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Eastward Ha!
2006-02-06 05:44
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Whatta ho-hum game last night, huh? Seattle sure picked a cruddy time to have a less than stellar performance; the refs only added insult to injury for 'em. The Stones did little to improve my mood at half-time. I thought they were all about to keel over as they plodded through "Start Me Up." (You make a dead man, what?) They did get better though, and "Satisfaction" was a more convincing production. Anyhow, good deal for the Bus and company, and now back to the business at hand...

I got an e-mail from Bronx Banter regular, Mike Plugh, a guy who grew up in and around New York and is now teaching high school in Japan. Dig:

I enjoyed the piece about your day in Inwood and it got me thinking. I see that kind of thing everyday here in Japan and it amazes me. Baseball has been played as an organized game since the late 1800s in Japan, and I can't imagine a greater love for the sport anywhere other than the Carribbean and some pockets of the US. To paint a picture in as few words as possible, I see junior high school kids riding their bicycles in the dead of winter to go to practice. I live in the Siberian snow country of Japan and I swear these kids are dedicated to the sport beyond sane proportion.

In Japan, you choose one sport and you play it year round. When I tell my high school students that I played soccer, basketball, and baseball in my salad days they nearly fall over. They spend 2 hours after school every day practicing in the fieldhouse during the winter. They practice on the weekends for more hours. They run the hallways of the school building to get their calisthenics in.....and we're a top academic school...not a sports powerhouse.

Not too far from us are the Prefectural champions who will be representing us in the Koshien National High School Baseball Invitational held in Spring and then again in Summer for the more famous 2nd round. People stop working to watch the game. I'm telling you.....if you go into a doctor's office the doctors, nurses, and patients will all be sitting around watching a little 1980s looking TV. Same in the bank, or at the restaurant.....

This country is baseball crazy and it's one of the reasons I knew early on that I had a kind of soulmate relationship with the culture. Parts of daily life here are baffling and hard to digest, but when it comes to baseball it's all love.

Reading Mike's letter made me appreciate why a guy like Bobby Valentine is thriving in Japan. It's not simply a detour from his MLB career--though I believe he'll return one day--but a end onto itself. I'd love to visit one day, wouldn't you?

Comments (54)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2006-02-06 06:07:02
1.   Ben
Nice piece A. After I read Sadaharu-O's biography, I felt Japan had something over our culture of baseball. A tad too serious maybe, but I love that O used Samurai's technique's, slicing a piece of paper with a sword, to focus the contact point in his swing.

On a completely silly note that I just can't resist passing along to the crowd, I heard two bits of salacious gossip this weekend.

First on goes like this: the real reason Andy Pettite didn't resign with the Yanks had nothing to do with money and everything to do with his behavior on the road. Wifey thought the big apple was starting to affect the wholesome lefty and demanded a move back down south.

Two, all that hubbub about Manny leaving Boston because of a girlfriend and a pregnant one at that seems to have died down. That's because the girlfriend left town instead. She was packaged with Edgar Renteria in a trade to Florida because, well, she's his wife.

Cindy Adams and Liz Smith eat your heart out.

We will now return to our normally scheduled program of serious baseball talk...

2006-02-06 06:11:29
2.   Simone
I can't believe that Janet Jackson's bare breast has damned us to old white men as the only options for the half time show from now until forever. What a forgettable performance by the Rolling Stones! It was as bad as the game itself. I still can't get over how horribly Seattle was robbed.

Time for baseball. Let's play ball, folks.

2006-02-06 06:39:59
3.   Alex Belth
I didn't think the Stones were that good, but Simone, you've got me feeling defensive with the "old white men" crack. What about Aretha, that old black woman? I mean, I'm not saying the Stones are fresh or especially dynamic any longer but hell, I thought they weren't worse than Janet Jackson had been. I mean, I give them props for touring all of these years. Ah, I love the Stones like family. I make fun of them a lot but get testy whenever I hear people knocking them. Ah, it's my own little defensiveness popping up. No offense to you, Simone.
2006-02-06 06:41:59
4.   Mike L
Hi there. I'm a Chicago boy, a White Sox fan, who now lives in Japan. Your site is great. Excellent writing and the passion and knowledge in the comments section is inspiring.

