ESPN anchor has it all wrong about Ichiro not speaking English

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Mike Oz
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Ichiro cemented his legacy as one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen on Sunday, collecting his 3,000th hit in Major League Baseball, making him just the 30th player to do so.

It would seem hard to find something negative to say about Ichiro, a player who is universally beloved within the game, a true craftsman at what he does and, at age 42, still performing quite well.

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To give you an example of what kind of player Ichiro is: Derek Jeter wrote a gushing piece at The Player’s Tribune about Ichiro that included a nugget about Ichiro still taking BP at Yankee Stadium a few days after Jeter’s final season had ended. Jeter was cleaning out his locker. Other players were on vacation. Ichiro was in the cage.

But if you’re *looking* for someone to disparage Ichiro, there’s always Twitter, home of the half-cocked hot takes. That brings us to Todd Grisham, who is one of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” anchors, and whose reaction to Ichiro reaching 3,000 hits was this woefully uninformed opinion:

Todd Grisham's now-deleted tweet. (@GrishamESPN)
Todd Grisham's now-deleted tweet. (@GrishamESPN)

Argh. That’s something you’d expect from John Rocker, not an ESPN anchor.

First off, ignorance aside, it’s not like Grisham just noticed this, so he tweeted it specifically to be a contrarian to all the Ichiro praise. Second, it’s not even close to true. Ichiro speaks English just fine — as is well documented and easily discovered with a basic Internet search — he just chooses to conduct interviews in Japanese with a translator. Like he is with a bat, Ichiro is also a perfectionist with his words. He doesn’t want to be misunderstood.

Numerous people alerted Grisham to his mistake and he apologized. He eventually deleted the original tweet too.

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But let’s use Grisham’s mistake as an opportunity to inform anyone else who sees Ichiro on TV speaking through an interpreter and thinks he simply doesn’t know English. He speaks English to his fellow players on the field and in the clubhouse. Heck, he even learned enough Spanish so he could talk to Latin player (although, he mostly uses it to talk trash).

Not only does Ichiro know English, he knows how to curse up a storm in English. Jeff Passan wrote in 2008 about Ichiro’s profanity-laced All-Star game pep talks that became a tradition on the AL team.

He pointed to Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners’ wisp of an outfielder, a man who still uses a translator to do interviews with English-speaking reporters – and happens to be baseball’s amalgam of Anthony Robbins and George Carlin. Every year, after the AL manager addresses his team, Ichiro bursts from his locker, a bundle of kinetic energy, and proceeds, in English, to disparage the National League with an H-bomb of F-bombs, stunning first-timers who had no idea Ichiro speaks the queen’s language fluently and making returnees happy that they had played well enough to see the pep talk again.

And if you’ve never seen this, it’s an Ichiro jewel. In a 2007 interview with Bob Costas, Ichiro shared his favorite American expression and it’s a doozy. Warning: the language here is NSFW. (But sincerely, it’s worth watching for Costas’ reaction alone)

See? Let it never be said Ichiro doesn’t know English. In fact, he knows enough to F-bomb anybody who would lob a “Speak English!” insult his way. Of course, Ichiro would never do that. He’s far too respectful.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!