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Articles in NEWSLETTER, Vol.21, No.4

 p.1  2012 Hall of Famers Elected
                                                          Shinichi Hirose, President

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced its Hall of Famers for 2012 at the press conference held at 3 p.m. at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday, January 13, 2012. The Players Division of the Players Selection Committee elected Manabu Kitabeppu and the late Tsunemi Tsuda, who were mainstays of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in their heyday. There were no successful candidates in the Experts Division. On the other hand, the Special Selection Committee elected the late Kiro Osafune, former president of Baseball Federation of Japan, who devoted himself to send the Team Japan to recent Olympic baseball events by breaking down the barriers between pro and amateur baseball, and the late Osamu Ohmoto, former president of Shibaura Institute of Technology, who made a great contribution to baseball by stipulating the safety standard of aluminum bats and helping nurture aodamo, material for wooden bats. The membership of the Hall of Famers is now 177, including 32 living Hall of Famers.

After the opening speech by Ryozo Kato, chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the results of the PSC were reported by Gotaro Nagase, representative director of the PSC, and those of the SSC by Yoshio Nishida, chairman of the SSC. Then the 2012 inductees were given a certificate of their induction from Ryozo Kato.

In his acceptance speech, Kitabeppu expressed with feeling his joy of receiving the honor at the same time with his junior and former teammate Tsuda, “If he were alive now, we would toast together to our honorable induction.” Teruyo Tsuda, widow of the late Tsuda, said with tears, “It must be my husband himself who were most surprised at the news of his induction, which he may have thought he received on behalf of his teammates.” Akiko Osafune, widow of the late Osafune said, also with tears, “He did his baseball-related work with pleasure. I am truly grateful that his work was duly appreciated.”

Kitabeppu and Tsuda played under Takeshi Koba, 1999 Hall of Famer and now field manager of Tokyo International University team, who spoke for them as their guest speaker. “I am very glad that my two former players were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was blessed with crack players who would garner various titles as these two pitchers, and won the Japan Series three times.” Koji Yamamoto, 2008 Hall of Famer, their senior with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, also spoke for them. Referring to the late Tsuda, he recollected with thanks, “In my third year as manager of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 1991, Tsuda was hospitalized at the start of the season. All of the fellow players played with a charm tucked in their uniform, wishing for his early recovery So it was Tsuda who propelled us to win the last pennant in the Central League.”

Masayuki Naito, secretary general of Japan Baseball Federation, spoke for the late Osafune and the late Ohmoto.“It is a matter of congratulation that two fellow countrymen from Okayama Prefecture were elected into the BHF at the same time. Osafune opened up a route to cooperation between amateur and pro baseball. As for Ohmoto, he emphasized that Ohmoto, a doctor of engineering by profession, did a great contribution to baseball as director of the Society for Nurturing Aodamo Resources.

The press conference was attended by more than 100 media people and ended by taking commemorative photos of the inductees joined by the two guest speakers.and other members concerned.

Photo
(From left in the front row) Manabu Kitabeppu, Teruyo Tsuda, Ryozo Kato, Hiroko Osafune, and Akiko Ohmoto
(From left in the back row) Takeo Minatoya, a memer of the SSP, Koji Yamamoto, Daiki Tsuda, Takeshi Koba, Itaru Osafune, elsdest son of the late Osafune, and Masayuki Naito.

p.2   2012  Hall of Famers elected by the Players Selection Committee
                                                Gotaro Nagase
                                                Representative Director of the PSC

The 52nd Players Selection Committee elected in the Players Division the late Manabu Kitabeppu, who notched 213 wins with his good control of the ball, and the late Tsunemi Tsuda, who stuck consistently to the fast ball. In the election in the Players Division, 314 out of the 331 members with an experience of reporting baseball for 15 years or more wrote in the names of 7 candidates at most on a ballot out of 26 eligible candidates prepared and listed by the Screening Committee. Kitabeppu received 257 ballots by a majority of 21 over the stipulated number of 236, and Tsuda received 237 ballots by a majority of 1 over the stipulated number. They both pitched for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, overlapping each other for 10 years (1982 ~ 1991). For the record, they are the 9th (and the first for the HTC) among the inductees who played for the same team at the same period. They are the 2nd pair of pitchers inducted together following Shigeru Sugishita and Atsushi Aramaki in 1985 who had pitched for the Daimai Orions (1961).

