Saturday, December 3, 2011
Masaichi Kaneda Speaks, Part III
Continuing with my True Stories of Korean Baseball blog masters thesis. This is part 3 of Japanese-Korean pitching legend Masaichi Kaneda's interview with South Korean baseball writer Park Dong-hui as explained in simple English, because this blog is a strict simple English zone.
P: You were 17. And you joined the team (Yakult Swallows) as the season was going on. You must have been nervous.
K: Nervous? Well.. I just thought of playing and winning in baseball. I didn't think of it as anything theoretical or philosophical. It doesn't matter if you're old, if you're a pro or amateur, all you want to do is win. So I didn't feel any pressure.
P: Do you remember your debut game?
K: (Thinks) Nah, it was so long ago, I can't remember. I'm pretty sure I lost though.
P: Right, August 23, 1950. You came in relief against the Hiroshima Carps. You let in a run with a walk and lost the game.
K: Yeah, I lost the sayonara game. * Translator note: does anyone know what a "sayonara game" is?
P: How did you feel then, I'm curious.
K: (Indecipherable sarcastic comment) There's winning and losing in baseball. There was a lot of commotion for my debut. My loss was a bit of a big deal with the media.
P: But you did win in your next appearance. You actually pitched and won a complete game. At the time, you were the second 17 year old to do that up to that point in Japanese baseball.
K: Yeah, I remember that. I pitched with everything I had that day. It was a very long time ago.
P: What was more surprising was your second year. September 5, 1951, you pitched a no-hitter against the Hanshin Tigers. At age 18 and 35 days (Korean people seem to love exact number of days!), you were the youngest to ever pitch a no hitter. Also, you were the youngest to win 20 games with 22 games won that year.
K: (Points finger at display case) That's the trophy I got for the no hitter.
P: (Goes over to the trophy case and looks) Ah, this is it.
K: It's okay, take a look at it. It's a 60 year old trophy. If you look close, the pitcher in the trophy is a right handed pitcher. I was the first lefty to pitch a no hitter but they didn't make a left handed pitcher for the trophy. It was right after the war then, there wasn't a lot of material. So, I guess I got a right handed trophy and not a left handed trophy.
P: And 6 years later, August 21, 1957, you pitched a perfect game against the Junichi Dragons.
K: (Shakes trophy) Yeah, I after I got this, I did that.
P: Pitching a perfect game is a very big thing. There hasn't been a perfect game yet in Korean baseball.
K: Yeah, it's very hard to do. It's a pretty big achievement.
P: Tell me the story about your perfect game.
K: Just like the word "perfect" in perfect game, it was perfect, so there's nothing more to say (Laughs)
K: It is a legendary story with Japanese baseball fans so I guess it's pretty cool. But it's not something known to Korean people. And it's not fun talking about a perfect game through written words. If you tell the story over drinks, it would be a lot better.
P: Something big happened before you completed that perfect game. In the 9th with one out, the umpire called a check swing a strike against Junichi and Junichi raised a storm, causing a 40 minute delay.
K: It was actually 45 minutes. Most people wouldn't have been able to pitch again after 45 minutes. I did because it was me (Laughs).
P: How did you feel when you walked towards the mound?
K: Simple. We had to do what we needed to do. My shoulders were kind of messed up after resting for 45 minutes. But (pushes hand on his chest), this right here was okay, I still had the the fighting spirit. The delay ended, and I struck out the last two batters for the perfect game.