Anyway, I just want to second Mike Plugh's email about the Japanese' passion for baseball. My wife also teaches at a school known for academic performance, and the kids are just baseball nuts year-round. Snow no obstacle. I also see kids playing in the snow at a park near our apartment.

I caught a segment on a TV show some days ago with your LF. The show was given over to different celebrities showing up at everyday events to interact with regular folks. Matsui showed up at a kids' practice to participate in BP. The guy is GOD here, so that was pretty cool.

Thanks again for the great site.

2006-02-06 06:42:22
5.   Sliced Bread
I didn't hear a note of the Stones, but my sons seemed to enjoy it. We were at a party, and a bunch of us went outside for cigars at halftime. From the back deck, I could see into the house, and watched my little boys dancing and jumping around to the Stones set. However, their energetic enthusiasm might have been more influenced by the well-stocked dessert table, which featured a 'chocolate fountain.'

Mike Plugh, what are Japanese fans saying about Hideki Matsui not representing in the WBC?

As for the rest of you Banterers, did you see Mel Stottlemyre will be working with the pitchers at training camp for all of spring training? (NY Post has the story today) Hardly seems like a vote of confidence for Guidry and Kerrigan.

2006-02-06 06:44:14
6.   Sliced Bread
Mike L, same question re: Matsui
2006-02-06 06:50:47
7.   Shawn Clap
The only thing worse than the game was that World Baseball Classic commerical.

I have no idea why the Stones would play something as lame as the Superbowl Halftime. Maybe it was in the contract they signed with Satan.

2006-02-06 07:20:26
8.   Mike L
I have seen only one criticism on a Japan news blog calling Matsui and Tadahito Iguchi "traitors." But the blog is in English, and I don't know if the commenter is even Japanese.

My Japanese is, um, a work in progress, so there may be a lot that I just don't know about. Most of the English comments I've seen have been about worries that it will cut into the NPB's spring training, whether Japan's manager Sadaharu Oh is picking rival players over his own to try to tire them out for the NPB's season, and riffs on Bobby Valentine's criticism of the WBC.

2006-02-06 07:34:53
9.   Bob Timmermann
The only country where I've read the local media criticizing players for not participating in the WBC was in Panama.
2006-02-06 07:52:54
10.   Simone
Alex, from my perspective the theme of the half time show doesn't seem to lean to gender or ethnic diversity or youth since the Janet Jackson boob revelation. Last year it was Paul McCartney, this year, the Rolling Stones. Who is next Pavarotti? Then again, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are pathetically under talented so it doesn't speak well about diversity and/or youth. Yet there of lot of talent performers who could put on a good half-time show who can appeal beyond the NFL's limited chosen demographic.
2006-02-06 07:53:13
11.   Schteeve
In Soviet Union, World Baseball Classic plays you!

Sorry, but there aren't enough Yakov Smirnoff jokes in baseball.

2006-02-06 08:05:26
12.   ChuckM
Am I the only one that gets a chuckle everytime he sees that Andruw Jones is representing the Netherlands?
2006-02-06 08:05:27
13.   vockins
I'm willing to bet my Jazzmaster that the Stones let "Satisfaction" run away from them. They had the "when do we end this again?" face on. MSG circa 1975 it wasn't.

Still, better than anything else I've ever seen during super bowl halftime, but that's not saying much. I don't imagine the situation will ever get any better.

The "we could have played this during Super Bowl I" crack was pretty funny.

2006-02-06 08:16:54
14.   Knuckles
Did anyone else think the sound mix for the game last night was garbage? We could barely hear the Stones, or the commentators for that matter. The crowd noise and the whooshing to go along with the graphics transitions, however, were louder than a Crazy Eddie commercial.

I tried everything, running the volume thru the TV, thru the Dolby surround, changing sound modes, etc. But it never got better.

So, having said that, the Stones were underwhelming. Yes, better than Janet'n'Justin, but that's not that high a bar to vault.

Woulda loved to see someone a little more contemporary- how about the Arctic Monkeys, Jurassic 5, or in a nod to New Orleans, the Soul Rebels? Course, the 500 teenyboppers the NFL imported to bounce around for 15 minutes have never heard of any of those groups...

(Where do those kids come from anyway? There's no seats for them in the stadium, so they must have to watch in a tent outside, and miss the end of the first half and start of the 3rd quarter.)