In the Experts Division, 38 of the 47 electors consisting of directors of the PSC and the living Hall of Famers elected by the PSC wrote in the names of 3 candidates on a ballot out of 9 eligible candidates prepared and listed by the Screening Committee, but none of them received a minimum of 29 ballot to be a successful candidates. This was only the second time that no successful candidates were elected in the Expert Division since 2008 when the Experts Division was inaugurated. Yoshiro Sotokoba, who pitched for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp failed to win the election by only one ballot. If he ha won, it would have been the first time when three players from the same team were elected at the same time.

Profiles of Manabu Kitabeppu (photo left) and Tsunemi Tsuda (photo right)

“I feel like I became a hero who has just pitched a shutout win.” Kitabeppu was nominated as the first draft choice in 1975 when the Hiroshima Toyo Carp won the pennant for the first time and took the Central League by “red helmet storm” under the new manager Takeshi Koba. A graduate of Miyakonojo Agricultural High School was expected to win the first Rookie of the Year Award for the HTC, but actually he ended his first year in 1976 by a 2-1 record. The coveted award was at last won in 1982 by Tsunemi Tsuda, a graduate of Nanyo Technical High School and the first draft choice in 1981. His record as a starter was 11 wins and 6 losses.

Later Kitabeppu grew up to be the ace with such good control as was reputed to thread a needle. Tsuda suffered from disrupture of blood in the middle finger, and had to become a relief pitcher. In 1986, in his first year as a relief, he won the Comeback Award with 4 wins and 22 saves. On October 12, the HTC defeated the Yakult Swallows with a combination of Kitabeppu and Tsuda and clinched the 5th pennant in the Central League. In April, 1991, the 3rd year under manager Yamamoto who had retired in 1986, Tsuda was sidelined with malignant brain tumor. Yamamoto spurred the players to keep it up for ailing Tsuda and at the same time resorted to every means, consulting an exorcist and a fortune-teller, to wish for his recovery. Sometimes all the players wore a charm under their cap. “Our coherent feeling for him brought about our victory in 1991,” he recollected in his choked voice.

On July 20, 1993, Tsuda died at the premature age of 32. “Stopper of Fire” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the year of his eligibility and his honor will eternally inscribed in people’s mind. Teruyo Tsuda, his widow, came up from Kumamoto to attend the press conference and said, “Probably it is my husband himself who is surprised most. He must be filled with deep emotion to know that he was elected together with Kitabeppu, his adoring senior in baseball,” tears welling in her eyes. Daiki Tsuda, only son of the Tsudas and had been instructed by Koba at Tokyo International University, was also present at the conference and, with his father’s certificate in hand and against a photo of his father with uniform number 14, had his photos taken with Kitabeppu. They were flanked by jubilant Koba and Yamamoto. The scene was just like the reappearance of heyday of the Red Helmet Squad.

p.3    2012 Hall of Famers by the Special Selection Committee
                                     Yoshio Nishida, member of SSC

The eligible candidates for election by the SSC are 1) amateur players, coaches, managers, and umpires; 2) those people who contributed, or have contributed, a great deal to the development of pro and/or amateur baseball in terms of organization, management or otherwise. We are proud to say that with greater attention to the induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, more and more people worthy of induction have been recommended directly or indirectly to the SSC. The Screening Committee met in last November and selected nine eligible candidates: six holdovers and three new ones. They are (in alphabetical order):

