If you ever get to Fukuoka, during the baseball season or in the winter, be sure to go to Yahoo Dome and pay a visit to the Sadaharu Oh Museum. Opened in July of this year, it is a tribute to baseball’s all-time home run king, loaded with history and nostalgia.
The museum is located inside the Softbank Hawks home ballpark but accessible from the outside with the entrance opposite the Hilton Sea Hawk Hotel on the outfield side of the dome and not far from the Fukuoka Tower, another tourist site in the city.
The facility is dedicated to Oh, his life in Japanese baseball as a player with the Yomiuri Giants and later manager of the Giants and the Fukuoka Daiei and Softbank Hawks, and the champion Japan team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. On display are typical items you would expect to find in a museum — plus a lot more.
It is divided into sections commemorating Oh’s career with the Giants during which he hit 868 home runs, his time as manager of the Hawks and his experience in leading Japan to the first World Baseball Classic title almost five years ago.
There are great photos of spectacular moments in Oh’s era, from his high school heroics as a pitcher in the national tournament at Koshien Stadium in 1957, to his turning professional and joining the Giants in 1959, to his milestone home runs, to retirement as an active player following the 1980 season.
You can see photos of a young Oh, working with mentor Hiroshi Arakawa in a tatami room, practicing his one-legged stance and swing with a sword while trying to cut a card suspended from a string in order to develop the excellent timing that later allowed him to become one of the greatest hitters in baseball anywhere.
A mini-theater projects video scenes of Oh’s 600th and 700th career home runs as well as the dramatic scene at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium in 1977 when he hit No. 756 to break the world record of 755, then held by Hank Aaron. Oh’s bats, spike shoes, first baseman’s mitt and other items are also on display.
Since the museum is in Fukuoka and Oh, at age 70 remains as chairman of the Hawks ballclub, there is a significant amount of space devoted to his 15-year stint as the Daiei-Softbank manager from 1994 to 2008. His uniforms are there along with photos of his winning Japan Series titles in 1999 and 2003 and the WBC trophy in 2006.
It is not all baseball, though. Visitors who were in Japan 30, 40 and 50 years ago will enjoy seeing the nostalgic remembrances of the old days. There are photos and videos of the first shinkansen bullet train runs linking Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, the year the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo. It was also the season Oh, at age 24, belted 55 homers, a record that has been equaled but not surpassed in Japanese baseball.
Reminders of Expo ’70, the World’s Fair in Osaka, are also to be seen. It was in 1970 when Oh, then 30, hit 47 home runs to win his ninth of 15 CL home run crowns, and he also posted a .325 average to earn his third of five career batting titles.
Oh and teammate Shigeo “Mr. Giants” Nagashima led their team to a sixth consecutive Central League pennant and Japan Series title in 1970, and they would go on to add three more to make it nine in a row through 1973.
The nostalgia theme is also accented by the re-creation of a typical room in a Japanese house and what it might have looked like during Oh’s heyday when the Giants games were televised almost every night of the week. The scene includes a small, black-and-white television set, a low table with zabuton cushions, a bottle of beer with a ’60s label, a small beer glass, some edamame snacks and magazines and newspapers from the day.
Posters of ads and videos of TV commercials in which Oh appeared are also viewable and, at the end of the tour, there is a ramen stand where you can order a bowl of noodles as Oh likes them — or select your own favorite variety.
It takes about a half-hour to go through and appreciate the exhibits, and the admission fees are ¥900 for high school students and above and ¥400 for kids through middle school age. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with entrance available until 4:30 p.m.
Finally this week, the Baseball Bullet-In wishes you a Merry Christmas.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com
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