As promised, here are the videos of last week’s live zoom chat featuring author Robert Whiting and former Japanese pro baseball star Leon Lee.
Bob was gracious enough to share more than an hour of his time, so I’ll add that you can now pre-order his memoir “Tokyo Junkie.” I haven’t read it but I’m sure it will be a page turner. Bob is a master story teller who saw all of Tokyo from its seedy early 60s glory to its slicker, more polished facade of today.
Bob’s 1st game
So where did the Robert Whiting phenomenon as a baseball icon begin? I’ve pegged that date down to July 17, 1962, when Oh and Nagashima each homered in both games of a doubleheader at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, with a crowd
Leon Lee on the WBC
On Ichiro Suzuki
More about Ichiro as a class act
Sibling rival Lees
Leon was asked about playing as a teammate with his older brother Leron during their time with the Lotte Orions, and we learn about their one fight.
The “gaijin strike zone”
You’ve all head about it, but Leon said a veteran Central League umpire, the late Kiyoshi Hirako, explained the strike zone to him. I mention Hirako, who retired in 1992. Because he’s famous for misjudging a ball off the center-field wall at Koshien Stadium as a game-tying home run on Sept. 11 of that year, that resulted in a 6-hour, 26-minute, 15-inning game between the Swallows and Tigers.
How Ichiro got into the WBC
OK, so this is my story, but we were on the topic of Sadaharu Oh, Ichiro and the WBC, my apologies to those who’ve heard it before.
I wrote a while back about how Japan’s quality-control-is-in-our-blood nonsense that was pedaled around the world in the 1980s to explain Japan’s economic “miracle” seemed to infect baseball, and so I asked Bob if he knew more about it. The article was really about why pitchers batting eighth, once a fairly common practice in Japan was eradicated in the 1970s.
Since the chat, I had a back-and-forth with Bob about how often the old Giants bunted and I’ve written about that, too.
Practice makes more practice
Bob talks about Japan’s passion for practice
Bob Horner in Japan
Lee had the pleasure of being Bob Horner’s teammate with the Yakult Swallows for one year, and he spills on some of the memorable highlights of that season.