|

Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in Tokyo worth a visit

by Wayne Graczyk

One of the items on my “bucket list” is a trip to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Nope, despite being from the East Coast, I have never been there but hope to make the trek to (what I hear is) the picturesque village in upstate New York.

Meanwhile, have you ever visited the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum?

Do you even know where it is?

While not nearly as extensive, I am sure, as its American counterpart, the Japan HOF is more conveniently located and well worth the 30 to 45 minutes it takes to walk through and observe the history of baseball in this country.

Planning to attend a Yomiuri Giants home game at Tokyo Dome any time soon?

Go early and schedule a drop-in at the Hall of Fame. It is part of the Big Egg complex, and the entrance is just to the right of the stadium’s Gate 21.

On display are various items from the Japanese baseball past, including commemorative baseballs, bats, gloves, shoes, uniforms, game posters and tickets, along with pictorial biographies of the 168 Hall of Fame members.

Also to be seen are objects from the two World Baseball Classic tournaments (2006 and 2009) won by Japan.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March through September, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through February. The facility, which also includes a library, is closed Mondays except national holidays, spring and summer vacation periods, and when there is a pro game scheduled at Tokyo Dome.

In the case of a 2 p.m. day game start such as the Yomiuri Giants-Chunichi Dragons tilt on Sunday, the Hall of Fame and Museum stays open until 7 p.m.

Admission fees are a modest ¥500 for adults, ¥200 for primary and junior high school students and ¥300 for seniors ages 65 and older. Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more people.

English-language pamphlets are available to help non-Japanese speakers enjoy the experience.

* * * * *

Coincidentally, reader Claudio Rodriguez from Toronto e-mailed to ask if Orix Buffaloes outfielder Tuffy Rhodes has a chance for eventual selection to the Japanese Hall, and if there are any other foreigners who have been so honored.

Wally Yonamine, native of Hawaii and former great player with the Tokyo Giants, manager of the Chunichi Dragons and coach with seven of the 12 Japanese teams, was inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame in 1994.

Yonamine played 12 seasons (1951-62), won three Central League batting titles, was the CL MVP in 1957 and managed the Dragons to a league championship in 1974.

Rhodes, mentioned in this column last week as one of the all-time leading home run hitters in Japanese baseball, is playing his 13th season in the country, has won four league homer titles, led the Pacific League in runs batted in three times and shares the single-season home run record of 55 with Sadaharu Oh and Alex Cabrera.

It would be difficult to see how Rhodes could be denied selection to the Hall of Fame when his time for eligibility comes around five years after his retirement, which may not be for a while. If I had a say in the process, I would surely vote for him.

* * * * *

It is Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day will be coming up on June 21, the concluding day for the regular schedule of Japan’s interleague season which begins on May 19.

In conjunction with the Dad’s Day celebration, media members covering games of the 12 Central and Pacific League teams have been given a form to submit nominations for the second annual “Best Father in Pro Baseball” award.

The beat writers are to suggest three players, managers or coaches from the teams they follow who best represent fatherhood and family values. One individual from each club will be chosen, and the winners will be honored at the six scheduled Father’s Day games on the third Sunday in June.

Among those named as Best Father in 2008 were Yomiuri Giants infielder Michihiro Ogasawara, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks slugger Hiroki Kokubo, Saitama Seibu Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe, and one foreigner — pitcher Ryan Glynn, then of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

Glynn, now throwing for the Yokohama BayStars, was picked last season because he often brought his kids to the ballpark where media members covering the Nippon Ham games were able to observe the player’s outstanding dedication to his family.

Also, it was pointed out, the Fighters had a high winning percentage on days when Glynn’s offspring attended games at Sapporo Dome.

Glynn said, “Any time you get recognized for something like this off the baseball field, it is special. I was moved because I’m a foreigner but was chosen for the award by the Japanese (media), and it is the only trophy I have on my desk. I am very proud of it.”

* * * * *

this week, J SPORTS announced April 17 that live coverage of Major League Baseball games will commence on June 2 on its satellite and cable channels.

Both regular-season and playoff contests will be aired through the 2015 season as part of a seven-year contract with the MLB.

There will be 120 games televised this season, with the number rising to more than 400 beginning in 2012.

* * * * *

Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com