Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ichiro is Number One!

While the kanji in Ichiro's name actually spell out "most cheerful," not "first boy," he was the first baseball player of which I was consciously aware and has remained both a nostalgic favorite and a subject of unending fascination throughout the years. Moreover, Ichiro was the first Japanese position player to play regularly for the Major Leagues, the first person to hit an inside-the-park home run during an All-Star game, and the Ichiroll was one of the first things New York Times food reporter Peter Meehan ate during his trip to Safeco Field. So, in many ways, Ichiro is number one! There used to be a great Japanese television commercial to that effect, but I can't find it on the internet. Boo!

In America, he's known for his cryptic sayings, some ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness: "It was either going to be an extremely boring day, or then again maybe not." Others just weirdly hilarious: "To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying." And, of course, "Tiger is a great golfer, but…when you say athlete, I think of Carl Lewis. When you talk about [golfers or race-car drivers], I don't want to see them run. It's the same if you were to meet a beautiful girl and go bowling. If she's an ugly bowler, you are going to be disappointed."

Ichiro and an American sportsman with uncontestable running abilities

He's also made his dog quite famous, first by refusing to tell reporters its name (he had to wait for the dog's permission), and then by announcing its pivotal role in his decision to re-sign with the Mariners in 2007 (the dog said "Woof, woof, woof," which meant, "Stay, stay, stay." Too bad, because Ichiro would have made a first-rate Yankee).

Ichiro the killer

In Japan, though, where the standards of weirdness are a bit looser, Ichiro is a first-rate celebrity who has guest-starred on a popular crime drama (he played a murderer who gets arrested) and who hosts his own thought-intensive television show called "Ichiro Versus." Here is a transcript that was re-printed in the Seattle Times (the other speaker is the actress Keiko Matsuzaka):

Off-camera narrator: Ready? Associate to this thought: First encounter.
Matsuzaka: Your first step into an unknown world.
Ichiro: Forgive me, I was just a curious 18-year-old.
(Guest and studio hands laugh out loud.)
Narrator: Your teenage years.
Matsuzaka: Quick maturation through constant reprimand.
Ichiro: Sacrifice.
Narrator: Experience.
Matsuzaka: Asset.
Ichiro: What you use to develop yourself.
Narrator: Workplace.
Matsuzaka: At times, the promised land.
Ichiro: The only place where certain things exist.
Narrator: Judgment.
Matsuzaka: Your inner conscience.
Ichiro: Something that has to be exercised in a split second.

Deep, right? He also sells sports drinks, electricity, curry and cars:

At least, I think he's selling cars. He may be selling shape-shifting cat women. For 900 yen (now, about $10.00), you can see over 2,000 relics from his childhood and early career at the Ichiro Exhibition Room run by Ichiro's parents. Choice items include his grade-school essays, his Transformers, his retainer, and his NBA ticket stubs.

"Forgive me, I was just a curious 18-year-old." (Most photos by way of this amazing fan blog.)

As for Third Base or Bust, yesterday we had me hating on A-Roid, Beth loving Pete Rose, and Sam going a bit off the deep end. Keep the posts coming! We love ALL OF IT.


  1. i (sincerely) think he feeds into the core of my insecurities: "If she's an ugly bowler, you are going to be disappointed."

  2. Rachel, Rachel. Are you an ugly bowler?!

  3. i don't know, but what if i am?

    really, it's his bigger point: what if i'm ugly when i do really boring/simple things. like answering my phone? or riding my bike?! or pouring my soul out!

    i'll be alone forever.

  4. Take a deep breath, R. Someday, you will find someone who loves you for who you are and not just because you're beautiful when you Jane Fonda aerobicise.

  5. Joe brought this to my attention:

    He's a multitasker!

  6. There used to be a great Japanese television commercial to that effect, but I can't find it on the internet. Boo!

    I think it was an ESPN commercial. I know they did one where some a bunch of people are standing around in a warehouse listening to some Japanese guy ramble on and on. The last thing the guy says is "Ichiro is number 1"