After Hanshin won the first game 8-0, Orix took the next game 8-0, and from then on, the score remained the same. 59 years ago, the “Kansai Series” went into the final game with a 19-19 tie score, and after six games, the total score was 23-23, a five-way tie.
It was truly a gripping four-way tie. It was “the love of an old general” and “five fierce Tiger warriors” that led the two sides to victory in the Japan Series, in which neither side was willing to give an inch.
The starter for Game 7 was Koyo Aoyagi (29) of the Hanshin team, who was making his first post-season start, and whose season batting average was 4.57. The Orix starter was Hiroya Miyagi (22) of the Japan WBC team, whose batting average was 2.27.
Miyagi, who completely shut down the Tigers’ batting lineup in the second game, looked like a big boss standing in the way of Japan’s first victory in 38 years, according to the desk of a sports newspaper as well as Hanshin fans.
However, Sheldon Noisy (28), who had hit only nine home runs all season, smacked a three-run shot into left field to lead off the game.
In the first half of the season, when our batting average was hovering around .200, manager Akinobu Okada (65) was criticizing us, saying that we were always getting out of bats the same way and that we couldn’t hit because we were swinging at balls all the time,” said Okada. Even so, manager Okada patiently continued to use him. He recognized Noisy’s ability more than anyone else. He saw the video and immediately said, “Get it! He was the one who instructed me to get him immediately after seeing the video. He didn’t want to be asked to play defensive positions, and in an effort to blend in with the team, he asked around, “What do you do that is popular in Japan? His hard-working personality is also to the manager’s liking. After the first three runs, I wonder who taught him how to do Stan Hansen’s ‘longhorn’ pose, and the reporters were laughing at him.
Hanshin alumnus Junta Ito (34, coach of Ehime Mandarin Pirates) said, “Manager Okada’s love for Aoyagi blossomed in the big game.
Aoyagi is a kind man who, when teased by his juniors, can reply with a smile, “I’m a senior! but in fact, his competitive spirit is stronger than others. Before pitching this time, he called me into the manager’s office and said, ‘The season started with Aoyagi (the opening day pitcher), and it will end with Aoyagi. I think he was encouraged by the manager’s office before pitching, who told him, “Enjoy it as much as you can, and pitch regardless of innings pitched. That led to his great pitching in the big game.
Satoru Kanamura, 47, who served as first-arm pitching coach until last year, was one of those who felt “love” for Okada’s use of pitchers in the Series.
He said, “I think the key to the series was the introduction of Kyoki Yuasa (24) with the tying run on first and third base with two outs in the top of the eighth inning of Game 4. He had been expected to be the guardian god, but due to his poor performance and injury, he had been in the second base lineup since June. However, in a desperate situation, Yuasa’s name was called. The voltage in the stadium was at its highest, and he got out of a pinch with just one pitch.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, with one out, Koji Chikamoto (29) drew a walk and Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima (54) gave up two consecutive bases-loaded walks. He chose to play with No. 4 Yusuke Oyama (28), who had struggled in the series with a .100 batting average, to fill the bases.
Ito recalls, “It was the scene that decided the outcome of the series.
Oyama has the image of being a man of few words and a blank stare, but in fact he is a cheerful and funny guy. In the locker, he would make a move on Ueda Umi (27) and others. On the field, however, he never shows any emotion. Yusuke is honestly practicing what Masayuki Kakefu (68), Takashi Toritani (42), and other predecessors have told him: “Don’t show your emotions, grit your teeth, and fight against tension and pressure.
The baseball gods fouled him out.
Ito believes that because he could feel that determination, “No matter how much he couldn’t hit, Okada believed in Oyama and kept him in the No. 4 spot for the entire season.
It was a full count, and the other pitcher had no choice but to throw a straight ball, but Yusuke missed two pitches. He was stiff under pressure (laughs). (Laughs.) But people who work hard don’t get outs when they miss a pitch; they just get a foul ball. There are baseball gods, you know. After fouling off a bunch of pitches, I was reminded of …… many things, and I was filled with a sense of pride.
If Nakajima’s bases-loaded strategy was a gamble, then Yuasa’s decision to use him on the spur of the moment was also a gamble. However, Okada’s decision made sense, according to Kanamura.
The important thing is that he can get strikeouts. Yuasa, who was also used in Game 5, held the Orix lineup to three strikeouts, but he got two strikeouts. Strikeouts bring a good flow to your own offense in the next inning.”
As we all know, Shota Morishita (23) followed up Yuasa’s strong outing with a reverse triple.
In the first half of the series, Morishita couldn’t hit at all, which was a big brake. He couldn’t even get an end run. Even so, Okada continued to use him at No. 3, teasing him lovingly, saying, ‘He hits when he’s angry,’ which led to the big explosion in the second half of the series.
Okada’s love and the fierce Tiger warriors brought them the championship, but it seems unlikely that the next one will be “38 years from now. Kanamura continues.
The four who have been consistent in their performance, Chikamoto, Takumu Nakano (27), Oyama, and Seiya Kinami (29), are studded in the first, second, fourth, and eighth positions. The seamless batting lineup allows Morishita (No. 3) and Teruaki Sato (No. 5) (24) to settle in. The defensive issue, too, is that the two players, Nakano and Kinami, have taken the most double plays in the Central League this season. In the pitching staff, Odeki Murakami (25) and Kotaro Otake (28) have broken out. Takuma Kirishiki (24), who moved from starting to relieving and got into it nicely, has a wide variety of pitches and good control, so I would like to see him as a starter next season. I think the reason Mr. Okada had him pitch in the last inning of Game 7 was to give him a taste of the atmosphere of the big stage, to give him confidence, and to help him grow. It was a stepping stone for next season.
All of the players mentioned are in their 20s. The curtain is now rising on a “golden era.
From the November 24, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Jiji Press