Ichiro played his final Major League game in Tokyo a bunch of hours ago.
Great hitter. Like, great, great hitter. Equally amazing outfield arm. Special player.
Back when I was at Sports Illustrated, Ichiro was tearing up the Majors as a rookie. I was assigned to profile the man for my first cover story, and it was hard. He spoke no English, seemed fairly guarded, used a translator who would take this: “私はあなたの妻に会えてとてもうれしいです、しかしなぜ彼女は洗濯機の中で大きいように見えますか？そして、木々が嘔吐物とスパゲッティの香りがするホテルで、Whitney Houstonの曲を一晩中歌いながら、私とJay Buhnerが裸で踊った時間についてお話ししましたか。オーケー、ディック” …
And tell me this …
“Ichiro says he’s very happy.”
There were two things I remember, however, that were gold.
• Ichiro’s teammates nicknamed him “Itchy Balls.” Which they found uproarious.
• I interviewed Lou Piniella while he was taking a piss, eating a hoagie and smoking a cigarette. Simultaneously.
They can’t take that away from me.