Problems with gaijin flared anew when three Americans didn't make it through the '84 campaign. Two years ago former Chicago Cub Jim Tracy batted .303 with 19 homers for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales. But in the third game of last season he drew a walk and was lifted for a pinch runner. Tracy thought his manager was punishing him for missing a fly ball. He refused to play again until the manager gave him an explanation. He didn't get one and left Japan.
Ex-major-leaguer Don Money had a cup of kohi during the season with the Kintetsu Buffalos. Even though the club agreed to pay the 37-year-old Money $450,000 a year, he didn't care for his accommodations and the long commute to the stadium. He quit after playing in just 30 of 130 games.
The Hankyu Braves signed onetime Texas Ranger Bump Wills for $326,000. In midsummer Wills missed a sign, and his angry manager took him out of the lineup. Wills was assigned to a farm team. He balked, which left the Braves the option of putting up with him or paying him off. They paid.
American players gripe that Japanese managers punish them to teach humility and use them as scapegoats when the team loses. "If Don Money hits 35 homers and bats .270 in Japan, they'd say he didn't hit for a high enough average," says Money. "If I batted .310 and hit 20 home runs, they'd say I didn't hit for enough power." But their Japanese detractors say U.S. imports are greedy and disloyal.
"Maybe these guys are playing by American customs or rules," says a disillusioned Sakae Okada, president of the Braves. "If this kind of thing continues, I think most people would agree simply to be done with them."
IT WON'T BE SIMPLE, SIMON
Simon Le Bon is one of the new generation of superstars created out of the electroluminescence of rock video. Swooning teenagers melt when they see the Duran Duran vocalist pout photogenically on MTV. Now the 26-year-old dreamboat has the boat of his dreams. He has entered his 76-foot yacht, Colt Cars, in this year's Whitbred Round the World Race, a perilous seven-month, 27,000-mile event. Several crewmen have drowned and many boats have been dismasted in three previous runnings. There's talk of filming Le Bon on board the yacht, which will be skippered by Skip Novak, a veteran of the last two Whitbreds.
The British-born Le Bon was introduced to the sea at eight, when his vicar took him to the Norfolk Broads for a dip in the surf. He decided then he would someday sail around the world. But his trip will only be semicircular. The singing sailor has recording commitments at the same time the race shoves off from Portsmouth, England in late September. He plans to pick up Colt Cars after the rigorous crossing from Cape Town, South Africa to Auckland, New Zealand. He'll be aboard, though, for the equally difficult journey from Auckland to South America, around Cape Horn to Punta del Este, Uruguay. Then it's across the Atlantic to Portsmouth, and the limousine ride back to London. "Of course I'm frightened," says Le Bon. "I'm bloody terrified."
Le Bon voyage.