Monday, January 9, 2012
Masaichi Kaneda Speaks, Part IV: Greatness
Part I: http://koreabaseball.blogspot.com/2011/09/masaichi-kaneda-speaks.html
Part II: http://koreabaseball.blogspot.com/2011/09/masaichi-kaneda-speaks-continued.html
Part III: http://koreabaseball.blogspot.com/2011/12/masaichi-kaneda-speaks-part-iii.html
Park Dong-hui (Interviewer, South Korean baseball writer): You won 20 games 14 years in a row, from 1951 to 1964. You pitched in 45 games and 3000 innings or more in these seasons and 14 complete games.
Masaichi Kaneda (Interviewee, Korean-Japanese baseball legend): I have a lot of world records LOL.
P: With all due respect, are these records something a normal person can achieve?
K: It's business.
K: Yeah, Listen, I never said, "hey I won 20 games, how much money are you going to give me." You couldn't ask this. They ask these things now (in Japanese baseball). If I signed a contract on the premise that I win 30 games, would I really have won 30 games? I never fought with an organization, (In Korean) "Trust," it's all about trust. No team ever cut my salary and I never fought with any. If you gain their trust, you will earn their trust. If not then, you don't get any.
P: If you won 20 games 14 years in a row, your yearly salary must have been pretty high.
K: Because the yen was getting strong back then. I would have no idea how much it would be now. I spent everything I made back then anyway LOL.
P: You have had a lot of dramatic episodes in your baseball career. April 5, 1958, Central League season opener, you faced hot Yomiuri Giants rookie hitter Shigeo Nagashima and a lot of people said he was going to hit well against you. But you said that you were going to strike him out 4 times. And you ended up striking him out 4 times.
K: That's what you'd expect, by the time Nagashima debuted, I had already won 180 games. (Points to a photo on the wall) Looks like that's the picture there.
P: Baseball writers were saying you only threw strong fastballs at Nagashima.
K: The ball was fast then, do you know why? (Translator's note: I realize here that Park has been speaking in honorifics and Kaneda informally.)
P: It was always fast, wasn't it?
K: It was faster when I faced Nagashima, because I was throwing it with my heart.
P: With your heart?
K: I couldn't lose. Isn't that the theory? (In a strong voice) You must win everything. Strong pitching, it's not 'where should I throw it,' it's 'I'm going to get you!' I mobilized (충동원) all my competency and threw with this in mind. If I pitched to Nagashima all nervously back then, I wouldn't have won 20 games 14 years in a row and I wouldn't be where I am now.
Talking about this and writing about this now is not so fun. Get all the players together and telling them this story would be more fun. (In a quieter voice) Nagashima wasn't the only batter I faced that day, I had to be serious about other hitters in the line up. I controlled my emotions and hopped on the mound again.
P: Rumor has it your fastball was higher than 160km .
K: They talk about speed a lot. But if you throw 160 or 170 kmh, your body will break down. You can't throw well if you're fat. You have to stay thin and throw with force. Look at the pictures on the wall, you'll see. I was never fat.
P: You were famous for your fastball and change up.
K: I mostly pitched fastballs and curve balls. Each curve ball was a little different.
P: (Looks at a picture on a wall and suddenly remembers) I remember you took some pictures with some top major league players back then. Mantle, Mays, Musial, the big guys.
K: They all know me in the major leagues. I have a friend that I struck out 3 times in a row LOL. (In 1955, the New York Yankees came to Japan and Kaneda struck out Mickey Mantle 3 times in a row. Mantle had asked "why is a pitcher like this pitching in Japan?" and said "I'd like to have him in the States." Kaneda had Korean citizenship at this time. Kaneda and Mantle became good friends after.)
P: And with that, did you get any advice about going over to the Majors?
K: They tried (Major League teams). But it wasn't like it is now. The war didn't end all that long before, and relations between Japan and the U.S. weren't still all that good. And I couldn't speak English.
P: So you gave up thinking about going over there?
K: Frankly, I didn't see the point. I would have gone if I really wanted to. Pitching in Japan was good and I could have achieved a lot. But if I want to America, they would have just said "look, he's from Japan" and that could have been the end of that. Look at my trophies and pictures, that's going to last long after I die.
P: If you were pitching now, in today's situation, would you go?
K: Now? Well.. Great players play everywhere. It seems like pitching here or there is the same even now. I think I could have succeeded there. Asians, Americans, we're all the same.
Korean link: http://news.naver.com/sports/index.nhn?category=baseball&ctg=news&mod=read&office_id=295&article_id=0000000659