Japan’s home run king, Softbank Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, on Saturday paid tribute to his longtime friend Hank Aaron following the Hall of Fame slugger’s death in the United States at the age of 86.
Oh, who holds Japan’s home run record of 868, and Aaron, who long held Major League Baseball’s career home run record with 755, built a long friendship that helped drive the founding of the World Children’s Baseball Foundation and its annual baseball week in Japan.
The two competed in a home run derby at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium on Nov. 2, 1974, and three years later, on Sept. 3, 1977, Oh surpassed Aaron’s career total with his 756th home run in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Oh’s remarks were released in a Japanese language statement released by the club:
“He set the world record of 755 at that time and compiled an amazing number of home runs hits, and RBIs. He had a long career and was a tremendous gentleman and the epitome of a major league baseball player.
“Then we started to promote the sport of baseball through the WBCF, he in America and me in Japan. While he was still able to get around, he would come every year and contribute to children getting into baseball. In recent years, he often wasn’t able to come, but he always kept us in his heart. I believe he had a spectacular life in baseball.”
“I thank you for so many things and pray for your soul.”
Read the Kyodo News English story.