A couple of selections from the mail bag this week.
Wayne: Have you heard anything like this from your area of the world? I heard rumors from Japan that many of the Japanese sports dailies (newspapers) after seeing (Hideki) Matsui was not likely to make the (American League) all-star team, hired college and high school students to enter ballots to be mailed in and on the Internet to get Matsui on the team.
I still see an occasional Japanese ball game on NHK satellite here in Seattle. Do you ever get a chance to do an English broadcast anymore?
Finally, to do you think “Junior” Matsui (Kazuo of Seibu) is coming to the U.S. next year and how does that continual outflow (of star players) hurt Japanese baseball?
Don Green, Seattle
Don: I have not heard anything concrete about this, but All-Star fan voting in Japan is often strange. Hanshin Tigers pitcher Trey Moore received a lot of votes for CL first basemen, though he has never played a game at that position.
Also, Chunichi Dragons supporters helped select Kenjiro Kawasaki as one of the leading pitchers, though he has been out of action for two years with arm troubles.
Not only can Japanese fans vote online and by mail for the MLB all-stars, but also at am/pm convenience stores throughout Japan.
I am sure all Japanese fans are happy to see Matsui and Ichiro (Suzuki) on the American League all-star squad, and the sports papers can sell a lot more copies (and advertising) with Matsui and Ichiro as teammates in Chicago at the midsummer classic on July 15.
Incidentally, ballot box stuffing goes back to 1957 in the National League when Cincinnati Redlegs fans voted so often, they placed all eight Reds regular position players on the starting team. (How many can you name? Answer at end of column.)
The vote was then taken away from the fans and given to the players with the restriction that they had only one vote per position, and they could not nominate themselves or their teammates. The fans got the vote back in 1970.
To answer your other questions, I got to call play-by-play on two bilingual telecasts in 2002. Former Tokyo Giants star Warren Cromartie and I did a Giants-Chunichi Dragons game on July 4 for NTV, and I joined Marty Kuehnert for TV-Asahi’s English-language coverage of Game 3 of the Giants-Seibu Lions Japan Series on Oct. 29 at Tokorozawa.
As for “Little” Matsui, there are rumors shortstop Kazuo may be headed to the New York Mets or perhaps even to the Yankees, as a teammate of Hideki, where he would supposedly play third base next to Derek Jeter.
The Nikkan Sports speculated on July 1, however, that Kazuo might use his free agency to stay in Japan and join — ta-da! — the Yomiuri Giants, for whom he would supposedly play center field.
I would not call the loss of a few players a “continual outflow” of Japanese going to the majors and believe the stars who left are being replaced by some good young talent. A positive effect has been the increase of interest among Japanese fans in Major League Baseball.
By the way, next column (July 23) I will announce the winner of the Hideki Matsui sweepstakes — the fan who came closest to predicting back in April Godzilla’s home run, RBI and batting average stats at the MLB all-star break on July 14.
What a difference a year makes. I received the following from die-hard Nippon Ham Fighters fan Kazuo Kakimi of Nara on July 20, 2002, when the team was buried in fifth place in the Pacific League standings and going nowhere.
Dear Wayne: Hope you will be kind enough to accept my least rosy mind as a Nippon Ham Fighters fan. Very, very unhappy with hitless, scoreless, fightless Fighters, incredibly weak! Their poor play put me into a toothache in addition to a headache.
To be frank with you, I will have to surrender watching their games. Apology for sending bad news. “Baseball keeps me healthy and vital!”
Now that the Fighters are doing much better, Kakimi-san sent this followup e-mail last week. His toothache and headache seem to have disappeared, now that the team has improved and is no longer hitless, scoreless and fightless. His bad news is gone; now hot news is here.
Hello, Mr. Graczyk: Kazuo Kakimi, Japan Times reader and Fighters fan is pleased to get in touch with Fighters fan, Wayne. Had a pleasant time June 20 at Osaka Dome, speaking to (Fighters manager) Trey Hillman.
I said, “Mr. Hillman, watching you on TV every game! Let’s win!” Trey replied in a friendly way, “Arigato gozaimasu,” offering his hand through the net for a shake.
Short news, but hot news for me this is. Hopefully for you, too, as we are placing big expectations on fresh new Fighters starting in 2004 in Sapporo!
Kazuo Kakimi, Nara
Dear Kazuo: Happy to hear you were able to speak with Hillman-kantoku. He appreciates your support and loves to interact with the fans.
I like your personal catch phrase, “Baseball keeps me healthy and vital!” Perhaps all fans should invent their own slogans as the teams do. Yours is better than most.
The eight Cincinnati Redlegs elected as starters on the 1957 National League all-star team were catcher Ed Bailey, first baseman George Crowe, second baseman Johnny Temple, shortstop Roy McMillan, third baseman Don Hoak and outfielders Wally Post, Gus Bell and Frank Robinson.
The National League intervened and threw Crowe, Post and Bell off the team and replaced them with Stan Musial, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
Wonder if the Cincinnati newspapers paid college students and high school kids to submit multi-votes for the Reds players 46 years ago?
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