In response to another question, the owner verified that Murayama himself had asked for the kyuyo in order to jolt the team out of its rut. When it came to the question of Murayama's return, the owner equivocated. "Murayama will come back when the team reaches .500—or perhaps even higher," he said. "When we reach the point where we feel it is all right for Murayama to handle two responsibilities, we will evaluate the situation and make a determination at that time. Perhaps the team will ask Murayama to come back and we'll make a determination then." Murayama kept the title of manager.
Nothing quite like this had ever happened before. Pretending not to notice that the Tigers now had two managers, the front office praised Murayama's courageous decision. The acting manager promised to do his best to win more games so the manager could return to his rightful place. The pitchers wailed that the team's miserable showing was their fault. They solemnly promised to pitch better and move the club up so Murayama could end his self-imposed exile.
Privately, no one had any illusions about Murayama's comeback. He had vowed to start and to pitch in relief as often as possible, but he was not the Murayama of old. His arm was gone, he was out of condition and the old knee injury forced him to work with his leg wrapped from ankle to thigh. He had to take painkillers to ease his suffering.
In the weeks that followed, Murayama's appearances on the mound were rare. When he did pitch, the results were unimpressive. However, the Tigers began to jell under the acting manager, and moved steadily up in the standings. After each victory, Kaneda would join the owner and the players in alluding to the day, near at hand, when the manager would manage again.
Unfortunately for Murayama, it was all a show, written and performed to save the manager's face. With each passing day of the season, it became more obvious that the Tigers had no intention of giving the manager's job back to Murayama. Seven times Acting Manager Kaneda submitted his resignation, and seven times the front office refused to accept it.
By August the Tigers were in second place, only two games behind the league-leading Giants. Everyone on the team still called Murayama kantoku (manager) and the head coach kantoku dairi (acting manager). Murayama was included in all the strategy meetings, and Kaneda mentioned to the press at every opportunity that he was directing the club with the help and guidance of Murayama.
The season drew to a finish with Kaneda still technically in command. The Hanshin Tigers finished second. They had kept the outcome of the pennant race in doubt until the last few days of the season. Tiger fans were delighted. So were the young Tiger players who had warmed the bench under Murayama; Kaneda had given them a chance to play and develop. The future looked bright for the team.
The problem of Manager Murayama still remained, however. The team had done so well under the acting manager that the logical thing to do would be to promote him to manager. After all, the club had an obligation to its fans. But what about the great pitcher who had contributed so much to the team over the years? The team owed a tremendous debt to this proud, easily misunderstood man and could not casually discard him. If he were replaced as manager, it would be a devastating loss of face for him. The fans would not tolerate such callous disregard for such a great player.
The Hanshin front office did what many Japanese will do when faced with a difficult decision. Nothing. It stalled for time. The general manager of the team claimed the decision rested with the owner of the Tigers. The owner said the responsibility belonged to the president of the parent company, Hanshin Railways, who had originally lobbied for Murayama as manager three years before. Spokesmen for the president said that the president was ill—too ill to consider the problem—and insisted that the decision was up to the Tiger owner.
Weeks passed with no announcement from the front office on the fate of the "Two-Headed Tiger," as the Hanshin club came to be known.