Tuesday in Japan began with some off-the-field news but ended with all the big bangs and extremes we deserved as well as all the racist-tinted hypocrisy the media could stir up.
The second retirement shoe dropped, when Yoshio Itoi revealed that he is not in fact superhuman, while Nippon Professional Baseball is open to the idea of allowing fans to chant, sing and cheer like the old days, although not exactly.
Munetaka Murakami contributed to an exodus of baseball’s leaving the field of play at Jingu Stadium, while another team was one-hit but scored the only run in their win. And if the battle for first place in the Central League is just warming up, the competition for the final playoff spot is boiling over.
In the Pacific League, the race for first continues to bubble as the Hawks and Lions go at it with Orix and Rakuten hot on their heels. Kotaro Kiyomiya, the BIG name in the same first round of the 2017 draft when Murakami was picked, also packed a punch, while Rakuten’s and Orix’s big boppers traded home runs.
And if that’s not enough, for the first time since Sept. 1, it’s Roki Eve in Japan, so let’s cross our fingers and hope we get some pitching presents or presence against the Fighters.
If any of you remember, the last time Sasaki pitched against Nippon Ham, Tsuyoshi Shinjo said, “Gee. I’d love to see him throw a no-hitter” after Sasaki pitched eight perfect innings against his team in April. Maybe he’ll get his wish.
Murakami didn’t tie no record
It’s hard to express the amount of moisture that needs to be mopped up across newsroom floors across Japan with Murakami’s two homers. Contrary to the headlines, Murakami didn’t tie any records, but Oh’s 55 home runs in 1964 for a team going nowhere close to the pennant, still have a hold on Japan’s imagination the way Babe Ruth’s 60 held sway in America, which is fitting. Ruth’s record lasted for 34 years, Roger Maris’ for 37, Oh’s lasted for 37 years before it was tied, but wasn’t surpassed for 49 years.
The irony of Oh’s record, of course, is that the reason people think more of that one than Balentien’s in Japan, at least for now, is that it is treated as the JAPANESE record, it’s a nationalistic racist kind of thing, in a country where Oh was not permitted to become a citizen as a child because his mother was Japanese, not his Chinese father.
And while Oh honors his father’s heritage, he is culturally Japanese through and through, but still experienced racism because he was not Japanese enough. Yet, as a Japanese baseball icon, that uncomfortable truth is brushed aside so that Oh can stand in as a symbol for the nation that tried to subjugate his father’s homeland, as a sign of domestic strength against those who are so visibly not Japanese.
Music the international language? Love? Forget about it. It’s hypocrisy.
Itoi to retire
Yoshio Itoi, who was acquired as a premium pre-draft signing by the Nippon Ham Fighters at the 2003 draft as a flame-throwing college pitcher, said Tuesday that this will be his last season. The 41-year-old became an outfielder when he was unable to throw strikes and who a decade ago was perhaps Japan’s best position player.Continue reading NPB news: Sept. 13, 2022