A Fitting Tribute

» 03 January 2012 » In npb »

The other day, Sports Hochi reported that, in the event that he signs with the Rangers, the Nippon Ham Fighters will “semi-retire” Yu Darvish’s number 11. The number won’t be officially retired, but will remain unused until the team develops another “absolute, Darvish-caliber ace”.

So it’ll be something like a Nippon Ham adaptation of number 18, Japanese baseball’s recognized “ace number”. Incidentally, Darvish wore 18 for Japan’s 2008 Olympic Team, because Kenshin Kawakami had 11. I could have my historical facts not-quite-right here, but I believe the ace number tradition was popularized by 18-wearer Tsuneo Horiuchi, Yomiuri’s 60’s and 70’s-era ace. After Horiuchi retired, number 18 was eventually passed down to Masumi Kuwata who went on to have a lengthy career. Every NPB except Yakult currently has number 18 assigned to a pitcher. In the Major Leagues, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka and now Tsuyoshi Wada wear number 18.

I’m on board with this one, I think treating 11 as a new ace number is a great idea. Darvish’s tenure in NPB has been short, but legendary, and he’s certainly left his mark on Japanese baseball.

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  1. Patrick
    03/01/2012 at 3:14 pm Permalink


    Not listed is Akira Noguchi, a brother of Jiro Noguchi. He is the first 18 to record the most wins in a season. A great trivia quiz.

  2. Patrick
    Seth Cervantes
    06/01/2012 at 10:23 pm Permalink

    Also, it was reported that Hisashi Iwakuma will also wear number 18 for the Seattle Mariners (背番号は18に決まった!). I believe the Mariners will play Hanshin on March 25 and Kyojin on March 26. I can’t wait!!!

  3. Patrick
    10/01/2012 at 1:17 am Permalink

    It’s not quite true that 18 is the ace number for NPB. Tigers used 28 and 29 as their ace numbers (and I believe the Giants used 29). This has rather lapsed as their current ace is No. 14. Murayama wore 11.