Memories of the 1998 game that started the legend of Daisuke Matsuzaka | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Memories of the 1998 game that started the legend of Daisuke Matsuzaka

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Yokohama’s Matsuzaka closes his eyes on the mound after hitting the last batter in the bottom of the 17th inning at PL Gakuen (Jiji Photo)

From the fall of 1997 to the following year, when Daisuke Matsuzaka became the school’s ace, Yokohama High School set an unprecedented record of 44 consecutive wins in official games. They also won the Meiji Jingu Tournament, the National High School Baseball Tournament, the National High School Baseball Championship Tournament, and the Kanagawa National Athletic Meet, an unprecedented four championships.

Matsuzaka pitched in 37 games and won 32 of them. He was already known as the “Monster of the Heisei Era” when he reached 150 km/h and closed out three out of five games in the Senbatsu Tournament, but it was his summer championship that made him even more of a monster.

One day in August. One day in August, NHK broadcasted the semifinal game of the 80th National High School Baseball Championship between Meitoku Gijuku (Kochi) and Yokohama (East Kanagawa) on its “Sports Masterpieces” program. I had never seen such an interesting game!

Yokohama, which had lost the game 0-6, turned the game around in the 8th and 9th innings. To me, who has been covering Koshien for more than 35 years, it seems like a recent story, but it was 23 years ago, so it may be remembered by those in their 30s or older, but for high school baseball fans in their 20s or younger, it is probably a legend.

The day before that, August 20, 1998. It was the quarterfinals of the 80th National High School Baseball Championship Tournament.

Yokohama 9=000 220 010 010 000 12
PL Gakuen 7=030 100 100 010 000 10

The miracle of Yokohama’s big upset on the following day was all the more exciting because of the great game of Yokohama. If you were to ask a questionnaire about the greatest game in the history of high school baseball, the 17th inning would surely be at the top of the list, and I once asked Matsuzaka himself to look back on it.

The two teams also met in the semifinals of the Senbatsu tournament, where Yokohama, leading 2-0, defeated PL 3-2 in the final minutes. Since then, PL has won the summer tournament in South Osaka under the slogans “Beat Yokohama” and “Beat Matsuzaka,” and has advanced to the final eight of the Koshien tournament.

“The PL captain, Yosuke Hiraishi (formerly of Rakuten), apparently called Koyama (Yoshio, Yokohama captain, formerly of Chunichi) during the tournament. He said, “Don’t lose until you play us. I also knew that we would definitely have to play the PL. But everyone was saying that if we were going to play them, we should play them in the finals. But Koyama drew the lottery with the PL in the quarterfinals, so I jokingly said, “You’re not ready yet. I jokingly told him, “You’re not ready yet.” He got really angry and said, “It’s not my fault, I don’t know anything about it (laughs).

(laughs) It was his fifth year with Seibu, but his memory was remarkably clear.

There are so many things I want to write about. Matsuzaka, who had a hard time sleeping the night before, slept soundly on the bus from his dormitory to Koshien and “didn’t wake up”. However, Hiraishi said later, “I wasn’t sure. However, Hiraishi later said, “I wasn’t sure, but it was effective even if it only made the opposing battery suspicious. (Incidentally, in high school baseball, the act of signaling by runners and coaches was banned from the following spring.)

However, if I were to go into all the details, I would run out of space. From here on, let’s take a look at the second act of the game after Yokohama caught up with PL whenever PL took the lead and the game went into extra innings.

The game got underway in the 11th inning. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Satoshi Ueshige, who had been pitching since the 7th inning, caught Matsuzaka’s curve in his left hand. The result was a strikeout. When he got to the mound, he was too sore to catch the ball. Even if it wasn’t his dominant arm, his pitching balance would be slightly off. In fact, the second pitch to the first batter, Matsuzaka, was a huge throw.

Matsuzaka got out of the inning with a lucky, irregular hit, advanced to second on a bunt, and came home on a hit by Takeshi Shiba. It was the first time Yokohama had taken the lead in the game. I’m sorry, but I’m …… and Matsuzaka.

“I’m not sure what to make of it. In the event you’re not sure what you’re looking for, there are a few things you can do. For some reason, I didn’t shake my head at that sign. For some reason, I didn’t shake my head at the sign. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just make it a ball,” and I threw it, and it went straight into the strike zone, resulting in a timely pitch to left. Even though I tried not to think about it, I couldn’t help but think of one more death. I could tell from my pitching that the PL had beaten us in the spring, and they really wanted to win this time.

But it was obvious that I was in better shape after the extra inning. In the 15th inning of extra innings, it was 147 km/h. I finally woke up (laughs). (laughs) It took me a while to get my engine going, but that was a good thing. If I had jumped ahead in the first half and then dropped off in the second half, I would have scored more runs and it would have ended in the 9th inning.

