The Reuters global sports blog
The story goes that shortly after baseball great Babe Ruth had settled into the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo while touring Japan in 1934, there was a knock on the door. He opened it to see a Japanese man in a kimono. ”Sign baseball,” the man said.
As soon as the Babe autographed that baseball, the man pulled another out of his kimono. Then another. And another. And another.
If Japanese media coverage of home-grown players plying their trade in the United States is anything to go by, Japan’s love affair with baseball is alive and well.
In 2001, Major League Baseball’s decision to allow All-Star voting in Japan helped Ichiro Suzuki lead all players in voting for the All-Star Game. That same year, Ichiro won the American League Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year awards, becoming only the second player in MLB history (after Fred Lynn) to receive both honors in the same season.
A chain of injuries suffered by New York Yankees star Wang Chien-ming is pushing a pair of more obscure Taiwan-born U.S. Major League Baseball pitchers into the limelight as dejected fans grudgingly seek alternatives.
Fans in baseball-crazy Taiwan, though far from giving up on Wang, say they are looking harder at Ni Fu-te and Kuo Hong-chih. But unlike Wang, a starting pitcher responsible for winning games, the other two are relief pitchers and neither is quite a superhero.
Then again, the Yankees’ last championship in 2000, dubbed “the subway series by New Yorkers, was derided almost everywhere else as a contest between “payroll #1 (the Yankees) and payroll #2” (the Mets). Where did that leave smaller markets?