2006-02-06 08:38:41
15.   KJC
// the 500 teenyboppers the NFL imported to bounce around for 15 minutes have never heard of any of those groups //

Have they heard of the Rolling Stones?

2006-02-06 08:41:04
16.   debris
I saw the Stones in Montreal last month. The showmanship was great, the performance a bit lacking.

I'm going back next month to see my all time favorite British rocker perform. Ray Davies is crossing the pond and I'll see him up there. The good news for you guys is that he'll also be in NYC for three shows at Irving Plaza, March 24-26. Tickets go on sale at Ticketmaster Wednesday at noon.

If you want to see a master at his craft, Ray Davies is just such a master and he doesn't frequent North America often. Oh, and for the uninitiated Ray was the lead singer and primary songwriter for The Kinks.

2006-02-06 08:44:50
17.   Knuckles
KJC,
They've heard enough of the Rolling Stones on Microsoft/Cadillac/Pepsi/VictoriasSecret commercials to fake it for 3 songs.
2006-02-06 08:47:06
18.   Nick from Washington Heights
I'm not trying to start a flame war, but I just wanted to say that I've always liked the Kinks more than the Beatles. Just one man's opinion. But I always found the Kinks' range of themes, concepts and music just really impressive. Too bad I'll be in SF when the Davies show comes around.
2006-02-06 08:58:09
19.   wsporter
Knuckles, I agree the sound mix was horrible, we saw them a couple of weeks ago and thought they'd sound big, they came up sounding pretty small. Mick might want to go Street Fighting Man on the sound guy. When you get right down to it though I've never really cared about the half-time show nor am I likely ever to. I understand the game has grown to be an event of national significance but where is it written that the NFL has to make the spectacle a celebration of diversity or of the multicultural rainbow we live and prosper in. People need to lighten up, it's a GD football game not an EEOC lunch-in.

What I can't believe is that they dropped those "my honey can't get it up without taking his pill" ads. I thought the NFL was the national spokesman for and home of erectile dysfunction. Maybe they have cleaned up that steroid problem after all.

2006-02-06 09:00:33
20.   Bob Timmermann
Best halftime act:

Up With People!

2006-02-06 09:22:32
21.   Bruce Markusen
How's this for a revolutionary idea? No bands, musical performers, or entertainers of any kind at half-time, just a return of the "Punt, Pass, and Kick" competition for kids. Actually, I'm not sure if the NFL ever did away with PP and K, but it sure doesn't seem to get the coverage it did back in the seventies.

Here's an even more radical idea. How about a normal-length halftime, like they have during the regular season?

2006-02-06 09:39:11
22.   Zack
There are parts of me that really want the NFL to screw up their labor negotiations so that we can be done with all of this "the NFL is the perfect economic system" crapola. If I hear one more comment about what a mess baseball is and how perfect football...Not that baseball is so great, mind you, but its not like this whole "parity" thing in football has produced any higher # of playoff teams or champions than baseball has, and they have more spots!

Does that make me a bad person?

2006-02-06 09:54:44
23.   Alex Belth
First concert I ever saw...The Kinks at the Roseland Ballroom on 52nd street, circa 1983.
2006-02-06 10:01:43
24.   Bob Timmermann
They still have Punt, Pass, and Kick (although under a different name) and the winners were honored during the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis playoff game.
2006-02-06 10:14:11
25.   The Mick 536
Enough of this pigskin stuff, unless someone wants to talk about Tagliabue dissing baseball. Didn't like his comment about baseball being boring, like watching grass grow, or his half baked apology to Selig that he developed this attitude playing right field as a kid. I played right field in LL. Not a lot of balls hit my way, but I still got to bat.

If Tagliabue's game didn't have gambling and tailgating, where would it be?

Stones, ugh. The five second censor cut into their songs twice. Could the cock (rooster) line been more offensive than the Tatum interview?

Thought Stevie was a bust, too. Bad officiating. Conservative game plans. Borrrrrrrrring. Liked the Fed Ex commercial and the Bud horses.

2006-02-06 10:14:57
26.   Dimelo
As if non-Yankee fans needed another reason to hate ARod. As well as some Yankee fans who get annoyed by him (like myself), but I do root for him.

another glimpse in the world "An A-BOMB BY A-ROD"
http://www.deadspin.com/sports/college-basketball/when-one-force-of-evil-meets-another-force-of-evil-152921.php

2006-02-06 10:17:26
27.   Sliced Bread
'Up With People!' dude, that was painful. I think they started the tradition of insufferable halftime shows.