 

  1. Kazuo Fukushima          Pitched for Kokura High School; won two consecutive                                         victories in Koshien
  2. Kazuo Hayashi            Founder of the Little League
  3. Junji Kanda (New)         Manager of Tokyo University team; Adviser of NPB
  4. Osamu Ohmoto              Developed aluminum bats and nurthured aodamo                                         (materials for bats)
  5. Makoto Ohta                  Manager of Komazawa University for 35 years with 22                                         victories
  6. Kiro Osafune             Mediation between amateur and pro baseball culminated in                                         “Nagashima Japan”
  7. Tetsuya Usami (New)       Authority on baseball statistics
  8. Haruo Wakimura           5th president of Japan High School Baseball Federation
  9. Masatake Yamanaka (New)   Manager of Team Japan at Barcelona Olympics;                                                  Bronze Medal

The SSC consists of 14 members. Tsunehiro Shimizu, who served long as an umpire in university and high school baseball, has replaced Tohru Watanabe, former manager of Tokyo University team and baseball historian. The Special Selection Committee met on January 10, 2012 and following the opening address by Ryozo Kato, the chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, had a candid and extensive discussion for more than an hour with common understanding that, unlike last year, there should be successful candidates this year. They voted in three candidates at most. The number of vote necessary to be elected was 11, that is, three fourths or more of 14.

The results were: Kiro Osafune 12, Osamu Ohmoto 12, Kazuo Fukushima 8; (The rest is omitted.)

Profile of the successful candidates

Kiro Osafune graduated from Tenri Middle School and entered Waseda University, when he was mobilized to the front like other students. After graduation, he worked for Japan Student Baseball Association and played an important role in holding All Japan University Baseball Championship, Meiji Shrine Baseball Championship, and Japan-U.S. University Baseball Championship Series. With the relations between amateur and pro sports thawing internationally, he exerted himself to send a joint Team Japan to the Olympics, culminating in inviting Shigeo Nagashima, former Giants manager, as skipper of Team Japan in the Athens Olympics. Due to illness, Nagashima himself was not able to take the helm after the preliminary series, but “Nagashima Japan” proved to be a starting point of the integration of pro and amateur sports in Japan. He was a member of the SSP until 2007 when he died at the age of 83.

Osamu Ohmoto was an expert on electrical engineering and president of Shibaura Institute of Technology, but he was an aficionado of baseball. When aluminum bats were introduced to high school baseball in 1974, he helped set up its safety standard. He regarded wooden bats as more proper than aluminum bats and organize the Society for Nurturing Aodamo Resources to preserve the materials of wooden bats by planting its seedlings. He died in 2008 at the age of 83. Incidentally he was the first Hall of Famer with a doctorate in technology in 21 years (He is preceded by Yoshio Nakazawa,1991 Hall of Famer) .This, I think, is a symbol of the widening comprehensiveness of the Hall of Famers.

The induction by the SSP has an inevitable tendency to be a posthumous one. But as expressed by the surviving family of the deceased inductees, the joy of receiving an honor of induction should be primarily enjoyed by the inductees themselves. There have been no living Hall of Famers elected by the SSP in the past five years. It is high time some kind of countermeasures be worked out.

p.4  Inductees Remembered (34)
          
           A Memory of my Father ~ Episodes
                                         Maya Yamauchi
                                         Eldest daughter of Kazuhiro Yamauchi, 2002 Hall of Famer

