“Mr. Baseball” plays out for real in the Japanese Central League



Over the last few weeks in Japanese Professional Baseball (NPB), a fringe MLB player from Curaçao named Wladimir Balentien of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows became the single season home run king in Japan, breaking the three-way tie between Sadaharu Oh (who is also the overall home run king in Japan with 868 homeruns), Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera, who all had 55.

As Balentien, who saw limited action with the Mariners and Reds, got closer to Oh’s magic number (and we’ll call it Oh’s number because that’s how the Japanese thought of it until last Sunday), there was fear that managers of other teams would not let their pitchers throw strikes to him, as happened both to Rhodes and Cabrera as they got closer to breaking Oh’s number.

As Rhodes and Cabrera got close to number 56 though, they both faced teams managed by Ohhimself, who, of course, did not pitch to either man. Randy Bass, another player chasing the record, could only get to 54 home runs before he was frozen out by opposing pitching (again meeting up with Oh’s Tokyo Giants). Continue reading…