After NBC Sports’ Craig Calcatarra published his side of the Tuffy Rhodes Hall of Fame story, Japanese language baseball site Full-Count responded with an article saying even the American media was mystified by Rhodes’ inability to be selected to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
This story, linked int Yahoo! Japan’s sports baseball news, has drawn a flood of comments, mostly from people pissed off with the Hall of Fame voters, who put Rhodes behind a number of players on the ballot with weaker credentials.
There’s an expression in Japan called “gai-atsu”. It means foreign pressure. Sometimes, when one wants to accomplish something or promote an agenda, voices shaming Japan from abroad is seen as useful leverage.
We recently marked the anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. At that time, 1995, every national network news program began its domestic coverage of the quake by showing how it was being covered by the BBC, or CBS, or NBC or CNN. That kind of paranoia about how the world views Japan is no longer an everyday facet of life, but the idea that Japan cares about its image abroad is still there.
What the fans said:
While Japan’s Hall drones on year after year without a whiff of the controversy or debate that Cooperstown provokes, the fans have shown some fire in this debate. Japanese baseball has been much of my life, but I got a little choked up reading the comments to the article.
I have abridged some of them. I wish I could reproduce them all here.
“When his team Kintetsu was being put of business and Japan’s players union went out on strike in 2004, Tuffy did his part. He was out engaging with the fans, signing autographs even though he wasn’t a member of the union. He belongs in the Hall of Fame on the merit of his stats, of course, but just as much because of how well he treated the fans.”
“This goes for (Kintetsu Buffaloes teammate) Norihiro Nakamura. WHat kind of numbers would you have produced if you were even a bit more humble? But the fire you showed, and speaking the Kansai dialect, the Kintetsu colors were perfectly suited to you. You were one of the greats.”
“The attention paid to Pacific League players is not as great as for those in the Central League, and it seems that they are not evaluated as highly either.”
“Compared to Rhodes, people are forgetting his character compared to someone like Alex Ramirez, who is still working as a manager (in Japan). This is very unfortunate for such a wonderful person who paid so much respect to Japan.”
“The American baseball community pays its respect to Japan’s home run king Mr. Oh, and I think it’s only fitting that we have foreign players in our Hall of Fame.”
“Ichiro is going to make it to Cooperstown, and it seems Rhodes has done more than enough to be inducted in Japan’s Hall of Fame.”
“Someone please explain Rhodes’ failure to be elected. It’s not just one year, but four. If Rhodes were Japanese I think I might be able to accept that. But if racial discrimination is involved in the process, then that should be stated clearly in writing. This is an embarrassment for Japan.
Are we still living in an atmosphere of national isolation (like Japan’s feudal era) ? People form other countries strived and contributed here for a long time. Isn’t that itself something special? It would not be any surprise if Greg “Boomer” Wells were in our Hall of Fame, too. I think it’s because these people are seen as imported labor.”
“Tuffy came back and contributed to (managed) and played in Japanese independent ball, so I would like to see him back in Japan even if it were as a coach for Orix. He is Mr. Buffalo.
Just to be certain. It wasn’t all sweetness and light.
“It’s because he’s hired help. Foreigners’ bodies are bigger.