When he picked up
a ball and tried to throw, the pain was still there, as intense as ever. Worse
yet, he now had a swelling on his elbow the size of an apple.
Murata began to
think he might never pitch again. He said as much to his wife and reminded her
of a promise he had made when they were married. He had vowed to be the best
pitcher in Japan and had told her that if the day ever came when he wasn't the
best, well, if she wanted to leave, it was O.K. He would understand.
indignant. She had been a patient, loyal and supportive wife, she said. She
wasn't sharing all this pain and agony with him just so she could be the wife
of a great pitcher. Didn't he understand that? She said she would never leave
him. She also told him to stop thinking about retiring.
Murata faced the unthinkable. In August 1983, a year and a half after he had
felt that first twinge in his arm, he went to Los Angeles with his wife to see
Dr. Jobe. It was his only remaining option.
Murata's arm and told him that a ligament in his right elbow had been torn. The
bone and nerves were indeed O.K., but the Japanese doctors, far behind the West
in terms of sports medicine, had not thought to examine the ligament. Jobe
could not believe that Murata was trying to throw with his arm in such a
Jobe said that he
would have to operate. He would take a tendon from Murata's left wrist and put
it in his right elbow. The operation would be easy, he said, but the
rehabilitation would take a year of very hard work if he wanted to pitch again.
It took a special kind of person to make such a commitment. John had been that
kind of man. Was Choji Murata?
Murata said yes,
by all means.
The operation was
a success. Although Murata suffered considerable pain afterward, he initially
refused a painkiller. He thought it would be unmanly and, as he later
confessed, he hated injections.
Murata then began
the long process of coming back. At first he could barely make a fist. But he
did his exercises every day and soon he was able to lob the ball across his
living room. On Sept. 25, 1984, after more than two years of pain, Murata
started a game for the Orions, allowing two runs in five innings in a
difficult thing for Murata about his comeback was following Jobe's orders not
to pitch so much. Jobe had explained certain scientific facts of life about
pitching: "Pitching is an unnatural motion. The human arm, be it Caucasian,
black or Oriental, is not constructed to throw a baseball. Every time a
starting pitcher pitches, he experiences tiny muscle tears in his arm. A
starting pitcher who throws a nine-inning game should rest until his arm can
regain its normal structure."