SI Vault
Edited by Andrew Crichton
December 02, 1974
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December 02, 1974


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He stood there before his last game on his home ground in Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium, trying to speak. Instead, he burst into tears. There were many in the crowd of 50,000 who cried too, a phenomenon almost unknown in a land where, traditionally, emotion is frowned upon.

Gracefully, as one Japanese sports daily put it, he agreed to accompany the N.Y. Mets tour as a player for the Japanese side. The thunderous applause the Mets heard wherever they went was as much a sayonara (goodby) to him as a polite konnichi wa (good day) for the Mets.

The recipient of all this adulation was not Sadaharu Oh, the home run hitter whose name is becoming almost as well known on this side of the Pacific as in Japan, but Shigeo Nagashima. In 17 years with the Tokyo Giants, Nagashima came to be regarded as a Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb wrapped in one. Better, one Japanese wrote, he was "a samurai in the ball game."

There was nothing mystical about Nagashima's play. Like Brooks Robinson, he caught almost everything hit near him at third and had a lightning toss to Oh at first. At 5'10" and 171 pounds an exact physical duplicate of Oh, he finished out his career with a .305 lifetime average and 444 home runs. He was the Central League's most valuable player five times, its leading batter six and its home run king twice. But it was his knack of hitting with men on base in the late innings that was most impressive. Time and again, for example, it was Nagashima's key hit that embarrassed the Mets and drove the crowds wild. Japanese teams had their best showing ever against visiting Americans, winning seven of 18, tying two.

At 38, Nagashima will now manage the Giants, a fact that Japanese find symbolic. Loyal samurai never change their allegiance. If his club should ever have a bad season—unthinkable in recent history—Nagashima will probably follow his accustomed course after an off year. He will disappear into the hills at the foot of Mount Fuji and rejuvenate body and spirit by running mile upon mile, day after cold day. Of such are Japanese legends made.

The situation called for immediate, if not radical, measures. Not only did nobody come out to watch Greenwich (Conn.) High's cross-country team—one of the five best in the state these past few years—the runners were not even invited to the school's annual fall sports rally. Three of them decided they would show GHS a thing or two. They ran without their pants. Got good publicity, too. They were suspended for the next meet.


For more than two years England's Football Association has been hacking away at a jungle of rules and procedures hoping to find a path into open soccer. It has succeeded so far only in miring the Rothmans Ismian League in quicksand.

Eager to dump the burden of shamateurism and hypocrisy, 16 of the 40 RIL amateur clubs, anticipating that the association would soon pass an open soccer rule, went professional—and just about broke. The other teams remained amateur, and profited by attracting the best players, who preferred their old "money-in-the-boot" payments—which go unrecorded and untaxed—to cash on the barrelhead. Some amateurs reportedly make �40 a match.

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