Shigeki Sumitani and Siki
Saturday, January 10, 2004 
By Woody Woodburn

It's hard to feel sad about Rose's thorny situation

Here's my two-cents worth on Pete Rose: I'm not going to waste $24.95 on his lie-all book "My Prison Without Bars", nor waste 24 column inches on Charlie Hustle's latest hustle.

I will, however, share a quick memory that pretty much sums up Rose in my mind. It occurred about 15 years ago at a winter stove banquet he was attending in Santa Maria. A young boy, surely no older than 11 or 12, nervously and excitedly approached Rose and asked the then-surefire-future Hall of Famer to autograph a baseball.

"You got 20 bucks?" Rose asked.

The kid shook his head while still holding out his baseball and pen.

"Too bad," Rose snarled coldly and turned away. Now. Poor Pete feels like people are coldly turning their backs on him even after he admitted -- contrary to what he had insisted for the last 14 years -- that he bet on baseball. He says it's not fair that his confession -- for which he was paid handsomely, by the way -- may not magically open the doors to the Hall of Fame for him.

To which the reply here is: Too bad.

Sparky Anderson, Rose's former manager with the Cincinnati Reds, once said: "Losing a baseball game ain't a tragedy. Having a bad year ain't a tragedy. Those things are disappointments, not tragedies. Somebody having cancer, that's a tragedy. But not losing a ballgame."

To which I add: Peter Edward Rose, baseball's all-time hit king, losing out from getting into Baseball's Hall of Fame ain't a tragedy.

Shigeki Sumitani battling cancer for four years before dying a week ago at age 10, that's a tragedy.

Sumitani, from Japan, was Mike and Bob Bryan's biggest fan.  Unlike Rose, when the Bryan brothers were asked for a free autograph, they did not turn a cold shoulder.  Instead, the world's No. 1-ranked doubles team happily signed a tennis ball and hat and even gave the boy one of the shirts they wore while winning their first Grand Slam title at last year's French Open.

Instead of sarcastically asking for 20 bucks, the Bryans asked what else they could do.  When they learned that Shigeki's father had bought autographed, match-used rackets of his son's other two favorite players -- Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi -- on eBay, only to receive two cheap imitation rackets that were not signed, the Bryans autographed one of the rackets they used in the French Open final and sent it to him.

A small thing?


But not to Sumitani.  To him it meant the world.  To give you an idea, he passed away while wearing their Adidas shirt from the French Open, with the racket from that same tournament at his side, while listening to the "Five-Setter" music CD the Bryan Brothers Band recently made.

An only child, Sumitani used to tell his father he dearly wished he had a brother.

He got the next best thing: two surrogate brothers.

"Having the Bryans as his 'older brothers' made him happy," said the boy's father.

And happiness had been chased away a long time ago.  Sumitani's mother died at age 30 of a heart attack when her son was 6 years old, and then came the cancer that grew worse and worse.

Rose feels he's living in a prison without bars, but that's a Club Med compared to Sumitani's prison with needles and IVs and around-the-clock pain.

"At the end, he knew his time was short," said the elder Sumitani, who finds himself eating little and sleeping even less right now.  "His treatments were very hard on him. Frequently he had attacks of severe pain.  Sometimes he couldn't sleep. Sometimes he made complaints, but he did his best."

So did the Bryans.  They did their best.  They sent Sumitani shoes and CDs and e-mails.  Most importantly, they sent him not a sarcastic message of "too bad," but rather the knowledge that "we care."

"We were saddened to learn of Shigeki's death," Mike said.

Added Bob:  "He was a wonderful and courageous boy.  We will always remember Shigeki."

This week in their first Tour tournament of the season in Adelaide, Australia, the Bryans have written "Shigeki" on their shoes for all their matches in honor of this wonderful, courageous and unforgettable boy.  In fact, like Babe Ruth promising a home run for a boy in a hospital, they have vowed to win the event for their late, great fan.

As for Pete Rose complaining he may never get a plaque in Cooperstown . . .

Too bad.


Fan Encounters

In Memory Of Siki, 2007
Siki was a very wonderful young girl from Japan who has spent the past year in a hospital.  She was a friend of the late Shigeki and she was a big fan of Mike & Bob and she wrote to them often.  And they sent her pictures, posters, rackets and the DVD, which she said she watched to give her strength.  And she followed their matches on her computer screen when they played.
Bob and Mike wrote:  "Siki inspired all the Bryans and we are all so saddened by her passing and we will miss her.  We will dedicate all our matches in 2008 to Siki and her memory.  Below is her favorite poem she sent us a few months ago . . . . ."

A thousand winds

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
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