Ever catch The Simpsons parody, "Hooray For Everything!" ?:

Announcer: And now, get set for our fabulous halftime show, featuring the well-groomed young go-getters of `Hooray for Everything!'

Homer: Oh, I love those kids. They've got such a great attitude!

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, `Hooray for Everything' invites you to join them in a salute to the greatest hemisphere on earth,
the Western Hemisphere! The dancingest hemisphere of all!"

2006-02-06 10:35:28
28.   debris
re. 26.

I feel your pain, Dimelo. Schilling may be a right-wing asshole, but he's our asshole.

2006-02-06 11:04:27
29.   Dimelo
Schilling or ARod. I'd still take ARod because by all accounts a lot of players have liked playing with ARod, they've considered him a good teammate (except Griffey). Even a lot of Sawx fans hate Schilling, except of course the one's that voted "RED". Plus the Schill was voted #4 as the most hated athlete - he was worse than Kobe.
2006-02-06 11:34:45
30.   joe in boston
As I trudged home from my neighbors Super Bowl party during halftime with my 3 year old son, I realized I will only devote time and energy to another Super Bowl if :

1) the Giants are in it.

2) I'm in my 20s again and heading to a bar to watch the game.

Man, what a snooze fest. Boring game, too much build up, lousy refs, lame halftime. Too much build up (all day). Bring on the Yanks !

2006-02-06 11:44:19
31.   Rags
During the Stones performance I was able to wow my friends with a video iPod broadcast of said band performing on the Ed Sullivan show circa 1966 dled here:

http://sonicpollutions.blogspot.com/2006/01/stones-on-ed-sullivan-show-1966.html

Evident watching both performances side by side that they've been going downhill since Brian Jones croaked. The Zab has also posted some great Kinks performances. Never understood "Autumn Almanac" until I saw them perform it dressed like clowns and wearing big doofy grins. Not to be missed.

2006-02-06 11:52:46
32.   Howie
The Kinks have never got their due compared to The Stones or The Beatles. My first show was at the Pier around 85. It will be great to see Ray again. It's been a while.
2006-02-06 11:55:33
33.   Cliff Corcoran
Joe, you know you don't have to watch any of the pre-game, right? I watched old highlights on the deuce all day, but it's also okay to just flip on the TV at 6:30 and watch nothing but the game itself. Creating a hype-free enviromnent for yourself is surprisingly easy.
2006-02-06 11:57:56
34.   vockins
//Evident watching both performances side by side that they've been going downhill since Brian Jones croaked.//

I think you've got to break out "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" again, Rags.

2006-02-06 12:29:09
35.   Dimelo
Maybe it was because I was in a house full of Dominicans, but why didn't you all tune into YES and watch Mexico vs. Venenzuela? For the pregame, there was the Dominicans vs. Puerto Rico. Saturday's game: DR vs. Ven was awesome. Hoping Ven. loses today.
2006-02-06 12:39:16
36.   Ben
That picture of A-rod is too bad. The guy can't catch a break. Somewhere in all the coverage of this guy is what an incredible player he is. try to find it though.
2006-02-06 12:40:27
37.   Erik Siegrist
I still can't believe, with the game in MOTOWN, they went with the Stones as the halftime dinosaur act... if only Detroit had ever produced some good musicians, maybe they could have gotten the gig instead.
2006-02-06 13:35:36
38.   debris
One of the Sox better moves last year, or so it seemed at the time, was the signing of Roberto Petagine. Rather than give Petagine an opportunity to show what he could do, the Sox then signed John Olerud.

To make room for Alex Gonzalez, the Sox just designated Petagine. My worst fear is that the Yanks will fill their DH hole with him. He clubbed the ball in Japan for years; he clubbed the ball at Pawtucket last year. My sense is that he's light years better than any option the Yanks currently have on their roster.

2006-02-06 13:58:19
39.   Murray
I skipped almost all of the Super Bowl. It's extremely easy to avoid the hype.

Full credit all around to YES for showing the Caribbean Series. This is the time of year when I need baseball more than any other.

First concert I ever saw: the Moscow Chamber Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, October 1977.