My father was fondly nicknamed “Kappa-ebisen,” a popular Japanese snack food. Just as its famous commercial song goes, once he started teaching his players, he “could not stop it, nor could be stopped.” All his life he liked baseball, or teaching baseball, to be exact. He did not begrudge teaching anybody, pro and amateur alike, forgetting the time. My younger sister was also a victim of his instruction. When she was in the 3rd grade in elementary school, she casually told him that she wanted to play baseball with her friends. He was very glad to hear it, probably because he had no sons. He immediately bought a glove for her to teach how to play catch, while she did not know anything about baseball rules and all she wanted was to simply enjoy ball throwing. He began to explain how to catch a ball, how to use her wrist and waist, and so on, just as if he were instructing little leaguers or boys playing baseball in earnest on the fundamentals of playing baseball. Apparently it was no fun to girls as young as 8 or 9.  He ignored their protest or wish to get home when it got dark. Even when other girls were gone, he went on giving special training to my sister, who complained on returning home, “I never want to have his teaching again. It was no fun at all!. It was too difficult.” What a funny contrast to see my father smiling with an air of satisfaction. He quite forgot what she wanted to do and did what he wanted. Naturally his “lesson” never lasted more than twice.

Later when my daughter was in the 3rd grade in elementary school, he was a coach with the Hanshin Tigers. When she was asked if she wanted to participate in a speed gun contest for fans, she said yes instantly. It was an attraction held in the diamond before the game at Koshien Stadium. The day was decided on a day in summer vacation, which gave my father a month of preparing her for the occasion. But as he was then living in Kansai, he found time to teach her only when he came up to Tokyo to play away games. He bought her a glove and taught her earnestly how to pitch. My lively daughter liked baseball more than my sister, and she was worthy of his teaching. He may have found it more pleasing to teach a granddaughter than a daughter and his special lesson continued until just before the contest.

On the very day, he sat in the dugout, boasting to manager and players, “My granddaughter is coming. I taught her how to pitch.” He told us joyously about her performance later. I remember how he was glad then. I think my daughter proved a good granddaughter to him. After that she enjoyed playing catch with him. When he pitched in the first pitch ceremony in a game in the World Baseball Classic preliminary series, she was with him helping him warm up before the ceremony. Though he was not in good shape, once he stood on the playing ground, he was so freshened up miraculously that he almost looked a different person.

He was saying to the last breath that he wanted to go out teaching baseball. I remember his talking about baseball in his sleep. I do think that he was happy indeed in that he loved baseball genuinely like a child and that with the support of many people he was involved in baseball until his death.

p.5  Column: Much to See, Much to Enjoy (41)   

     Pro Baseball and Masashi Akamine, My Father
                                           Yayoi Toyama, the daughter of the late Masashi Akamine

Masashi Akamine, my father, joined Nagoya, one of the teams belonging to Nippon Professional Baseball League before the Pacific War started. (N.B. There was no English appellation for the organization and the team was called “Nagoya Army” in Japanese.) As its director, he actively recruited promising rookies from mainly from Kyushu which he came from. They were Makoto Kozuru (1980 Hall of Famer), Jiro Kanayama, Tokichi
Ishimarau, Isao Mimura, Kiyoshi Osawa, and others. He went along with the team in their road games and prohibited players from playing mahjong at night.

After the war started, baseball terms in English were replaced by Japanese, like “good” and “bad” instead of “strike” and “ball.” When the war situation got worse, playing pro baseball was out of the question. He sought the survival of his team by being taken over by the Riken Inc. It so happened that at lunch recess heads of each section sang a morale-enhancing song over the loudspeaker. When his turn came, he asked me on the previous night to teach him how to sing “the Patriotic March.” He was notoriously tone-deaf and my painstaking labor proved fruitless. Next day his “melodious” singing voice came over the loudspeaker. “I was so shamed of it that I hid myself under the table,” the jocular Kanayama repeated the episode so often afterwards and made us laugh heartily. The players turned employees and they were united with him with family affection. He was called “Old Daddy” by them and when a child was born to them, he was glad to name the child on their behalf.

