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  • Sadaharu Oh

    Oh's 868 home runs in Japan set an all-time pro baseball record. The son of a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, he had trouble gaining acceptance with Japanese fans after signing for a $60,000 bonus as a pitcher. Switched to first base, he couldn't hit the curveball until he took up samurai swordsmanship as a practice method; he adopted a foot-in-the-air stance similar to Mel Ott's, though he was unaware of Ott's existence. He was noted for taking 30 to 40 minutes of batting practice a day

    In 1965 Oh set the Japanese record of 55 HR in a 140-game season. His record of 54 HR for the revised 130-game schedule was tied by Randy Bass in 1986. He averaged 45 HR a year in winning 13 consecutive HR titles. On the dominating Yomiuri Giants, Oh batted third and Shigeo Nagashima hit clean-up as Japan's equivalent of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Oh won triple crowns in 1974 and 1975. He broke Hank Aaron's career HR mark in 1978, but Aaron, six years Oh's senior, out-homered him in contests held in 1974 and 1984. Oh became Yomiuri's manager upon retirement.
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  • #2
    >>October 4, 1958: A Tokyo schoolboy star named Sadaharu Oh is signed by the Yomiuri Giants for a bonus of Y13,000,000 (about $55,000). Oh will become one of the most famous players in baseball, setting many world hitting records.

    » April 26, 1959: Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants hits the first of 868 career home runs.

    » June 26, 1959: The "Emperor's game," the greatest in Japanese baseball history, is played by the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, with Emperor Hirohito and his wife attending at Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium. The game is tied 4–4 in the 7th on Giants rookie Sadaharu Oh's 2-run home run, then won 5–4 in the last of the 9th on a home run by the Giant's Shigeo Nagashima. This starts the famed "O-N cannon," the hitting combination of Oh and Nagashima, that will bring the Giants nine pennants between 1965 and 1973. In all, the O-N cannon hits dual home runs in 106 games.

    » May 3, 1964: Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants hits four home runs in one 9-inning game against the Hanshin Tigers to set a Japanese record, and tie the American major-league record held by seven players.

    » May 5, 1964: To foil Sadaharu Oh, the Hiroshima Carp use an exaggerated shift that places all fielders in right and center, leaving LF unguarded. Oh responds by hitting a 400-foot home run to RF.

    » September 28, 1964: Sadaharu Oh hits his 55th home run of Yomiuri's 130-game season. It is his highest total and a Japanese record.

    » June 6, 1972: Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants (Japanese League) hits home runs 499 and 500.

    » September 20, 1972: Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants hits a home run to set a new Japanese record of seven home runs in seven consecutive games. Dale Long in 1956 hit in eight straight, and several players have hit in 6.

    » May 30, 1974: Sadaharu Oh becomes the first player in Japanese baseball to hit 600 home runs. Only Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays are ahead of Oh—and he will surpass them all.

    » September 24, 1974: Clarence Jones of the Kintetsu Buffaloes hits his 38th HR to become the first American to win a Japanese HR title, topping the Pacific League in roundtrippers. Sadaharu Oh will lead the Central League with 49 homers. Jones will lead the league again with 36 HRs in 1976.

    » October 12, 1974: Sadaharu Oh draws his 166th walk in a 130-game season, setting a Japanese record. At his retirement in 1980, Oh will hold the all-time world record for walks, 2,504, topping Babe Ruth's record of 2,056.

    » November 2, 1974: The Braves trade Hank Aaron to the Brewers for OF Dave May and a minor league pitcher to be named later. Aaron will finish his ML career in Milwaukee, where he started it in 1954. Meanwhile, Aaron, the home run king of American baseball, and Sadaharu Oh, his Japanese counterpart, square off for a home run contest at Korakuen Stadium. Aaron wins 10–9.

    » July 23, 1976: In a game against the Taiyo Whales, Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants hits his 700th home run, the only player in Japanese baseball to do so.

    » October 11, 1976: In the last of the 8th, leading the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 with 2 out and a full count, Sadaharu Oh socks his 715th HR to pass Babe Ruth's mark. He finishes the season with 716 HRs and takes aim at Hank Aaron's record.

    » July 19, 1977: While pursuing Hank Aaron's home run record, Sadaharu Oh breaks one held by Babe Ruth when he draws his 2,057th base on balls.

    » August 31, 1977: Hank Aaron's mark of 755 career home runs is tied by Sadaharu Oh.

    » September 3, 1977: Sadaharu Oh hits the 756th home run of his career to surpass Hank Aaron's total and make him the most prolific home run hitter in professional baseball history.

    » April 1, 1978: Starting off with a bang, Japanese star Sadaharu Oh hits a grand-slam home run on Opening Day. It is his 757th home run.

    » August 30, 1978: Sadaharu Oh hits his 34th season home run and the 800th of his career. The ball lands in the shoe of a fan who had removed it to feel more comfortable.

    » November 4, 1980: Forty-year-old Sadaharu Oh, professional baseball's all-time home run king with 868 in 22 seasons in Japan, retires.

    Comment


    • #3
      Davey Johnson (the only man to have been a teammate of Oh and Aaron)[from the Sporting News, January 7, 1978, page 37]: "Oh would have hit 700 homers over here. He would be a good hitter anywhere in the world. Quality is still quality."

