ichiro Suzuki’s name hold the same merit as a Robinson, Gehrig, or Clemente? I do think a solid case can be made that he was a very similar player in the current generation of the MLB. To support this, let’s go point-by-point from above:

  1. They were a hallmark player of their generation and a surefire Hall of Famer on the field

To say Ichiro was one of the most beloved players of the 2000’s and 2010’s is nearly an understatement. In an era dominated by the home run and steroids, Ichiro continued to play the game he knew best: small ball. Ichiro was a defining player who stood out because of his speed, his glove, and his contact-over-power approach at the plate. He gave everything he could on the field and he become a league-wide fan favorite nearly as soon as he made his MLB debut.


He was the Rookie of the Year and MVP in 2001, had 200 hits in 10 straight seasons with 10 straight gold glove awards and 10 All-Star appearances from 2001-2010, set the MLB record for hits in a season with 262 in 2004, collected over 3000 hits in his career. His Hall-of-Fame case is written and awaiting 2025 when he will get in on the first ballot.

Ichiro easily meets this first requirement.


2. They persevered through adversity during their playing career


Now, a large part of the idea behind a future Ichiro Suzuki day would be because of his being a Japanese-born baseball player. Though he was not the first Asian or Japanese-born player in the MLB, Ichiro was easily the best player and the most prominent of the names who came before him. Ichiro was also the first non-pitcher Asian player in the MLB. His early career he had the weight of having to prove that the NPB could produce legitimate hitters and showcase that there was (and is) hitting talent in the Far East.


Is that enough to be comparable to breaking the color barrier for African-Americans or Latin-Americans? Arguably, Ichiro’s break into the MLB opened the doors for future Asian talent like Hideki Matsui, Shohei Ohtani, and Shin-Soo Choo.


(Note: This is not to discredit the work of Hideo Nomo and the many other Asian pitchers who came over before Ichiro.)


3. They are transcendent beyond the game of baseball and the MLB


In Japan, Ichiro Suzuki is a legend and nearly god-like. In the USA, Ichiro Suzuki is merely a modern day all-time great. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ichiro did really progress to a level of famous and known outside of the baseball world in the USA.


Ultimately, I think this is where Ichiro’s case ends. (In addition to not fulfilling the other unwritten requirement of being deceased.)


Did Ichiro (and Nomo, and others) have to break into a sport, essentially on their own, and prove that they and the people they represent are players worthy to be in the MLB? 100% yes.

However, while Ichiro Suzuki was an all-time baseball player, I can’t say that an “Ichiro Suzuki” day is necessary or needed in baseball.

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