Pro baseball resumed when the war was over. At the start of the current two-league system, a notion of franchise was imported from the U.S.A. and a new team was franchised in Hiroshima, where he seemed to have some contacts. At the same time, Chunichi Dragons, formerly Nagoya (Army), apparently intended to have closer connection with Aichi Prefecture, their franchise. He and his players were not locally connected and began to feel uncomfortable with Chunichi Dragons. His players were transferred to a new team in Hiroshima. This movement was widely taken up by baseball journals as “Akamine Whirlwind.” He looked rather lonesome when he said, “There should not be a team which is too weak. My conduct will be duly understood in time,” and helped in secret the new team in Hiroshima bolster up itself. When he asked me, “What is koi in English? They will name the team after the vigorous fish,” an English teacher that I was answered, “It is carp. Its plural form is also carp. Be careful.” He had an acquaintance in Mr. Zenimura who had immigrated to Fresno, CA, from Hiroshima. When my father wanted to persuade his two sons, Harvey and Howard, to play for the Carp, it was me who wrote to them several times with success. When they arrived in Japan, we met them unofficially at Haneda Airport.

Thus my father worked for the development of pro baseball in Japan before, during, and after the war. Personally, I am proud to think that his greatest contribution was the fact that he drew up the Baseball Agreement of NPB and helped set up the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. As to the former, the work began with translation of the MLB’s original version. He singled out Toshio Gunshi, graduate student at Tokyo University of Humanities and Sciences, later professor at Tsukuba University, for this work. When the first draft was made, he met Gunshi on several days to examine the draft article by article. He put his all energies to this work, so by the time he began the latter, he had almost lost his eyesight. Japan’s BHFM was planned after the fashion of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Kenzo Hirose was admittedly an authority on history of baseball, and it took time to obtain his consent to serve as the first director. My father saw it opened finally on June 12, 1959 and ended his eventful life on February 15, 1963 at the age of 66.

Last but not the least, I am deeply grateful to have been asked to write about my father in relation to pro baseball on the 50th anniversary of his death.

p.6  Rara Avis (77)  World Race Sugoroku for Boys donated by Saburo Saito
                                                                 Miwako Atarashi, curator

It was a supplement to the January issue of a magazine “Boys’ World,” published in 1919. Various kinds of sport and play (like kite-flying) are depicted in each space, baseball being in the 10th space. Sugoroku is a Japanese backgammon that is played by two or more persons using dice and advancing their pieces across a large sheet of paper according to the number on the dice. The person who advances his or her piece first to the last space or goal wins. In this sugoroku, a boy with a pennant is depicted in the goal, testifying that baseball was very popular with boys in those days. Like hanetsuki (battledore and shuttlecock) and karuta (a kind of card game), sugoroku was the standard game played by children at New Year’s.

Saburo Saito, the donator, wrote the script of “The Era of Waseda-Keio Rivalry” for the New National Drama Troupe and did research on the poet Takuboku Ishikawa, but he is more famous as a researcher of the history of baseball in Japan. He is admittedly the first to have claimed that baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872, not in 1873. When the BHFM was opened in 1959, he continued his research as its temporary advisor, but died an untimely death in February,1960. We are in possession of his valuable collections mentioned in the book cited in the following article below, and his scrapbooks undisposed of. We are thinking of storing them in PDF for the sake of future research of baseball history in Japan and also clarifying his virtually unknown works.

Library Note    Two Books for Baseball Exhibitions in celebration of the invention of Baseball
                                                               Taku Chinone, co-librarian

In 1939, two exhibitions in celebration of the invention of baseball was held at the Hankyu Department Store in Osaka and the Daruma Store in Fukui City. Photographs and the catalogue of exhibits for the former were edited into a book in December, 1940, entitled, “Bulletin for the Baseball Exhibition in celebration of the Invention of Baseball,” and those for the latter in October, 1939, entitled, “Catalogue for the Baseball Exhibition in celebration of the Invention of Baseball.” In those days, baseball was believed to have been invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839. Now let me introduce the first book.(See photo down left) According to it, the exhibition seems to be an ambitious one, dealing with not only the history of baseball but university baseball, middle school baseball, pro baseball, and baseball in the U.S.A. Apparently a demonstration of ball and bat making was held.

