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THE PAIN OF PERFECTION
Robert Whiting
May 15, 1989
The Japanese have transformed America's pastime into a game that mirrors their obsession with hard work and harmony. The consequences are often alarming
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May 15, 1989

The Pain Of Perfection

The Japanese have transformed America's pastime into a game that mirrors their obsession with hard work and harmony. The consequences are often alarming

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One of the more memorable confrontations between U.S. and Japanese values involved Dick Davis, a former Milwaukee Brewer outfielder who replaced Money on the Buffaloes. Davis did not mind the Kintetsu facilities, which were eventually renovated, nor his housing arrangements. But he did mind Osamu Higashio, a cocky pitcher for the Seibu Lions, who held the alltime Japanese record for hitting opposing batters: 152 in 17 years.

One balmy June evening in 1986 at Seibu Lions Stadium, Davis took umbrage at an inside Higashio fastball that hit his elbow. He rushed to the mound to deliver several punches to the offending pitcher's head and face.

The sports press in Japan swooped down on Davis like avenging warrior monks. UNFORGIVABLE, cried one headline. Davis was hit with a 10-day suspension and a fine of 100,000 yen ($600) but remained steadfastly unrepentant. "If I have any regrets," he said, "it is that Higashio went on to finish the game. That means I didn't hit him hard enough."

In spite of such antics by American players, it is interesting to note that of the 274 people ejected in Japanese ball since 1950, 227 have been Japanese. Most of them were ejected for manhandling the umpires.

Indeed, one of the worst incidents of violence ever seen on a baseball field took place in September 1982, during a Taiyo Whales-Hanshin Tigers game in Yokohama. Two Tiger coaches brutally beat up an umpire in full view of a nationwide television audience. One of them even delivered a about that particular evening. The dark side of the Japanese character is not a popular wicked kick to the genital area that doubled over the hapless man in blue. Afterward, the two coaches apologized profusely, pleaded temporary insanity and were suspended for only the rest of the season.

But nobody in Japan likes to talk topic for discussion in the media. Unruly gaijin make for much more interesting copy.

Emoto, the pitcher turned popular author, once put it this way, "All in all, it's just easier to pick on the gaijin. Because of the language barrier, they don't know what you're saying. Besides, they go home at the end of the season, but we Japanese have to live with each other."

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