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An inside look at selection for Japan’s Hall of Fame

by Wayne Graczyk

When Hiromitsu Ochiai is inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame this coming summer, it will be a very convenient situation. As manager of the defending Central League champion Chunichi Dragons, Ochiai will also pilot the 2011 CL All-Star team, and the HOF induction ceremony will take place prior to Game 1 of the Nippon Pro Baseball All-Star series.

This year’s formal entrance procedure is scheduled for the Dragons home stadium, Nagoya Dome, on July 22. Ochiai was chosen for membership in the Hall last week, along with former Nankai Hawks pitching great Mutsuo Minagawa, who will enter posthumously.

Ochiai and Minagawa will become the 172nd and 173rd members, respectively, of the Japanese Hall of Fame.

But how are new members selected?

What are the categories and criteria?

Who votes?

Successful candidates for Hall of Fame membership achieve election by the Players Selection Committee or a Special Selection Committee. The Players Selection Committee in turn decides on two classifications: the Players Division and the Experts Division.

The Players Division includes professional players who have been inactive for a minimum of five years, and their term of eligibility is 15 years. Candidates are evaluated by active or retired baseball writers, and this year there were 333 voters.

In the Experts Division, the focus is on professional coaches, managers and umpires retired for a minimum of six months, and also players who have been inactive for 21 years or more. The decision makers here number about 50, including all living members of the Hall of Fame elected by the Players Selection Committee.

In both cases, those receiving votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast are elected as Hall of Fame members.

The Special Selection Committee votes for amateur players (retired for a minimum of five years), coaches, managers and umpires (retired at least six months) and others who have made significant contributions to the organization, development and management in professional or amateur baseball.

This board has 14 electors who are active or retired professional baseball officials, active amateur baseball officials and learned people versed in baseball.

Candidates here too must be named on 75 percent of the votes cast in order to enter the Hall of Fame.

In this year’s voting, Ochiai was elected by the Players Selection Committee from among 31 eligible candidates in the Players Division. The PSC also chose Minagawa from among 10 prospective candidates prepared by a Screening Committee.

There were also 10 names proposed to the Special Selection Committee, but none received the required 11 votes from among the 14 committee members.

The Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located in the Tokyo Dome with entrance from the outside adjacent to Gate 21. It is closed Mondays except national holidays.

Ryuichi Suzuki, international public relations spokesman for the organization says, “Please stop by the museum on your next visit to Tokyo Dome.”

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Sad notes: Baseball America has reported the obituaries of two old-timers in Japanese baseball: pitcher Ed Palmquist and infielder Tony Roig.

Following two years in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins, Palmquist threw for the Mainichi Orions in 1963 and died last July 10 in California at age 77.

Roig, known as “Roi” in newspaper boxes and on the scoreboard lineup of the Nishitetsu Lions in Fukuoka, played five seasons (1963-67) for that club and in 1968 with the Kintetsu Buffaloes before retiring.

Prior to coming to Japan, he had major league experience with the Washington Senators from 1953-55. Roig died Oct. 20 in Washington state at the age of 81.

Also, it was learned former sumo writer and broadcaster Andy Adams died Dec. 13 in San Diego at the age of 89.

Though this is a baseball column, I mention this because Adams, a longtime sumo reporter who wrote numerous articles on the sport in various publications, including The Japan Times, helped many along the way, including myself.

Adams was dedicated to providing information to non-Japanese speaking sumo fans. He founded the English-language Sumo World magazine in 1973 and called play-by-play of matches at Tokyo tournaments for more than two decades on the American Forces radio outlets of the Far East Network (FEN).

He also once stuck out his neck to help a blond, blue-eyed, strapping hulk of a kid from Texas named Phil Smoak, who thought he could convert his football playing ability into a successful sumo career. Adams brought the then-19-year-old to Taiho Beya and convinced the oyakata to give him a chance in 1981.

The guy could not adjust to the regimen and life in the stable, however, and he quit after five homesick months.

When I was still a youngster, Andy offered some advice and introductions while I was planning to launch an English-language fans’ guide to Japanese baseball in 1976. For that, I am grateful.

Thanks, my friend, and rest in peace.

Finally this week, and sadly again, we report the death of Ann Bacque, wife of Gene Bacque, the American star pitcher of the Hanshin Tigers in the 1960s.

Gene and Ann made many friends in the Kansai area and throughout Japan during their eight years here. Ann died Jan. 16 at the age of 72 in Louisiana. Our condolences to Gene and the Bacque family.

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Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com