- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
So were the police, who had grown tired of trying to keep up with scalpers selling outfield bleacher seats to Yomiuri Giants games for $18.75, and the press, which was pretty sick of being driven, during the wait, to such leads as " Sadaharu Oh failed to hit a home run tonight."
Then, during last Saturday's game at Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium, Oh connected with the sixth pitch in the bottom of the third against the Yakult Swallows, and the ball arced into the right-field bleachers 328 feet away. The 55,000 fans leaped to their feet roaring "Banzai!" and millions at home watching on TV shouted "Yatta, yatta!"—he did it. Oh being half Chinese, impromptu dragon dances blossomed in the streets of Yokohama's Chinatown, and at Shimoda City, Ambassador Mike Mansfield was handed a note by an aide and rose to announce to a U.S.- Japan conference, "Oh made it." Startled conferees broke into loud applause.
At the stadium, lights above the center-field scoreboard spelled out THIS IS THE MOMENT THAT HAS BEEN AWAITED. CONGRATULATIONS, OH, and clouds of confetti laced with hundreds of streamers drifted onto the field. At home plate, excited teammates, in their eagerness to pummel him, shoved aside a film actress waiting to hand Oh a plaque of red and white artificial flowers; Oh had to rescue her and the plaque himself. After the game, which the Giants won 8-1, the lights in the stadium were turned off and spotlights focused on the pitcher's mound, revealing a bareheaded Oh. He bowed four times, once to each section of the audience, and thanked them for their support. There were congratulatory messages from Aaron (" Japan has much to be proud of.... I wish you the best of luck and many, many more home runs") and from Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, as well as an announcement that Oh was to be the first recipient of a new national honor created by the government for outstanding achievement.
The medal is to be conferred this week, and Oh will have to shove aside a variety of gifts to make room for it. They include, among other things, art objects, cash, oil paintings, an unlimited pass to any hot-springs spa in Ito City, dinner sets, a Toyota Century sedan, 756 packs of Cherry cigarettes—his favorite brand—and 756 bath towels.
TENTING TONIGHT, TOMORROW AND...
What was perhaps the longest line in sports, in duration if not length, ended last week when the University of Missouri put students' season football tickets on sale on a first-come, first-served basis. In past years the line began forming outside Faurot Field as much as a week before the sale; but this year, because of a home schedule that includes USC, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State, the line began on Aug. 11, 20 days before the box office opened.
First in line was senior Mike Doak, who pitched a tent and lived in it for 10 days before being relieved by a substitute. In time, the line extended for more than a quarter of a mile; to fight boredom, the students played cards, booed Coach Al Onofrio when he drove by, or, as Greg Wren put it, "We just drank and passed out for a while." Students who didn't care to stay in line but who wanted tickets did their part by making beer and food runs. At least one student, Marv Pennell, second in line, slept outside the stadium every night. For his stomach's sake, he is glad the wait is over. For breakfast he ate cold cream-of-mush-room soup washed down by orange pop, and for lunch he ate cold Spaghettios. "I can survive anywhere now," says Pennell. "I can go on one of those wilderness adventures anywhere."
Hardly a game remains that a blueblood can call his own. Golf fell to the masses long ago. Court tennis is moribund. The democratization of tennis is almost complete. And now squash. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, the game that has been played in the right places and by the right people in this country for some 95 years is enjoying a boomlet. As the growth of tennis has slowed over the last couple of years, squash has picked up, and a wholly new phenomenon, the commercial squash club, has appeared in cities from Philadelphia to Seattle.