New Ichiro feature

Jeff · May 24, 2005 at 9:21 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


11 Responses to “New Ichiro feature”

  1. Nikku on May 24th, 2005 9:38 am

    He does advertise a few things in Japan, although it seems like nothing compared with Matsui.

  2. Dave in Palo Alto on May 24th, 2005 10:25 am

    Jeff, I would stay away from the Clipper comparison. Per Cramer’s study, DiMaggio was a surly misanthrope. Obviously I don’t know Ichiro, but he seems thoughtful, liked by his teammates, a good guy. DiMaggio was a creep.

  3. Jeff on May 24th, 2005 10:41 am

    Yeah, obviously there are real limits to the comparison. I was just thinking in terms of public image control.

  4. teacherrefpoet on May 24th, 2005 11:15 am

    Don’t know about the comparison, but I know this: my 66-year-old father, a couple of years ago, calmly announced that Ichiro had become his favorite ballplayer of all time–replacing DiMaggio. That impressed me more than anything Ichiro has done on the field–because if you know my dad, you know how difficult a task it was to replace Joltin’ Joe. Clearly, there’s something of DiMaggio in Ichiro’s play.

  5. Tommy Kim on May 24th, 2005 11:50 am

    Not to nitpick, but I think a better comparison would be Sandy Koufax — a very private individual who has shunned the public limelight (a friend recently asked, “is he still alive?”) and went about his craft methodically. I certainly wouldn’t call DiMaggio a corporate whore but as a thirty-something, my first memory of the Yankee Clipper was as the spokesperson for Sanka coffee.

  6. bagchucker on May 24th, 2005 12:15 pm

    Mr. Coffee, purveyor of kitchen appliances to the masses. Such decorum! Mr. Monroe, husband to the stars. Such dignity!

  7. Jim Thomsen on May 24th, 2005 12:52 pm

    If Ichiro ever utters the following words:

    — “90 days same as cash”
    — “Gutter Helmet”
    — “Your Friendly Farmers Review”
    — “Zero percent APR financing”
    — “Yami yogurt”
    — “Oreck vacuum cleaners”
    — “Brooks McKnight Chevrolet, on Bellevue’s Auto Row”

    I may become so depressed that it will be difficult to go on living.

  8. Jeremy on May 24th, 2005 12:59 pm

    I would have loved to have seen Ichiro in the Eagle Hardware commercials.

    As far as I’m concerned, those were the best Mariner commercials of all-time. “It’s a light bat!”, a phrase that will always stick with me. Forget Lowe’s, it’s Eagle to me!

  9. Tim in Japan on May 24th, 2005 8:12 pm

    Check out this:

  10. Tim in Japan on May 24th, 2005 8:20 pm

    Clarification: I’m not trying to defame him, I’m a huge fan. It’s just that he’s kind of like certain movie stars who won’t hawk products in the US, but will in Japan. However, I think he keeps it rather low profile compared to some other Japanese celebrities and sports figures. Maybe it’s because the Japanese don’t see it as somewhat degrading so much as Americans tend to.

  11. ray on May 25th, 2005 2:27 am

    Adding to Tim… Considering Ichiro’s name recognition and star-status, I think he does very little advertising. It goes along with what he has said before: He will only endorse those things he believes in. I Imagine he does drink Yunker every now and then so he adverts for them. And as far as doing commercials in the U.S., I think it is a pure confidence in his ability to speak English. Although he may have felt comfortable to speak to the fans at Safeco, he may not feel comfortable enough doing a spot for TV (minus the obligation of M’s ads).