Collecting Ichiro

Jeff · November 27, 2006 at 12:48 am · Filed Under General baseball, Mariners 

I’m not sure how many readers of this site collect or collected sports cards. Whether that number includes you or not, though, I’ll wager that you may find something entertaining at the Collecting Ichiro site, which documents many of the Ichiro cards made available from 1993-2003.

Besides the photo of a young Ichiro holding up autographed cards of himself, there is much to explore here. This includes those rare cards available only at certain Japanese pharmacies due to a deal with Sato Pharmaceuticals to endorse their Yunker energy drink.

As we talked about a bit a year and a half ago, Ichiro shills Yunker here in Japan while eschewing similar ads in the U.S. This certainly isn’t unique to Ichiro — Hideki Matsui was ubiquitous in commercials when I was here last two years ago, although that seems to have subsided a bit.

Still: Holy crass commercialism, Ichiro! For those of us used to your absence from product placements in the U.S., it’s mighty jarring to hear about, say, the “Batter in the wilderness” commercial.

A town in the Wild West in dead calm. When gusty wind blows up dust, a giant pitcher tries to take away a beauty over her strong protests. A boy who wants to help her finds Ichiro, rushes to him, and hands him a bat instead of a gun. In the midst of mounting tension, Ichiro holds the bat at the ready. The pitcher throws a fastball. Ichiro swings and strikes back the ball at ultraspeed. At this moment, the scene changes to a baseball stadium. After the narration of “Powered by Yunker!”, Ichiro holding a Yunker bottle in his hand declares “It works!”

This raises two issues. One is about the social role of the star: do superlative performers have obligations to adopt consistent standards for commercial endorsement? You should see, for example, Tommy Lee Jones and Cameron Diaz hack out for coffee and cell phones over here. Is there an overriding ethical or socioeconomic concern about this practice?

Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care.

The second issue is Yunker itself. Does it really work, as Ichiro claims? Would it work in the Wild West? Will it work to help one meet beautiful women and defend them against dastardly, um, pitchers — especially in historical fiction narratives?

While in Okinawa, I’m tackling many research topics. This may be the most important issue I have to resolve. Before I leave, I will report. Count on it.


13 Responses to “Collecting Ichiro”

  1. joser on November 27th, 2006 1:24 am

    Research in Okinawa? Of what? The ame-jo?

  2. Jeff on November 27th, 2006 2:37 am

    I’m researching Okinawa’s environment and culture while completing a series of articles and my first book. It’s not baseball-related. I just moved a month ago, which is why my posting has dropped off so much — just getting feet under me here. My blog, linked to the left over there, explains in more detail.

    While I’m at it, I’ll add this to the FAQ.

  3. mark s. on November 27th, 2006 4:23 am

    I want some!

  4. mathew2007 on November 27th, 2006 6:14 am

    *Collecting Ichiro is not his official site. He could sue that web-site manager.
    * We can’t see the CM anymore. Anyway I don’t think anybody believe the yunker brings such effect in the Wild West, which sound like the american version of geisha-ninja. It must be just a joking. But so long as he wears Mariners’ uniform in CM, quite a little money was brought to MLB and Mariners from the sponsers for the patent. That’s why M’s have a good fiscal balance every year.

  5. dw on November 27th, 2006 6:55 am

    Here’s the CM, though missing the Wild West commercial:

  6. msb on November 27th, 2006 7:43 am

    there is a fine site, Japander, that covers the ad phenomemnon

  7. Steve T on November 27th, 2006 10:41 am

    Now I finally know what “Yunker” is. They advertise it on the padded railing around Safeco behind the plate and by the dugouts.

  8. joser on November 27th, 2006 10:44 am

    Speaking of Japanese baseball cards, Sayonara Home Run! is out in paperback, and is a pretty interesting look at the history of this artform in Japan (and there, at least, it could qualify as that). I should probably drop into Marinerds and suggest Deanna add it to her bookclub list.

  9. Deanna on November 27th, 2006 11:11 am

    That’d be a great idea, if book club hadn’t fizzled out due to nobody actually showing up. Everyone saying it’s a great idea is one thing, but I didn’t really feel like sitting around alone at Elliott Bay Book Company with everyone’s good intentions. I dunno if/when I’ll try to revive it.

    I have a whole bunch of Japanese baseball cards, but they’re modern, so they look just like American baseball cards, really. I did surprise Kenji Johjima at fan fest last year by having an old one of him to sign, though…

    Oh, I’m finally putting my Japan trip pictures online — I should be getting around to my Osaka set in a few days, including a whole bunch of the Ichiro NTT ads, which were really quite impressive.

  10. msb on November 27th, 2006 11:27 am

    maybe you should have book club during the game …

  11. theberle on November 27th, 2006 1:48 pm

    The freakonomics guys just blogged about US celebs in Japan ads, and linked to Japander. Their take is that more and more US Celebs are showing up in US ads. I’m not sure what that means as far as Ichiro goes.

  12. Typical Idiot Fan on November 27th, 2006 3:35 pm

    lol Japan!

  13. Al Golagnic on November 27th, 2006 3:39 pm

    Hey dudes here is my link

    I have this card thanks to a nostalgic moment a few years ago that led to my purchasing a few packs at a time over the course of several weeks. I somehow doubt I could get anyone to give me $200-$250 for it, or even that I could have at any time since its production.

    The crown jewel for me during that time was plucking a BJ Upton autographed rookie card. At the time, I estimated that by 2020, the card would have enough value to put a hypothetical child through college.

    I’m glad that I didn’t stop contributing to my 401(k).

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