The exhibits were itemized according to each exhibitor, for example, Atsushi Kohno, 1960 Hall of Famer, Tadao Ichioka, 1962 Hall of Famer, and Saburo Saito (please refer to the article above) who submitted 60 items, 51 of which were books including “Outdoor Games (the first book in Japan introducing Western sports) and “Baseball, an enlarged edition” by Kanoe Chuma, 1970 Hall of Famer, who translated “baseball” into the Japanese “yakyu.” As mentioned by Atarashi, many books and materials donated by him are available at our Baseball Library. They are valuable sources of information about baseball in Meiji and Taisho eras.

 p.7 

A   Topics     Notable visitors and events between October 2011 through January 2012

  1.  On October 27, Reiichi Matsunaga, 2007 Hall of Famer, Kimio Gomyo, professor at Sports and Health Department of Hosei University, and Koji Yamamoto, 2008 Hall of Famer.
  2.  On November 5, Bon Nun Koo, Commissioner of Korean Baseball Organization with his staff.
  3.  On November 22, a group of 12 rookies of the Yomiuri Giants headed by pitcher Ryuya Matsumoto prayed to the Monument to the memory of the war dead which stands outside and then made a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
  4. On display: Aojishiki won by the first rep of Tohoku District; On November 4 and onward
    Aojishiki, or Blue Lion Flag, is a championship flag given to 14 regional champions
    qualified as the first rep of their region to enter the annual Inter-City Baseball Championship. In 2010, Nihon Paper Manufacturing Company at Ishinomaki was the first rep of Tohoku District. As they were entitled to keep it for a year, they put it on display at their reception room so that many people could see it. But the big tsunami caused by the 3.11 big earthquake swept it away together with the building itself. Fortunately it was miraculously recovered from a heap of rubble in the removing work. Though tattered and discolored, it was put on display as a symbol of reconstruction from the disaster at Kyocera Dome in Osaka while the ICBC was held there (October 22 through November 1, 2011).

   5. On January 12, Toshiharu Ueda, 2003 Hall of Famer, and Shinya Sasaki, sports
      writer. Their talk will appear on “Great Managers in Japan’s Pro Baseball in the
     Showa Era,”  which is scheduled to be published on February 1 by Baseball Magazine
     Co.

B  News from the Baseball Museum

  1. Change in officials  
    New councilors           Nobuhira Hayashi, Chiba Lotte Mariners
                                       Hitoshi Yamagishi, Yomiuri Giants
    Retiring councilors      Akira Ishikawa
                                      Atsushi Harasawa

  2.  On Sale    Official standardized ball with serial number and certificate by NPB
               @ 2,500yen (including tax)
         It is also available by mail. The postage is 250yen per ball, 400yen per 2 or 3 balls,          and free  of charge for 4 balls or more.

   3.    Notice   “Baseball Hall of Fame, 2012” will be published in coming March.
                      The details will appear in the next Newsletter, Vol.22, No.1.

   4.    Guide to the Baseball Museum
          The entrance is located to the right of Gate 21 of Tokyo Dome.
          Hours: 10:00-18:00 (March through September)
                10:00-17:00 (October through February)
                (Visitors are requested to enter at least 30 minutes prior to the closing time.)

         Admission: 500yen (300yen)  Adults
                    200yen (150yen)   Primary & Junior High School students
                    (* Per person in groups 20 or more)
                    300yen         Senior citizens aged 65 or more
           
          Closed: Mondays except those 1) during the spring and summer vacations,
                                   2) that fall on National Holidays,
                                   3) when a pro baseball game is held at Tokyo Dome.
                    N.B. In other words, from February to April, the museum will be closed on:
                         February 6, 13, 20 and 27; March 5, 12 and 19; April 9, 16 and 23.
          
