Tag Archive > Shigeo Nagashima


» 23 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Long before Yusei Kikuchi entertained eight MLB suitors, before Junichi Tazawa rattled the cage by skipping NPB to sign with the Red Sox, before MLB teams first took note of Yu Darvish, before Daisuke Matsuzaka attracted $51m in posting money, before Hideo Nomo ‘retired’, before Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to reach the majors, before Walter O’Malley tried to acquire Shigeo Nagashima, there was Eiji Sawamura.

November 20 marked the 75th anniversary of Sawamura’s famous one-hit loss to the touring team of American all-stars. Sawamura, then 17, struck out Hall of Famers Lou Gerhig, Babe Ruth and  Jimmie Foxx, but surrendered a solo home run in the 7th to Gerhig, which was all the Americans needed to win 1-0.

The Americans responded to the loss by trying to sign Sawamura. There are various retellings, but the story goes that a Pirates scout asked Sawamura to “autograph” a contract. Connie Mack also tried to acquire him for the A’s, perhaps in a more above the board way. Sawamura refused and eventually went pro in Japan, but died in World War II. the Sawamura Award was established by NPB in 1947 (pre-dating the Cy Young Award).

The word “sempai” (先輩) roughly translates to “one who came before” or “senior”, like an older kid at school, or Nomo to Matsuzaka. Prepend it with a “dai” (大), meaning “big”, and you get “daisempai” (大先輩), as in someone who went to the school school, but graduated long before you even started. In a sense, Sawamura was the earliest predecessor to all the players I mentioned in the first paragraph.

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What’s Next for Matsui?

» 10 November 2009 » In mlb » 1 Comment

Hideki Matsui saw the ball well in this year’s World Series. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look more locked in at the plate than he did against Pedro Martinez, and his MVP performance brought former manager Shigeo Nagashima to tears.

But his contract is up, and the discussion about where he’ll play next season was well underway by the time the Yankees crossed the finish line of their victory parade. For his part, Matsui has been consistently saying that he wants to remain in New York. It makes sense; Matsui has that elusive “True Yankee” pedigree that others find so elusive. He knows his role on the team, performs to expectations, handles the pressure of playing for the Yankees well, and knows how to deal with both the New York and Tokyo media. In a world without knee injuries, a return engagement would be a no-brainer.

A return to Japan isn’t on the cards at this point. The Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants made overtures to Matsui during the summer, and although he initially seemed receptive, he quickly brushed them off and recently ruled out the idea completely. Maybe he will return to Japan for a farewell tour at some point, but Hanshin and Yomiuri, the two most obvious teams for him, both play in the DH-less Central League. And judging by the response the idea got on discussion sites, Japanese fans would largely rather see Matsui continue to perform in MLB.

So, if the Yankees don’t bring Matsui back, where does he go? The Seattle rumors have some logic to them, as the Mariners have Japanese ownership and could have an opening at DH if Ken Griffey Jr decides to retire. Aside from Seattle, I would suggest the White Sox, who could use a left-handed power hitter to take over for Jim Thome, and the Orioles, who were interested in Matsui way back in 2002, as possible destinations.

My guess that Matsui finds a way to remain a Yankee. If he doesn’t, at least he went out in style.

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The Meikyukai

» 19 August 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

With Kaz Matsui becoming the latest player to enter the Meikyukai by surpassing a total of 2000 hits between NPB and MLB, it seems like a good time to address what the Meikyukai is and how players can enter the Golden Players Club.

The Meikyukai was first organized by Masaichi Kaneda in 1978 as a voluntary organization, but quickly became a corporate organization built by former players with Kaneda as the president and Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh as co-vice presidents. The Meikyukai was organized with the goals of giving back to disadvantaged in the community and contributing to build the grass roots of professional baseball. Main activities of the club includes teaching classes to the younger generations, promoting baseball and participating in volunteer activities throughout the communities.

In order to join the Meikyukai, there are some milestones players need to surpass. Pitchers are able to join after earning 200 or more wins or 250 saves. On the other hand, position players need to surpass the total of 2000 hits. The regulations changed in November 2003, such that the numbers can be a total combined from both NPB and the MLB. Three current players on MLB rosters have made it in to the Meikyukai; Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, and now Kaz Matsui of the Houston Astros. The list of every player in the Meikyukai can be seen here.

The next pitcher in line to join the Meikyukai are Masahide Kobayashi, who is 17 saves shy. Tuffy Rhodes, were he eligible, would need 114 more hits (as of 8/16; thanks to commentor passerby for the clarification). A list of the other players nearing induction can be found on the Meikyukai’s website.

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