Although the game was tied, Matsuzaka did awaken. Matsuzaka’s speed increased as the game progressed, and he pitched a perfect game against 12 batters between the 12th and 15th innings. In the 16th inning, Yokohama got another win on an infield single with one out, but PL’s persistence was uncanny.

In the bottom of the inning, with one out and a runner on third, Kazunori Tanaka (formerly of Yokohama) rushed home on a shortstop groundout. It was a gamble. Taketoshi Goto (ex-Yokohama, etc.), the first baseman who got the batter out, also sent the ball to home base. The timing was out, but it deflected high. Kazunori Tanaka came back alive. It was Goto’s mistake as he lost his balance due to the batter’s head sliding. The game was won in the top of the extra inning, but the game was tied again when it looked like the winner.

“I was still disappointed. If I had thrown the ball to home, I would have been clearly out. Anyway, I was impressed by Goto’s anger at manager Motomo Watanabe in this game.

I knew that Goto’s back was hurting badly and he was on painkillers all the time, but even so, in this game, he was braking at every turn. He couldn’t hit, he failed to bunt, and in the 16th inning, the manager even said to me, “I’m done with you! I was even told by the manager, “I’m done with you! I’m the type of person who drags it out. But as I found out later, Goto had a broken hip. I guess his legs and back were getting weaker because of the bad pitches he threw.

Even so, I managed to get a change and went back to the bench, and I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s going to be a tie game in the 18th inning (at that time, later changed to the 15th inning). Every time we took the lead, we would get caught up, and I wondered what I was doing. …… I was sinking, when Ryota Tokiwa tapped me on the shoulder. He said, “I’m going to hit it for you. It’s true. Then, after getting two outs easily, Shiba reached base on an error by the other team. I felt like something was about to happen when the batting order, which was not supposed to be rotated, was rotated to Tokiwa.

With two outs and a runner on first base, the PL had the option of taking their time carefully. The PL had the option of taking a cautious timeout, but Ueshige chose to keep the play going so that the backstop wouldn’t think too much of it. Matsuzaka was playing catch in the bullpen on the third base side in preparation for the next pitch, the first pitch to Tokiwa that Arimichi Kono was shouting at the PL bench, “Watch out for the first pitch, the first pitch. The first pitch to Tokiwa was a straight shot to the outside corner, and a metallic sound echoed. The pitch flew toward right-center field. The wind was a right to left beach breeze. It was a headwind. The ball disappeared from Matsuzaka’s eyes.

I couldn’t see the ball the moment I hit it,” he said. I couldn’t see the ball at the moment I hit it. It was hard to see because it overlapped the white shirts in the seats. If it had been a single run, I still wouldn’t have known, but since it was a two-run shot, I thought it was the final blow. If it had been just one run, I wouldn’t have known, but it was two runs, so I thought it was the coup de grace. Even so, I didn’t think it would turn out the way Tokiwa said. ……

In the bottom of the 17th inning, after the decisive two runs had scored, PL had no time to fight back as the 70th batter, Masahiko Tanaka (ex-Yakult, etc.), struck out the side with a slider that escaped. I’m not sure what to make of that.

“When I hit the last batter, I suddenly felt a sense of weakness. I had been keeping my head up the whole time I was pitching, so it wasn’t too hard for me. But now that it’s finally over, I guess I immediately lost my mind. (Ueshige (of PL Gakuen) seemed to be thinking that he wanted to keep playing until the game was settled, not just an extra game, but a draw.) I don’t think so (laughs). To be honest, I just want it to be over soon.

Anyway, ……3 hours and 37 minutes? There was a friend of mine from my senior year, Kimura (Yuuo), whose team Teikyo (East Tokyo) lost the previous day. He told me that the game started when he was getting on the Shinkansen to go back to Tokyo, and it was still on when he got home and turned on the TV. Many of my friends wanted to watch the video of this game, but I didn’t want to watch it for that long (laughs).

(laughs) But I have seen Tokiwa’s two-run shot many times. Anyway, it was the most difficult game in my baseball career. When I was in a tough situation, I told myself, “There’s still tomorrow, I’ll pitch again tomorrow,” and I did.

The next day, ……, in the semifinals against Meitoku Gijuku, Goto, who had dragged his feet in every game, became the hero of a huge comeback with three hits and three runs, and in the final against Kyoto Seisho, Matsuzaka went no-hit, no-run. In the finals against Kyoto Seisho, Matsuzaka scored a no-hitter and no-run. Yokohama won the spring and summer championships in succession with three consecutive brilliant miracles.

The book ” 1998 Yokohama High School: Daisuke Matsuzaka the Whirlwind” is now on sale.

  • Text Junko Yang

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