     
P. 8  Essay (47)  
                Chance Meeting to be Extolled ~ Every ball is “a once-in-a-lifetime chance”

                                    Masaji Miyata, member of the Players Selection Committee
                                               Daily Sports

At the end of last year, about 20 former members of the baseball club of my alma meter attended a year-end party held at a restaurant at Umeda in Osaka. We were roughly contemporary with each other and talked with enthusiasm about our playing days. The manager who had instructed us some 35 years before stunned us by reciting the old lineup by rote. Our talk touched by chance on the practice game with the overwhelmingly powerful Minoshima High School in Wakayama Prefecture and Tadashi Bito, their manager.

“I am truly grateful for Bito. We hadn’t met him before, but, to my surprise, he readily agreed to play a practice doubleheader with us, an obscure public school team in Osaka and a perfectly stranger to him. I was more surprised than glad to hear his words. Honestly speaking I was thinking that it would be no worse off if I failed. I cannot thank him enough even today.” He managed such a weak team as always ignored by strong private school teams, but he was anxious to learn something from the nation’s top team by playing even once against it. With this fervent desire, he went to meet Bito in Wakayama. He could not find the manager at the school building by the sea, but he was shown to the ground across the Arita river, where he was told by a slim youth where the manager was. The youth proved to be Hiroshi Azuma who would lead the Minoshima Nine to victory the next year in the Invitational High School Baseball Championship.

One day in April, 1976, we lost the game by a 23-1 score. It was a complete defeat which made us realize the difference of power beyond our wishful expectation. The second game was suspended in the second inning when I was hit on the right temple by Azuma’s pickoff throw off the second base. I was sent off the ground almost unconscious on the coach’s back, but I clearly remember Bito’s voice, “He will be O.K as the ball bounced back with a clear sound”

Years later, I wrote by a turn of fate a series of essays on high school baseball in a newspaper. The title was “My Heartwarming Koshien.” Even if a team was weak, Bito applauded it when its players exerted themselves to the upmost, but he was severe to them when they neglected the basic play. I once asked him when he was watching a game from the press box in Koshien Stadium, “Do you remember it? Years ago, a very weak team dared to challenge the formidable Minoshima team to a doubleheader, but they could not earn more than a single score from pitchers Tsujimoto and Azuma. The team lost the games by being pounded a few home runs. The second game was suspended by a player’s injury and the player was hospitalized. The very person is me now sitting in front of you!”  Naturally he did not remember it. “Is that so? I wonder if there was such a thing.”

Such a strong team as Minoshima was modest enough to greet us standing at attention and bowed deeply to such a weak team. Even though they scored a lot of runs, they never relaxed their attack. They seemed to be teaching us, “The more strong a team is, the more it does as it should do.” When a batter was struck out, he was ordered to kneel formally on the bench, which was a freezing sight in a game never seen before. But in those days, it looked like a natural behavior: the famous “Bito smile” did not exist at all.

   I was told that “Anybody is welcome who comes” is his way of doing in his life. Minoshima H.S. is the same public high school as our alma mater. However strong Minoshima H.S. is, it is basically modest indeed. Six years afterward, our alma mater entered the High School Baseball Championship in summer at Koshien Stadium and was regarded as a miracle. Bito contributed a great deal to the development of amateur baseball. He has given an invisible power to such a person like me who is in the lower echelon of baseball. This is, I think, is an impression shared by many peoples.

   He named his book after his favorite motto,“Ichigo Ichie* Ikkyu,” or literally “’a once-in-a-lifetime’ ball.” It now stands on my desk at the office with other books stuck between two bookends and its title looks at me standing at attention. Time really flies, and almost a year has passed since he passed away.
 
  N.B. * Teaching in traditional tea ceremony:“Each occasion on which hospitality is offered and received is to be cherished as a unique experience in one’s life.”

                                                                                   (Translated by Ryuichi Suzuki)

 

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