David Ishii, Seattle Bookseller (1935-2012)
These days it seems I hear the news via Facebook more than any other source. The other day it was Jim Walsh's post (and then everybody's posts) about the death of Davy Jones. Yesterday it was Knute Berger with the sad news of the death of David Ishii, a long-time used bookseller in Pioneer Square, whom I interviewed for The Grand Salami, an alternative Mariners program, in the summer of 1998.
The interview is below.
Name: David Ishii
Birthdate: April 16, 1935 in Seattle, WA.
Evacuated: along with other Japanese-Americans to the Midwest during World War II. Although technically allowed to return in 1945, Ishii's mother kept the family in Milwaukee until the summer of 1948.
Owner: since 1972, of David Ishii Bookseller in Pioneer Square, where baseball memorabilia hangs from the walls and autographed baseballs sit on a shelf above the cash register.
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What are your earliest baseball memories?
When I was in high school the Seattle Rainiers won the Pacific Coast League pennant. That was really fun. Every morning in the PI they'd have a drawing of a little man. If he was smiling, the Rainiers won; and if the Rainiers lost he was sad.
I learned how to score when the Pilots came to Seattle in 1969. I wrote in to KVI—they had two-sheet instructions on how to score—and that's when I got into the game. Because to score you have to pay attention. I went to about seventeen games that year and could hardly wait until the next year. But they left town. Even after, I would open up the paper to see how some of the ex-Pilot players, like Tommy Harper, had done.
What do you remember about the early years of the M's?
On days I did not have tickets, I would walk up to the ticket office, buy a ticket, and sit in the third deck, outfield, anyplace, just to see what the game was like from different parts of the Kingdome. That was fun. I remember they had Perry's Perch: Third deck behind homeplate. Very few people bought tickets there. Now it's impossible to get a ticket there. Impossible.
Do you have a favorite Mariner moment?
During the George Argyros days when the Yankees came to Seattle and Tom Paciorek hit two game-winning homeruns on Friday and Saturday night. For the Sunday afternoon game, this big limousine comes in from left field and out pops Paciorek's family. They did it as a surprise for him.
Griffey. I go to as many games as I can mainly to see him play. Because I know that maybe ten or fifteen years down the line, when I'm an old man, I'm going to say, “I saw that play, I saw that play, and I saw that other play he made.”
I saw it when he broke his hand; I saw almost all his basket catches. What a lot of people probably don't realize—in this last catch he made—is that as soon as he caught the ball he turned around and stopped the runner from advancing. That's what made the Willie Mays catch [in the 1954 World Series] so great. Mays was way out there; and as soon as he got the ball, he threw it in so the runner on second couldn't advance. That's what Griffey did.
It was fun to watch him go for eight homeruns in a row; but it's his fielding.
What about non-Mariners? I notice the autographed picture of Lenn Sakata.
[Laughs] He's the first Japanese-American to wear a World Series ring. I met him. A friend of mine, Frank Abe, worked for KIRO, and he called up Lenn Sakata and Sakata says, “Yeah, I've got some family here, come on down.” So we went to a hotel by the airport and met him. I was really surprised. Not a tall man, but, boy, he was strong. His legs, thighs: big.
Let's talk about some of the memorabilia in your store.
Well, this is a ceramic ball. The Lenn Sakata fans—of which there were three of us—we all signed a similar one and gave it to him.
A lot of these are autographed balls. Mac Suzuki. Lou Piniella. Johnny Bench. Griffey.
That's my high school first baseman's glove. When I went to Queen Anne High School, in ... I think it was 1952 when I bought this. After I delivered all the papers on my paper route, a bunch of us would go and play catch. This is a small (glove). See how small it is? I couldn't afford a big one. And it has plastic laces. So it's a cheap mitt. It's a Reach brand mitt.
A friend of mine, Phil Gallagher, he had a big mitt and I was envious of him. But I could still dig 'em out.