Old games

While dredging through 50 years of games in my pursuit of estimating park effects, I discovered a few things by accident, which provided a few reminders of how much things have changed over the years.

The first thing that caught my eye was how makeshift the schedules with so few usable ballparks.

In 1950, Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium was the main home park of the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants, Taiyo Whales and Kokutetsu Swallows as well as the Pacific League’s Tokyu Flyers, Daiei Stars and Mainichi Orions. Osaka’s Namba Stadium was kind of home to the Nankai Hawks and Kintetsu Pearls and the CL’s Shochiku Robins.

But with all those teams, a lot of games couldn’t be played in the big parks, and there were setups like three-team doubleheaders, where one team would play two different ones. The Giants played 140 games and were the home team 93 times that year, while the Nishi Nihon Pirates, who went out of business after that one season, played on 45 of the franchise’s 136 games at home, and never played more than seven home games at any one park.

And because the data I copied had a field I didn’t expect, some game records had to be cleaned up. The field was for games that did not play out in regulation fashion, and I thought these three were worth mentioning.

A winning team was outscored 4-2.

To figure the park effects in my database system, I need to know which team is the home side, a feat made harder by the numerous ties and something the game data did not provide. But knowing who won, and how many outs each team made, you can figure it out, except for a few outliers.

The first was a game in Toyama’s old ballpark, where by the way I saw my first pro ball game in Japan in 1986 while working there as an English teacher. At that venue across the street from Toyama University, the Nankai Hawks and the Toei Flyers, the Nankai Hawks were leading 4-2 with no outs in the top of the ninth. Center fielder Kazuhiro Kuroda, stumbled as he caught a fly in shallow left, the umpires ruled it no catch, and two runs scored, except they didn’t.

Hall of Fame Hawks manager Kazundo Yamamoto (before he was adopted into his wife’s family and took her name, Tsuruoka) was playing second base, disputed the call and refused to play on, resulting in Japanese pro baseball’s first forfeit, lost by the Hawks with the score officially registered as 4-2 in Nankai’s favor.

Kuroda by the way, played 777 career pro games, but eventually had a big impact on Japanese pro ball. He was one of the few Japanese pros whose son was actually a good pro ballplayer: former Hiroshima Carp, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.

That game alerted me to a notation in NPB’s data base for “irregular games,” the next of which was a game abandoned due to more trouble with umpires.

Fans, ejected player take over game

Another Hall of Famer forced a game to be abandoned on July 25, 1954. At that time the Tigers, then the Osaka Tigers, split the bulk of their home games between Koshien Stadium, and the Nankai Hawks new ballpark in Osaka.

There in the bottom of the 10th inning with the Tigers batting against the Dragons, the home team got into a dispute with the umps, and the fans joined in by over-running the playing field. When play resumed, Hall of Fame third baseman Fumio Fujimura, who had been ejected, decided he would return to the batter’s box. When the umps politely declined, the Tigers fans rushed the field, forcing play to end and the game to be declared a forfeit.

Never too early to forfeit

This time the Tigers forfeited a game without help from the home fans, although as seems to be a pattern, this one, too, involved a future Hall of Famer.

On Sept. 23, 1967 at Koshien, Whales pitcher Chikara Morinaka was batting with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, in a game already going sideways, well-traveled manager Sadayoshi Fujimoto argued a called 0-2 ball to Morinaka. Fujimoto bumped umpire Taiji Otani, who–in an era when players and managers frequently got away without warning for man-handling umps—ran the offending skipper.

The argument continued for 30 minutes, and when Fujimoto announced that play would resume, Otani gave Hanshin one minute to take the field. When they didn’t he awarded the game to the Whales. Fujimoto, the Yomiuri Giants’ first manager, is the only man to ever manage both the Giants and Tigers and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Subscribe to jballallen.com weekly newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.