New Ichiro feature
Ol’ Les Carpenter sure is mining familiar ground in his new gig at the Washington Post. First, Lou Piniella; now a feature on Ichiro. And it’s a good one, covering familiar ground well and opening up some new windows into the world around him.
But only the world around him.
Colleagues know how little Ichiro likes to reveal personal details about himself, so they just don’t. That, in itself, is revealing. They won’t even talk about the stuff that would make for great public relations.
“I can’t say anything about this because Ichiro wouldn’t want me to, but he does extraordinary things, extraordinarily private things philanthropically,” [Howard] Schultz says.
Indeed, Bob Melvin comes off like he’s worried about finding an ahi tuna head in his bed if he says the wrong word:
After discussing Ichiro a few weeks ago in the visitor’s office at RFK Stadium, his former manager in Seattle, Bob Melvin, grows quiet. “I don’t think I said anything that he wouldn’t like, but if you think I did could you please make sure to leave it out,” he says.
Personally, I think that not touting one’s charitable giving is a very classy thing to do. Plus, how about foregoing the near-total salary of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in pander funds every year? According to Carpenter, “Ichiro’s agent, Tony Attanasio … figures the 31-year-old Ichiro turns down close to $30 million to $35 million in endorsements each year.”
This doesn’t surprise me. In a climate where many choose ducats over dignity, Ichiro’s never been like that. Even if western stars take advantage of the Japanese market to make decorum-impaired advertising, it’s not something to expect from baseball’s most private superstar.
When I think of Ichiro, I think of Joe DiMaggio, and not because of the hitting streak. I think of all the mystique surrounding the Yankee Clipper, a man focused on playing the game precisely — also a man who wouldn’t let himself be embarassed by wild tales in the media, guarding his privacy jealously even after he married Marilyn Monroe.
The analogy isn’t perfect at all: the Clipper wasn’t playing in a foreign country, after all. But there’s a common undercurrent there. Common to them, rare to us.