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Explaining a hold and a tale about ‘Smokey’ catching for the Carp

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Checking out what is on the minds of fans and readers of the column this week as we go through the e-mail inbox, and Josh Barnett in Kobe wants to know, “What is a ‘hold’ and what does a pitcher need to do to be awarded one?”

This is a relatively new statistic in baseball, designed to reward relief pitchers with some substantial numbers for their work. It is the middle relievers and setup men who get the holds and hold points.

Coincidentally, the Boston Red Sox TV announcers explained the concept during a recent televised game from Boston.

Play-by-play man Don Orsillo put it this way: “A hold is awarded to a pitcher who comes into a game while his team is leading, gets at least one out and leaves with his club still ahead. Conceivably, a guy could enter a game with his team leading by 15 runs and give up 14 but, as long as he got one out, he would get the hold.”

A winning pitcher does not get credit for a hold, and a closer who is awarded a save also does not get a hold. Likewise, no hold is given to pitchers who enter a tie game, but several relievers can be awarded a hold in the same game, and pitchers from both teams can be given a hold in the case of a seesaw game where the lead changes hands.

There is also the hold points category, calculated by adding the number of holds plus wins in the case where the reliever is given credit for a victory.

Three foreigners are currently among the hold leaders in Japanese baseball. Through games of July 15, Hiroshima Carp reliever Mike Schultz was second in the Central League with 22 holds and 24 hold points.

In the Pacific League, Brian Falkenborg of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks was second with 17 holds and 21 hold points, and Brian Sikorski of the Chiba Lotte Marines followed with 13 holds and 18 hold points. Both Brians were named to the PL team for next weekend’s All-Star Series.

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Over the years, several readers have asked why there are no foreign catchers in Japan. Now reader Drew Cobb of Jacksonville, Fla., wrote the following about the experiences of Adrian “Smokey” Garrett who did some catching for the Hiroshima Carp in 1978.

“I am friends with Garrett, and the way Smokey tells the story, the regular (Japanese) catcher was injured, so he volunteered to catch. Ironically, the Carp went on a winning streak and, when the regular catcher was ready to return, the Carp had a dilemma.

They couldn’t just take Smokey out without a reason, so what they did was to cross him up during an actual game.

“When he would call for a fastball, he would get a curve, and vice versa. By doing this, they would make him look bad and therefore have a reason to replace him. Adrian tells me he got so mad about the second time this happened, that he charged his own pitcher while the batter was rounding the bases.

“The entire team had to come out to break up a fight between teammates. But I have to give kudos to Adrian. The very first game he ever caught in his professional career was at the major league level for the Cubs. Let’s see a player today volunteer to catch, and start in the major leagues.”

By the way, during a series between the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome last month, the Swallows were in a situation where they had only two catchers registered, Ryoji Aikawa and Masakazu Fukukawa.

Had both become injured or been removed during a game and an emergency backstop was needed, the third catcher might have been American first baseman Jamie D’Antona.

“I caught 30 to 40 games in Triple-A during the past several seasons,” D’Antona said after revealing he had been approached by Yakult’s coaching staff and asked if he would put on the mask, chest protector and shin guards if needed.

“No problem,” said the Swallows cleanup hitter, but the opportunity did not materialize.

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Rob Fitts in New York, Japanese baseball historian and author of books including “Remembering Japanese Baseball, an Oral History of the Game” and “Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball,” wrote to let us know about his new 1934 Tour of Japan Web site he is using to promote his next book, “Banzai Babe Ruth! Baseball Diplomacy and Fanaticism in Imperial Japan.”

“Hopefully, I will be able to add a lot more before the book comes out in a couple of years,” said Fitts.

The link is robfitts.com/Banzai_Babe_Ruth.htm.

That tour of Japan, made 75 years ago by major league superstars, was the one where Japanese schoolboy Eiji Sawamura struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx at Shizuoka, only to lose 1-0 on a home run by Gehrig.

It was also the time when Moe Berg, a catcher on the major league roster, allegedly took photographs in Japan that were later used for military advantage by America against Japan during the Pacific war which would break out seven years later.

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Finally this week, have you heard? The “Baseball Ambassador,” Tom Schieffer, the chief U.S. envoy to Japan from 2005 to 2009 during the second term of President George W. Bush, is planning to run for governor of Texas.

Schieffer, once president of the Texas Rangers and a frequent visitor to ballparks in Japan during his tenure as ambassador, is a Democrat, and it appears he will establish his candidacy in the gubernatorial election in the Lone Star State in 2010.

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Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com