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Fans in Japan are embracing Wladimir Balentien’s assault on the NPB home run record

Sep 6, 2013, 9:49 AM EDT

Wladimir Balentien AP

A good story in the New York Times about changing attitudes among Japanese baseball fans and players with respect to foreigners who threaten hallowed Japanese records. In this case, Wladimir Balentien’s chase of Sadaharu Oh’s home run record.

An online survey published late last month by the business daily Nikkei found that 69 percent of its 1,300 respondents said they were enthusiastic about Balentien’s bid to surpass Oh, and 27 percent said they were resigned to a new home run king. Fewer than 1 percent of respondents said that Balentien needed to be stopped at all costs. Fans now boo pitchers who appear to be shying away from throwing Balentien strikes. This week, the Yakult Swallows added a “Coco Meter” — using Balentien’s nickname — to count down to what would be a historic home run No. 56.

Balentien is still at 52, but has a lot of time to pass 55.  If he does, and if he is embraced as he does it, he will break a longstanding anti-outsiders sentiment among Japanese fans, which is well laid out by the Times article.

Good stuff all around.

  1. largebill - Sep 6, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    How many games left in that league?

    • jwbiii - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      The Swallows have 27 more games.

  2. yahmule - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    I’m glad to see the Japanese have finally developed enough confidence to cut out these antics. They’ve been playing organized baseball over there since 1935 and they should be proud of what they’ve built. Not paranoid about gaijins taking over their game.

    The crap Randy Bass, Tuffy Rhodes and other American players had to endure while chasing records there was really a shame. Sadaharu Oh’s conduct in protecting his record did nothing but tarnish it. I can understand why Yomiuri Giants’ teammate Shigeo Nagashima never cared much for Oh.

    • beefytrout - Sep 6, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      Jack Elliot was eventually embraced, though.

    • whiteseptember - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:27 AM

      Well, the legend, Sadaharu Oh himself is a gaijin. He is a Chinese citizen, I believe.

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