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March 08, 1999
The Lakers' Stat Attack
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March 08, 1999


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The senior Campos, unfazed, joked about his ordeal. "I've warned my wife that if she doesn't treat me as well as they did, I'll go back," he said.

Olympic Champ's Lowlight
Gecko-Roman Wrestling
Russia's Aleksandr Karelin may well be the best wrestler of all time—a winner of eight world championships and three Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling. That's why it was surprising to find him making like Haystack Calhoun on Feb. 21, beating Japanese pro wrestling hero Akira Maeda before a crowd of 17,048 in Yokohama Arena. Karelin, 31, tossed his foe around the ring while Maeda tried to land kicks in the wide-open bout, which dominated weekend sports coverage in Japan. After winning on points, Karelin said he plans to compete in the Greco-Roman world championships in September and try for his fourth gold at next year's Olympics in Sydney. If he succeeds, it's believed he will be the first professional wrestler to go for Olympic gold. He'll surely be the first Olympian to have beaten a guy who once faced Andre the Giant.

Mariners-Japan Exchange
Speedy Suzuki

At first it seemed a typical sight at the Mariners' training camp in Peoria, Ariz. A brash young millionaire stepped onto the field wearing wraparound shades and a backward cap. Ken Griffey Jr.? No, this was Ichiro Suzuki, a five-time batting champ from Japan. Suzuki, 25, and pitchers Nobuyuki Hoshino, 33, and Nobuyuki Ebisu, 26, are practicing in Arizona until March 7 as part of an exchange program between the Mariners and the Orix Blue-Wave in Seattle's sister city of Kobe. Suzuki, an outfielder who's called simply Ichiro in Japan, is a .350 hitter in his seven Pacific League seasons. In 1994 he batted .385, highest ever for a Japanese player. "I have enjoyed seeing players like Ken Griffey Jr. up close and comparing my game to theirs," he said on Sunday through an interpreter. "If it's possible, I want to someday play in the United States."

Ichiro will qualify for free agency after nine seasons in Japan, but Orix could "post" him—make him available to the highest bidder, either in Japan or the U.S.—as soon as next year. His spring training sojourn is viewed in Japan as the BlueWave's attempt to showcase him to big league clubs.

Comparisons to Griffey should be limited to popularity (Suzuki is as famous in Japan as Michael Jordan is here), defense and swagger. A six-foot, 155-pounder, Suzuki lacks Griffey's power. His arm is considered the best in Japan, however, and his speed has impressed the Mariners. "That guy can get after the ball," says Seattle rightfielder Butch Huskey. "From what I've seen, he can track down just about anything."

Despite the language barrier, Griffey and his counterpart often joke around, play catch and run sprints together. "He's a cool guy," says Griffey. "You can tell he has confidence in his ability." Junior has taught Ichiro to touch fists instead of shaking hands with teammates. The Mariners' guest of honor has also picked up some American baseball slang. He says "What's up?" like Griffey, and when asked on Sunday how things were going, Ichiro grinned and said, in English, "Same old s—-, every f——— day."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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