Seattle is a great place to visit. Some of the sights of interest include the Space Needle, the downtown waterfront, the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, Pike Place Market, the Ballard Locks, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and many other exciting sights. Many of these sights are free and the rest are very inexpensive.
Of course, this leads me to the baseball sight of Safeco Field. Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners is in downtown Seattle and on the same street as the CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks. This gives one the opportunity to visit both fields on the same day. Due to my brief stay I toured only Safeco Field.
The naming rights for Safeco Field was purchased by the Safeco Insurance Company for a period of 20 years for $40 million dollars. The first game played there was on July 15, 1999.
It was on my tour of Safeco that I discovered the man called Hutch, Fred Hutchinson, and why the people of Seattle consider him the greatest sports hero in Seattle history. My previous blog tells the story of Hutch. In this blog, I want to talk about how the paths of Ichiro Suzuki and George Sisler’s family crossed at Safeco Field and later in St. Louis.
George Sisler, a Hall of Famer, died on March 26, 1973. Sisler played for the AL St. Louis Browns 1915-1927 and retired in 1930. His career was marked by a lifetime .340 batting average. He batted over .400 twice, .407 in 1920 and .420 in 1922, and was named the AL MVP in 1922. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1939.
Ichiro Suzuki played for the Seattle Mariners 2001-2012. In 2001 Suzuki was named both the AL Rookie of the Year and AL Most Valuable Player. The only other player to accomplish both these feats in the same year was Fred Lynn. This would make a good trivia question. Suzuki is still active and I believe a future Hall of Famer.
It was in October, 2004 when Suzuki at Safeco Field broke George Sisler’s season hit record of 257, set in 1920. Sisler set the hits record over a 154-game schedule. Suzuki broke it in the Mariners’ 160th game of the year. Fireworks exploded after Suzuki’s big hit reached the outfield, creating a haze over Safeco Field, and his teammates mobbed him at first base. With the fans still cheering, Suzuki ran over to the first-base seats and shook hands with Sisler’s 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman, and other members of the Hall of Famer’s family. Sisler’s descendants had traveled to Seattle to witness Ichiro break the record set in 1920. “My father would have been delighted,” Drochelman said moments later. “He would be so happy to know such a fine young man was doing so well.”
We fast forward ahead to the 2009 All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, Ichiro Suzuki paid his respects to George Sisler by visiting his grave. Ichiro, accompanied by his wife, Yumiko, and some friends, laid flowers at Sisler’s grave, at Des Peres Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Suzuki later explained that this was a way of repaying the Sisler family for coming to Seattle to see him break the record that was set in 1920. “I wanted to do that for a grand upperclassman of the baseball world,” Ichiro told MLB.com. “I think it’s only natural for someone to want to do that, to express my feelings in that way.” “There’s not many chances to come to St. Louis,” Ichiro said, according to the Seattle Times. “In 2004, it was the first time I crossed paths with him, and his family generously came all the way to Seattle.”
In 2004, Ichiro Suzuki finished the year with a batting average of .372 and the all-time hits record of 262. Yes, Ichiro Suzuki is a credit to both American and Japanese Baseball.