2006-02-06 13:58:19
40.   Murray
I skipped almost all of the Super Bowl. It's extremely easy to avoid the hype.

Full credit all around to YES for showing the Caribbean Series. This is the time of year when I need baseball more than any other.

First concert I ever saw: the Moscow Chamber Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, October 1977.

2006-02-06 14:06:13
41.   jdsarduy
Roberto Petagine?
he's been in the majors 6 yrs with 6 different teams.
Has 11 career home runs and a life time BA of 230.
He's 34 and he played from 94-98 then came back in 05.
No way he's better than what the Yanks have right now in the DH spot.
And lets pray they don't pick him up.
The Yanks will not have a regular DH they'll probably rotate a few guys in that spot this yr.
2006-02-06 14:06:44
42.   joe in boston
Cliff - I hear ya'. The tv and sports radio were on all day - background stuff mostly - as I fumbled my way through the days' errands. Pretty lame stuff. It's kind of hard for me to believe (I guess) that something as big as the Super Bowl is no longer really "on my radar". Of course, kids will do that to you.
2006-02-06 14:52:47
43.   Zack
Anyone else catch this:

General manager Brian Cashman polled 20 Yankees scouts on whether to sign Mike Piazza. The vote was 17-3 against. It was Gene Michael who spearheaded the anti-Piazza vote. Michael believes Andy Phillips could produce 20 homers and 80 RBIs. Joe Torre wasn't necessarily against Piazza. But he raised a concern about dedicating the DH spot to one person when he envisions rotating the older Yankees, notably Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. -- Newsday

That is great news, the Phillips part of it. Now the trick is convincing Torre...

2006-02-06 15:31:22
44.   Schteeve
I got into the most small minded snipe fest with a bunch of Yankee haters during the SB yesterday, and then I come here, and see a bunch of you guys sniping at A-Rod because he's wearing a Duke shirt. Who gives a shit? A-Rod is an unbeliveable baseball player, I have to believe all the bile that is directed his way is the product of nothing more than small minded jealousy, and it's really getting old.
2006-02-06 17:19:26
45.   Zack
I'm sorry, what's so wrong about A-Rod rooting for Duke? Did anybody, debris, say anything when Schilling and Millar showed up in Patriots jerseys? Its not like Schilling isnt a 'die hard' Steelers fan, so he say. I never went to Duke, but can appreciate what the basketbalol program represents. I would much rather support a program that has a very high graduation rate, at a school with standards, than say, a program whose coach is arrested for drunk driving but isnt fired, or whose coach is only fired when his team gets beaten badly by Texas, not when his players throw parties and rape women as part of their recruiting process.

I agree Schteeve, this A-Rod bashing is just trivial and, frankly, beneath this board...

2006-02-06 19:23:56
46.   Levy2020
I'm still betting that Bernie will hit heavily in DH until and unless he is not productive this year. . .

It's such a Torre move.

Are we really excited to see Torre back? I was really disappointed with his inflexibility with the starting rotation last year (pitching Leiter, Wright too many times) and wearing out the bullpen generally.

2006-02-06 19:25:20
47.   Max
I would have preferred it if A-Rod were a UConn fan...then the media could have pinned the theft of laptops on him, instead of those poor misguided young men playing point for the Huskies.
2006-02-06 20:01:35
48.   Gary Garland
First, on the reaction to Matsui and Iguchi's defections in Japan, it has been pretty muted. The only person I heard who suggested that both men were traitors was Tommy Lasorda.

Sadaharu Oh, who is managing the Japanese team, said that players who refused to be on the WBC team don't understand what it means to the sport. But that is about as severe a reaction as I've seen by a Japanese.

Petagine is probably headed back to Japan, but not at anywhere close to the kind of money he once made. The Pacific League would be a good fit for him, maybe for Rakuten or Nippon Ham, where he could DH. That would mean, though, that Fernando Seguignol would definitely have to play first base everyday, which could put Kuniyuki Kimoto on the bench.
Lotte, which lost Seung-yeop Lee, is an outside shot, but Valentine has said that he wants to press on with his current crop of players, so Petagine ending up in Chiba is dubious from a probability standpoint.

2006-02-06 20:34:57
49.   sam2175
So, the public has an opinion on and apparently cares about who a professional athlete (A-Rod in this case) should root for in his leisure time.

