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Friday, February 03, 2023

These MLB legends were trailblazers in Japan

In 1962, Newcombe was no longer pitching but, rather, running a liquor store and cocktail lounge in Newark, N.J. One day, the three visitors cited above visited to gauge his interest in playing in Japan … primarily as a first baseman, not a pitcher.

The 1956 NL champion Dodgers team that included Newcombe had visited Japan after the World Series. So he was familiar with the country. And though the Dragons unsuccessfully tried to recruit the likes of Robin Roberts and Billy Martin, Newcombe accepted their offer.

“When I agreed to go,” Newcombe once told Doby biographer Joseph Thomas Moore, “and when the publicity came out about it, I got a call from Pierre Salinger.”

As in, the future U.S. Senator and ABC News correspondent and then-press secretary for President John F. Kennedy. Newcombe and Salinger had golfed together in the past.

Just 17 years after the United States dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. was in the process of establishing positive relations with the newly democratic nation.

Baseball was a shared love, a crucial common ground.

“[Salinger] asked me to come to the White House for an interview,” Newcombe continued. “When I got to the White House, Salinger told me that, in effect, I would be representing President Kennedy and the United States. He said we had established pretty good relationships with the Japanese people, and through baseball, we could establish further relationships and even open up the possibility of other American players going to Japan.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 03, 2023 at 02:22 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: japan

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: February 03, 2023 at 06:16 PM (#6115644)
262/316/473 with 12 HR and 23 doubles in 301 PA after 268/336/361 in MLB. He also tossed 4 so-so innings.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: February 03, 2023 at 06:20 PM (#6115645)
This is awesome: Salinger appeared in the January 4, 1968 episode of the ABC Television series Batman portraying "Lucky Pierre," a lawyer who defends Catwoman and the Joker in a trial.
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 03, 2023 at 06:33 PM (#6115646)
262/316/473 with 12 HR and 23 doubles in 301 PA after 268/336/361 in MLB. He also tossed 4 so-so innings.

The Central League was very much a pitcher's league in 1962, with a total BA of .231 and SLG of .335. Newcombe's .473 SLG ranked third in the league, behind only Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima of the Giants, two of the biggest names in Japanese baseball history.
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 03, 2023 at 07:32 PM (#6115651)
In 1955 he threw 230IP, went 20-5...and in 125 PA's OPS+ 1.028

Ohtani, eat your heart out! Sure it was worth only 5.3 WAR(I assume he only batted in games in which he pitched) in total but those raw numbers are pretty darn impressive.
   5. alilisd Posted: February 04, 2023 at 12:53 PM (#6115682)
Sure it was worth only 5.3 WAR(I assume he only batted in games in which he pitched) in total but those raw numbers are pretty darn impressive.

Nope, he pitched in 34 games but has 57 games in his batting game logs. He was definitely used frequently as a PH. Career 83 OPS+ should be good for 3rd all time with 100% of games as a pitcher or PHR and at least 500 PA's (Newcombe had over 1000). Oddly Stathead doesn't list him under these criteria, not sure why. I don't see any games at other than pitcher on his B-R page. Schoolboy Rowe at 88, George Uhle at 86, and Carl Mays at 82 are the other top guys.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: February 05, 2023 at 01:19 PM (#6115812)
2.3 of those 5.3 WAR were batting WAR with an impressive 11 Rbat in 125 PA. Pro-rate that out to a full season and it would be about Miggy's 3rd-best season with the bat. Of course that was by far the best he ever had. His best non-consecutive stretch of 650ish PAs comes to about +10 ... but that means the remaining 400 PA were at about -30.
   7. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: February 08, 2023 at 09:01 AM (#6116089)
Re 4 and 5: Newcombe pinch-hit 23 times that year, and lit it up: 23 PA, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 8 H with one 2B and 4 RBI, for a 381/435/429 as a PH. (His overall slash was 359/395/632!)
   8. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 08, 2023 at 11:14 AM (#6116096)
Not quite trailblazers in the Newcombe sense, but Randy Bass and Alex Ramirez just got elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame. There were already a small number of westerners* in the hall, but these two are the first of the "couldn't quite cut it in MLB so went to Japan" types to be elected.

*Lefty O'Doul is in for being sort of the godfather of Japanese professional baseball (although he never played there). Wally Yonamine was born in Hawaii, played minor league ball, spent a year in the NFL, and then had a career in Japan. Tadashi Wakabayashi sort of counts. He was born in Hawaii, went to college in Japan, and spent the rest of his life there.

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