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      • #4
        Frank Robinson: "I’m sure he would have hit in the 30’s (of homers per year) and probably in the low 40’s. . . . Thirty home runs a year add up to over 600 home runs, and he’d do that if he played the same number of years here that he played there."

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        • #5
          Tom Seaver: "He sure hit me. He was a superb hitter. He hit consistently, and he hit with power. If he played in the United States, he would have hit 20-25 home runs a year, and what’s more, he’d hit .300. He’d be a lifetime .300 hitter. He had tremendous discipline at the plate. He knew the strike zone extremely well . . . .He could pull your hard stuff, and you couldn’t fool him off-speed."

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          • #6
            Frank Howard: "You can kiss my ass if he wouldn’t have hit 30 or 35 home runs a year and hit anywhere from .280 to .320 and drive in up to 120 runs a year. The point being, he rates with the all-time stars of the game."

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            • #7
              Oh was as dominant in the 1960s Japan Leagues as Ruth was in 1920s MLB. But Japan League quality was probably similar to AAA ball. With the Negro Leaguers, at least we have all those exhibtion games to consider, and the advantage of having evaluations from lots of coaches and writers who watched both white and black baseball. It's harder to know where to rank Oh and other Japanese greats. The ridiculous numbers put up by marginal players like Bass, and recently by Rhodes and Cabrerra in the Japan Leagues, also taint the accomplishments of the Japanese greats somewhat.
              Last edited by mac195; 12-12-2004, 10:16 PM.
              "The numbers are what brought me here; as it appears they brought you."
              - Danielle Rousseau

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              • #8
                Originally posted by mac195
                Oh was as dominant in the 1960s Japan Leagues as Ruth was in 1920s MLB. But Japan League quality was probably similar to AAA ball. With the Negro Leaguers, at least we have all those exhibtion games to consider, and the advantage of having evaluations from lots of coaches and writers who watched both white and black baseball. It's harder to know where to rank Oh and other Japanese greats.
                Exhibition games against white semi-pro teams, because their is little evidence to back the statements that those white teams were made up of all MLB players. I have yet to see verifiable proof that Gibson and other NLers played many games against rosters made up of all MLB players. Oh at least can make that claim.
                "Baseball is like church. Many attend. Few understand." - Leo Durocher -

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                • #9
                  A little information can work wonders in ones understanding of a player and his career.

                  Oh deserves to be recognized for what he is and that is the greatest player Japan has ever had to offer.

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                  • #10
                    The stance
                    Attached Files

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                    • #11
                      When the color broke how many blacks had the ability to become instant starters for a major league team. I would say quite a few. Off the top of my head are Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Jackie, Campanella, Newcombe, Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Willie Mays. Even Paige was able to contribute. How many Japanese players can compare as favorably as these negro leaguers? It is true that the Japanese and Majors have set it up so that the stream of players is a trickle coming to America. But I have yet to see the enough players that would lead me to believe that Japan has the vast network of players capable of being as great as those I just mentioned. And that is talking in terms of the here and now. Going thirty years back it was probably much worse.


                      If I had to bet which player is more likely to succeed in the majors a black from the thirties or a Japenese from the 60's. I would put my money on the african-american. We know the impact that these players had only a short time later. While the jury is still out on whether or not large number of japanese ball players can compete in the majors.

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                      • #12
                        --Mac has a very good point about marginal major leaguers going over to the Japanese leagues and being great stars. Randy Bass flopped in multiple opportunites in the majors, went to Japan and was the best player in the league, then came back and flopped again. Quite a few other quad A types have had similar success over there.
                        --Of course, no guys who tried and failed in the majors went on to play in the Negro Leagues (so far as I know) so I suppose you could make the arguement it would have happened there too, although I personnally wouldn't buy such an arguement.
                        --Oh was the best player in Japanese history. That should be honor enough for him. He could most likely have been a good major league player had he choosen to try. That is the other reason we shouldn't be too concerned about ranking Oh. Unlike the Negro Leaguers there was no prohibition on his giving MLB a try if he'd wished. He preferred being the best in Japan to a pretty good player in the U.S.

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                        • #13
                          The majority of Japanese players would have never dreamed of coming to the United States to play baseball because they saw the Japanese League Baseball as superior in alot of ways to the American game.The Japanese have always been puriest in their thinking of how to take an idea from a given culture and make it into their own and thus in their mindset superior.

                          Only recently has this ideal changed due in part by high salaries and more "better feelings" towards America.

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                          • #14
                            Actually I believe there was and still is a prohibition against Japanese players coming to the majors. The two leagues signed an agreement in 1967 which was basically an agreement to respect both leagues reserve clause. Meaning you couldn't take our players without permission and we won't hire your players without permission. So in actuality Oh could not have gone to play for the Majors unless the Japanese leagues agreed to it.

                            Nowadays Japanese players can come to America but they must be free agents, and I believe Japanese players are eligible for free agency only after ten years.

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                            • #15
                              --The Japanese may find some of the style of play there superior to MLB, but they are and have always been aware the the quality of play and players in the U.S. is far superior to that of Japan. They have long had a limit of 2 U.S. players per team to keep foreign imports from dominating the game.
                              --That despite the fact that was always little chance of stars players going over. Even before free agency and the multi-million dollar deals of recent years the pay scale in Japan was significantly lower than in MLB.

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