At what point does this pavlovian hatred for a successful and rich athlete give way to some sanity?

2006-02-06 22:36:14
50.   mikeplugh
Hey all...sorry to chime in on this so late, what with my e-mail being featured and all....running on Japanese time has its disadvantages.

The response to Matsui and Iguchi not playing has certainly been muted here. I think the Lasorda "traitor" thing has been the most outwardly critical comment on the subject. It's probably largely due to the fact that Japanese don't openly criticize each other, at least in an overt way.

People may be disappointed, but to be perfectly honest, Japan seems very lukewarm on the whole World Baseball Classic concept. Over here people want the Japanese champs to play the American Champs. That's the real draw. If the Yankees played the Japan League Champs in a series where a title was on the line....you'd see excitement.

Another factor is that Iguchi isn't that big to begin with here. He's known as a good player, but he's not marquee. Matsui is marquee, but Ichiro will always be top dog. Ichiro is Japan's most loved athlete, period. He's playing so the fans are going to get what they want to a large degree.

The marquee Japanese players aren't always the most Major League ready. Those guys are on the team and the fans will be excited to see them. Also, High School baseball's Spring Tournament is around the corner and it's like the Final Four. The WBC can't compete with the "Final Four of Japan".

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2006-02-06 23:35:44
51.   Matt B
Alex, I saw the Stones only a couple weeks ago and they were mostly fantastic (they ripped the shit outta Midnight Rambler)- the Super Bowl performance was sub-par, even by their own 2006 standards. And the Kinks rule, pretty much in all phases of their odd history.

Rags - the Stones did not sink after Brian died. Their best work, especially live, was during the Mick Taylor era (1969-1974). Not that the 60s records don't rule, but give a listen to a good bootleg of them live in '69 or '72 - white hot.

2006-02-07 04:21:32
52.   singledd
It is so very cool that we have educated Yankee fans on this site that live in Japan.

Question for mikeplugh et al...
If "Ichiro is Japan's most loved athlete, period", why does Matsui have such a tremendous press following? We dont hear much about Ichiro in this respect.

2006-02-07 05:12:53
53.   Sliced Bread
Thanks for the insights from Japan.

I figured most Japanese fans would respect Matsui's decision. I hadn't heard about Lasorda's "traitor" comment. He's a sumo sized blowhard.

2006-02-07 06:15:18
54.   mikeplugh
Matsui's press following reflects the social order of his position. He was a member of the Holy Glorious Yomiuri Giants over here, and a national high school hero before that. He plays for Babe Ruth's Yankees. Ruth came to Japan and played the outfield for a barnstorming group of American pros, and the Japanese still revere him.

The press is about all of those things, plus Ichiro is a shit interview....at least he used to be. He gave the Japanese press a cold shoulder when he came over. Nomo was similarly cranky before Ichiro, and rightly so.

The Japanese press makes the American press look like a bunch of Walter Cronkites. They want to know what you ate and when you digested it, and you can be sure that it will be in every tabloid and on every morning show. They hound you until you kill them or give in. He wouldn't play the game so they crucified him initially....that is, until he won Rookie of the Year and MVP.

Matsui, on the other hand, is so mild-mannered and kind that he took the entire contingent of Japanese Press to dinner when he arrived and sat patiently answering every question they asked. He worked out a friendly deal that he would make himself available at certain times, but not at others, and that he promised to stay until they had what they wanted. It worked and now he's a media darling.

Ichiro caught onto all that and has changed his act. Actually it was 2004 that saw him change and he collected 262 hits.

The kids in Japan don't care about all that. They love the ballplayers for what they do on the field. There are more young Ichiro fans than Matsui fans, by my amateur count, but it's not hard to see why. Most kids are taught to play the slash and run style game that is favored by Ichiro. It's much easier to be successful as mini-Ichiro on the sandlot than it is to be the unusually large and bullish power hitter that is Matsui.

Plus, Ichiro was the pioneer and he still has the ROY and MVP to back him up...plus a 262 hit season. No to mention that he has twice turned down the People's Honor Award, given to the Japanese who has most distinguished himself in the eyes of the world, bringing glory to Japan. He says that he has much more he wants to accomplish before he accepts anything so momentous.

It's a close contest, but Ichiro and soccer star Nakata are at the top with Matsui and a 20 year old female golfer named Ai Miyazato.

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