NPB officially enters 19th century

Hiroshima’s Ryuhei Matsuyama slides into Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura on Tuesday at Jingu Stadium.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016, is a date we can remember as the day Japanese baseball caught up with one of baseball’s oldest rules — the obstruction rule that prohibits blocking a base without the ball and dates back to at least 1857. The rule is older than the Yomiuri Giants, older than pro baseball in Japan — which despite Yomiuri propaganda predates the Giants by more than a decade, older than the first game ever played here.

Yet since it was systematically ignored here, the decision over the winter to enforce the existing statutes have led to obstruction being called a “new rule.”

On Tuesday, Yakult Swallows catcher Nakamura was set to block home plate with the ball, but he dropped it. While in the process of picking it up, he was obstructing the base. Hiroshima Carp base runner Ryuhei Matsuyama slid home and was tagged out. After Carp skipper Koichi Ogata protested on the grounds of Nakamura violating the novel 150-year-old rule, the  umpire crew chief called for a video review. Upon review Matsuyama was safe, a run was in and Nakamura was warned that another violation of Japan’s suddenly sacred sanction against obstructing home plate would result in his ejection.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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