Still, Murata had
to do something. His children, then in primary school, were even being teased
that their father was all washed up. But after extensive examinations at the
best medical facilities in the country, doctors could find no damage; the bone
and muscle were normal, they said. Everywhere he went the answer was the same:
"We don't know what's wrong with your arm."
Murata went to bent and twisted his arm so violently he thought it would pop
out of its socket. When the massage was over, Murata's arm was black-and-blue.
Attempts to pitch only produced intense pain.
But Murata kept
throwing. Finally, a year later, Lotte officials asked him to stop pitching:
"What if you hurt yourself so much that you can never pitch again? Please
rest until your arm heals."
"A man should pitch until his arm falls off."
The team formally
ordered him to cease and desist until doctors could find out what the problem
Murata fell into
a deep depression. His wife would wake up in the middle of the night and find
her husband sitting by himself in the living room. When she urged him to come
back to bed, he would jump up without a word and run outside into the
By the middle of
the 1983 season the newspapers had declared it official: Murata was
Murata had always
practiced Zen, the Japanese discipline that emphasizes concentrated meditation.
In the off-season, during the coldest part of the winter, he often traveled to
a forest temple on the Izu peninsula, south of Tokyo, where he fasted and would
meditate while standing under an icy waterfall.
Murata was very
serious about Zen. So now, in his time of greatest crisis, he went to the Izu
temple to seek a solution to his problem. There, a Zen master named Takamatsu
gave him painful massages and told him that only through inner strength could
his arm be healed. "No one can heal it for you," Takamatsu said.
"You have to do it all by yourself."
his advice. Each day he would stand under the icy waterfall to meditate. And
each day Takamatsu continued with his massages. He produced a snakeskin that
had been soaked in shochu (a kind of potato liquor) for eight years and wrapped
it around Murata's elbow to help draw out the poison inside. For weeks Murata
followed the same daily routine, and then it was time to go home.