They shook hands again last Friday, this time with forced smiles for a staged picture on the day before they faced each other in the Japan Series for the first time. By then, Mori had molded the Lions into what the Giants once were: Japan's dominant team. They had won six Japan Series in Mori's eight years as manager. "The manager is god here," says Lion gaijin Rod Brewer, a former St. Louis Cardinal outfielder. "If you want to leave the bench during the game to go to the bathroom, you'd better ask the manager. Somebody like Barry Bonds, if he pulled some of his stuff here, he wouldn't last long, no matter how well he played."
Though he had not won a Japan Series in seven years over two tenures as Giant manager, Nagashima remained the bigger star. The concession stands in and around the Tokyo Dome—dubbed the Big Egg, and a look-alike for the Metrodome in Minneapolis—were full of items bearing his likeness or the number 33: key chains, dolls, flags, uniform shirts and wristbands. "In Japan everybody respects Sadaharu Oh," says sportswriter Nobuya Kobayashi, "but everybody loves Nagashima."
On the morning of Game 1, an astrologer predicted the Giants would win in six games because the position of Mars favored Nagashima. Problem was, that's where Nagashima's head seemed to be for the series opener. Mori outwitted him from the start. Playing under Central League rules, the managers did not announce their starting pitchers and lineups until 30 minutes before game time. While everyone expected Mori to use ace lefthander Kimiyasu Kudo, he chose righthander Hisanobu Watanabe instead. Nagashima was caught with a predominantly righthanded-hitting lineup against Watanabe, who threw 5⅓ scoreless innings. Seibu broke open the game with a seven-run seventh inning that included three disastrous pitching changes by Nagashima. Call it the Big Goose Egg: an 11-0 Yomiuri loss, MORI, FIVE STARS; NAGASHIMA, THE WORST is the way Sports Nippon, one of six national sports dailies, would call it the next morning.
The Giants hurried out of their clubhouse—an area that for all Japanese teams is off-limits to the media—in retreat to their hotel for another meeting. Nagashima berated his first baseman, Tatsunori Hara, for missing a sign on a pick-off play. The score was 11-0 at the time.
Later, Makihara lay in his hotel bed and put himself to sleep in his usual manner on the night before he pitches. He imagined himself striking out the opposing hitters one after another in Game 2. "It's always three strikes to each batter," he says. "I usually go five or six innings before falling asleep." This time he didn't last that long. "I slept great," he said.
The Giants gave him one run in the first inning—Gladden reached first on an error, was sacrificed to second and scored on a base hit—and Makihara, using an unusually high percentage of fastballs for a Japanese pitcher, made sure it was enough. He allowed only four hits, the last a leadoff double in the ninth. He then retired the Lions' 3-4-5 hitters to close out the 1-0 win. Kaname Yashiki ended the game with a diving catch in centerfield.
Only then, when Makihara was presented with the customary stuffed animal as the star of the game, did the sellout crowd of 46,342 salute him en masse. Japanese teams have traditional cheerleading sections in the bleachers; their occupants bang drums, blow horns, clack plastic bats and sing personalized fight songs for the players all game long, often while decked out in ceremonial kimonos in the official team colors. The rest of the stadium, especially those in the $70 box seats drinking $8 drafts, hardly stretch a vocal cord or wrinkle a suit.
"I've been in the World Series before," says Gladden, who played for the Minnesota Twins' 1987 and '91 championship teams. "You're used to all the banners and the dignitaries and the first-ball ceremonies and Al Michaels and all of that stuff. Here, nothing. They have these cheerleaders, and they're paid to do their cheering. They have tryouts, practices and everything. If you can't cut it with all the songs, you become a clacker. It's different. It's like computer baseball at a big-time college football game."
It was nearing five o'clock last Saturday afternoon, and 13-year-old Takemori Fujisaki and his friend, Masaki Okui, 16, having just exited Game 1, stood near the front of a long line of people waiting to reenter the Tokyo Dome for Game 2 the next afternoon. They were holding unreserved bleacher tickets. "We have to wait on line and then rush to get a good position when the doors open," Fujisaki said. That explained the sleeping bags.
Baseball had brought them together. The boys, who live 40 miles apart, had met at a Japan Series game last year. "October 10," Fujisaki said. "We became good friends. I like soccer, too, but baseball is better. It's the best."