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Road Trip of Survival: The Hanshin Tigers came through their “Road Trip of Death” in pretty good shape. The team went 10-9 while away from their home Koshien Stadium (being used for the national high school Tournament) for 25 days from Aug. 1 and was still in first place in the Central League, leading the second-place Chunichi Dragons by 2 1/2 games when they returned home to Koshien on Aug. 26 to play the Yomiuri Giants.

A Road Trip of Their Own: Now the Giants, already dead and mired in fifth place in the CL, are on their own 18-day road swing while the Japan Inter-City Corporate Tournament occupies Tokyo Dome. The Yomiuri players are the ones living out of suitcases now, playing 16 consecutive dates on the road, including three “home” games against the Yakult Swallows: Aug. 30-31 at Osaka Dome and Sept. 1 at the beautiful Botchan Stadium in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island.

Bad News Bears: Phone call from former Yomiuri player Warren Cromartie in Arizona says Cro has enjoyed his first season as manager of the Japan Samurai Bears, the all-Japanese, homeless team playing in the independent Golden Baseball League in the U.S. southwest.

Talk about a road trip: The Bears are on a season-long 90-game spree as visitors, and it ain’t been easy. They are in last place in the GBL’s Arizona Division and have the next-to-worst record in the league, a half-game better than the Fullerton Flyers, basement dwellers of the California Division.

A recent article in the Baseball America newspaper, by Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune, says the Samurai are finding the adjustment to life in America extremely tough — on and off the field.

They were the victims of a no-hitter against the Chico Outlaws and, since several of the players use tobacco, that is a big problem in a country where cigarette-smoking is restricted in many areas.

The Bears players also apparently had their fill of hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and pizza, so they began cooking noodles and rice dishes at their hotels.

When they washed pots and pans in their bathrooms, they scratched the surface of the bathtubs, and the team was billed for replacing the tubs, according to Kenney.

Cromartie also got into trouble.

“They suspended me for three games for arguing with the umpires,” said Cro who still insists he is happy he took the job, and he can always say he was the first manager in the history of the Samurai Bears.

Hopefully, there will be a book or movie about the GBL’s first season. Can’t wait to see it.

More Hoshino Rumors: Speaking of managers, the possibility has moved up a notch that Senichi Hoshino will become the Yomiuri Giants skipper after all. Talk on the field is that NTV, the Giants main broadcaster of home games, and the TV channels that air Giants road games would love to see Hoshino in the pilot’s chair, as that is sure to improve viewer ratings which have suffered in this dismal season for the Kyojin.

The Nikkan Sports paper ran another Page 1 banner headline on Aug. 25, with the words, “Hoshino Giants Manager” in huge kanji characters, and one radio guy said he thinks it’s now about a 70 percent chance Hoshino will succeed Tsuneo Horiuchi as the Giants field boss.

Hoshino, by the way, was out of the country while all these rumors were flying. But he flew back Aug. 25 and was on the cover of the Nikkan again.

He told reporters waiting for him at Kansai International Airport he had no comment on the Giants manager controversy, but he is to be the TV commentator for NHK (BS-1) on the Tigers-Giants game at Koshien Aug. 28, and he will get a lot of attention before and after that game.

Another MLB Manager with Japan Playing Experience: Another one-time foreign player in Japan has become a big league manager, at least on an interim basis.

Sam Perlozzo was a second baseman for the Yakult Swallows in 1980 and is now in charge of the on-field operations for the Baltimore Orioles, having replaced Lee Mazzilli who was fired. Perlozzo joins Ken Macha of the Oakland Athletics and Charlie Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies as current MLB skippers who previously played in the Japanese leagues.

Half a Save is Better Than None: Hiroshima Carp closer John Bale says, and I have to agree, a visiting team’s relief pitcher should be given credit for a save when he comes into a game in the bottom of the 12th inning with the score tied, and he prevents the home team from scoring, thus preserving a tie after his team has no chance to win because of Japan’s 12-inning rule.

“At least he should be given half a save,” said Bale.

He’s right. The closer is working just as hard and doing the same job as if he came in with a one-run lead. The pressure is even greater because, if he gives up a run, it’s a sayonara loss; sudden death.

If he blows the save with a one-run lead, at least the game is still tied. If somebody leads the league with 34.5 saves, so what?

What say you, Marc Kroon (BayStars), Tomoyuki Kubota (Tigers), Hitoki Iwase (Dragons), Hirotoshi Ishii (Swallows), Masanobu Okubo (Buffaloes), Kiyoshi Toyoda (Lions), Takahiro Mahara (Hawks), Masahide Kobayashi (Marines) and Yukiya Yokoyama (Fighters), closers all?

Devils or Angels? Finally this week, Jaret Wright was pitching last week for the New York Yankees in a game televised in Japan. (Aren’t they all?)

The Yankees TV announcers were saying how Jaret’s father, Clyde Wright, had also pitched in the majors for the Angels when they were the California Angels.

Or were they still the Los Angeles Angels before they became the California Angels before they became the Anaheim Angels before they became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

One commentator then said, “Shoot, at one time they might have been the Hell’s Angels.”


Contact Wayne Graczyk by e-mail at: wsgraczyk@yahoo.com.

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