“Douage”

» 15 July 2010 » In npb »

I’ve always meant to write about the culture of Japanese baseball, I figure two years in to blog I might as start. More importantly, Orix’s recent signing of Francisco Caraballo gives me an excuse to start one of my favorite things about Japanese baseball, the douage.

Ideally, this is more of a late-season post than a mid-season post, but what the heck.

The word douage (pronounced “doh-ah-gay”) doesn’t have an easy English translation. The most succinct translation I can come up with is something like “honoring an individual by tossing up and down in celebration”. The Japanese word itself, 胴上げ, comes from dou (胴), “torso” and age (上げ), “raise” or “lift”. Every year, Japanese baseball teams douage their retiring players, and championship teams douage their managers after clinching a pennant, playoff series, or Nippon Series.

But douages aren’t just for big wins and retirements. Caraballo’s BC League teammates and opponents sent him off with a douage. Keisuke Mizuta’s Seibu teammates did the same when he was traded to Hanshin last year (note, I didn’t actually watch the video in that link). And Deanna caught an on-field wedding on her trip to Niigata, in which the BC League players feted the groom with a douage.

Looking at more typical douages, the most significant one of last year was for Katsuya Nomura, who retired as the manager of Rakuten after a life-long career in baseball. Both Rakuten and the opposing Nippon Ham Fighters took part in the celebration. Masaaki Mori’s 1987 Nippon Series douage is a famous one, but it’s mostly remembered for Kazuhiro Kiyohara breaking down and crying with one out left in the game. And finally, here’s one for my Brewers-blogging FanGraphs bud, Jack Moore: when Ken Macha retired from the Chunichi Dragons in 1985, he was presented with a bouquet and douage’d (farewell ceremony starts at 5:10), a real rarity for foreign players.

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