It wasn't until
Clyde Wright came along that rules of behavior for foreigners were finally
codified. Wright, a pitcher of some note with the California Angels, made his
first Japanese appearance, with the Yomiuri Giants, in 1976. A self-described
"farm boy" from eastern Tennessee, Wright was regarded by those who
knew him in America as a tough-as-nails competitor who didn't believe in hiding
The Giants are
something of a national institution in Japan. They are the oldest team, the
winningest (12 pennants in the last 15 years) and by a million miles the most
popular. Their games, all of which are nationally televised, get high ratings,
and one out of two Japanese will tell you he is a Giant fan.
Shigeo Nagashima, is the most beloved sports figure in the land. As a player he
won a Central League-record six batting titles and was personally responsible
for the most exciting moment in Japanese baseball history: a game-winning (or
sayonara) home run in the only professional game Emperor Hirohito has ever
attended. Sadaharu Oh plays for the Giants.
The Giants are the
self-appointed custodians of national virtue. Popular belief has it that their
players are neater, better mannered, more disciplined and more respectful than
those of other clubs. Their wa is in better tune. In early 1977, when one
writer, a former Giant player turned magazine reporter, suggested otherwise in
print, he was forever banned from the team clubhouse. Among his blasphemous
revelations were: 1) Some Giant players did not like other players on the team;
2) A few players thought Nagashima could be a better manager: 3) Some younger
Giants did not especially care for the Saturday night 10 p.m. curfew at the
team dormitory; 4) Some Giant wives objected to the season-long
"energy-conserving" rule forbidding Them to have sexual relations with
their husbands. Tame material as far as expos�s go, but to the shoguns of
Yomiuri, the Giant name had been desecrated, and someone had to pay.
Wright also faced
the difficulty of being a foreigner on a team that traditionally liked to
consider itself pure-blooded—Oh's Chinese ancestry and the few closet Koreans
on the Giants notwithstanding. Wright was only the second non-Oriental gaijin
to play for the team, and the sight of a fair-skinned American in a Giant
uniform was a bit unsettling to the multitudes. Wright soon gave them reason to
be even more unnerved. In the sixth inning of an early-season game, with the
score tied 1-1, Wright allowed the first two batters to get on base. Nagashima
walked out on the field to take him out of the game. Few American managers
would have removed him so abruptly. It was Nagashima's feeling, however, that
Wright was getting weak, and that was that.
realized what was happening, he blew a gasket. To the horror of 50,000 fans at
Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium and a Saturday night TV audience of millions, he
brushed aside Nagashima's request for the ball and stalked off the mound, an
angry scowl on his face. Halfway to the bench, he threw the ball against the
dugout wall, cursed and disappeared into the clubhouse.
Once inside, he
kicked over a trash can, ripped off his uniform, shredded it and flung it into
the team bath. Amid a rapid-fire discharge of obscenities, he said something
that the official team interpreter was able to understand, "Stupidest damn
baseball I've ever seen. If this is the way the Giants treat their foreign
ballplayers, I'm going. I've had it."
Nothing like this
had ever happened on the Giants. Other teams had problems, but not the proud
Kyojin. No one had ever shown this much disrespect for Nagashima. Crazy Wright,
as he was instantly renamed by the press, became headline news in the sports
dailies the next day. Letters, telegrams and phone calls poured into the
Yomiuri offices. Outrageous! Inexcusable! Unforgivable! Wright should be sold.
Released. Deported. Shot. Drawn and quartered. And not necessarily in that
kept his cool. First, he patiently explained to his American pitcher that what
he had done was not "stupid" baseball but simply the Japanese way of
playing the game. It's a group effort. Then the manager faced the angry masses.
There would be no disciplinary action. He was glad that Wright cared so much
about winning. And he wished that some of his Japanese players would show as
words from the prince of Japanese baseball dissipated much of the public's
antagonism toward Crazy Wright. It did not, however, pacify the front office.
Management was not as eager as Nagashima-san to let Western ways penetrate
their organization. They issued a set of 10 rules of etiquette that Wright and
every other American player the Giants might henceforth deem worthy of their
uniform would be obliged to obey.