THEY WON'T BE YELLING YUTAKA! YUTAKA! YUTAKA!
Among the most recent Japanese imports to reach our shores is a not-so-compact, 36-year-old southpaw named Yutaka Enatsu. But in one competitive face-off, Enatsu posed little threat to the native American product, 38-year-old slugger Reggie Jackson.
Enatsu, the highest-paid player in Japanese baseball, compiled an enviable 238-158 record with 193 saves in 18 seasons in the Far East. He's a maverick, by Japanese standards, as you might expect of a reliever whose nickname, Ippiki Okami, means Lone Wolf. Enatsu got into a shoving match with his manager on the Seibu Lions last year and was exiled to the minors. After the season he quit the Lions.
This spring Enatsu tried out with the Milwaukee Brewers. He wanted nothing better than to strike out Jackson, and when Brewer manager George Bamberger announced plans to start Enatsu against the California Angels in an exhibition game on April 2, an Enatsu-Jackson confrontation loomed. But Angels skipper Gene Mauch didn't start Jackson. "What do I care about Yutaka Enatsu?" he said. "I've got a couple of guys I want to find out about."
To the delight of the 50 or so Japanese reporters and cameramen who had been covering Enatsu's bid to make the majors, Mauch relented in the fifth inning and pinch-hit Jackson. "I got a call from Ronnie," Mauch joked diplomatically. Enatsu threw a ball and a strike. Then came the third pitch. Jackson pasted it into center for a single. He then presented Enatsu with one of his bats. "I thought he worked at Benihana," Jackson joked not-so-diplomatically.
Enatsu got to face Mr. October, but he never made it past April. The Brewers cut the Lone Wolf the following day.