Tag Archives: Masaichi Kaneda

“Real records” talk mocks the truth

On Tuesday, Japan’s media said Munetaka Murakami’s 52nd home run tied him for second most in the race for the “record” by a Japanese person, which it isn’t. In the U.S., MLB network broadcast a panel discussing MLB’s “real home run records” and not Barry Bonds’ 73 home run season like MAGA Republicans discussing the 2020 presidential election Donald Trump lost.

In both cases, the answer is probably not outright racism or identity politics, but the need to promote already deserving story lines to make an even bigger splash, because reality and truth never seems enough anymore.

So, if there is no “record” within reach, why not manipulate the list of individual accomplishments by excluding some or adding others to make it a better story?

In Murakami’s case, Japan does both with ambiguous language to define players. Japan is secretive about its players’ citizenship, which it should be, because many players are Korean nationals, or have Korean heritage since Koreans are routinely discriminated against here.

The expression “Japanese player” tells us only that an athlete turned pro out of Japanese amateur ball, regardless of citizenship, or is a Japanese citizen.

This makes non-Japanese such as Taiwan’s Sadaharu Oh or the late Chen Ta-feng – known in Japan as Yasuaki Taiho – and longtime former Fighters and Giants outfielder Yang Dai-kang, and former Tigers outfielder Lin Wei-chu, “Japanese players” not because of citizenship or birthplace – although Oh was born in Japan – but because they played amateur ball here before turning pro.

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Leon and Bob’s wonderful wayback machine

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.

Discipline in Japanese baseball