Revisiting Japan Trip
(Here’s another segment that didn’t make my book, If These Walls Could Talk. With an MLB All-Star team touring in Japan, timing was right to post my experiences in Japan in 1990).
When Bill White played for us, we became friends. He stayed in Philadelphia one offseason and made appearances for $200.00. He asked me to be his booking agent, for which I received 10%. Neither of us became millionaires.
His post-playing career took him to the broadcast booth and eventually president of the National League. Following the 1990 season, he chose me to be the PR person for the MLB All-Star Tour of Japan. For years, MLB would send a group of players to Japan to play a series of games against their stars.
Julie and I were honored and excited to be part of the 11-day tour. To me, it was considered a jewel event. While in Japan, she got to do some sightseeing with the wives while I spent time at ballparks.
Only American player I knew was Lenny Dykstra. But, new friendships developed, Don Zimmer (manager), Mike Scioscia (catcher) and Ken Griffey Sr. (coach). Barry Bonds was on the squad and we didn’t become friends. Far from it.
As it turns out, we were the first American team to lose the series, 4-3. Our third win came in the last game, a combined no-hitter by Chuck Finley and Randy Johnson. Games were played in five different ballparks. Like our leagues, one league (Pacific) used the designated hitter while the other (Central) didn’t.
I became the last American PR person to provide the stats for both teams. I never did understand why but for some reason I was expected to type not only our stats but the Japanese stats. Hey, I wasn’t going to complain.
We had a squad of 26 players, Japan used 28 players and 39 pitchers. Japan had roster changes every game, a real challenge trying to keep up with all their players. Most likely, I missed one or two of their players. Just don’t tell anyone. One of their ace pitchers was 21-year-old Hideo Nomo, winner of the Sawamura Award, equivalent of our Cy Young Award.
An interpreter was assigned to me to help with the language barrier. Sadly, I don’t recall his name. He was with me every day and extremely helpful as I couldn’t speak their language.
There are some distinct differences from baseball in the USA. Here are a few:
**Fans returned all foul balls but they kept home run balls.
**”Music” in three stadiums was provided by trumpet players parked in the outfield bleachers. Sometimes, drummers accompanied the trumpets, creating an annoying noise that lasted the entire game. While the bleacher fans cheered, the rest sat in virtual silence. There was no booing.
**Dugouts were deeper than long. Field level locations for photographers were longer than the dugouts. We averaged over 125 photographers per game.
**Once his team made two outs, the Japanese pitcher began warming up in front of his dugout.
**Public Address announcers were females.
**There was no seventh-inning stretch.
**In each of the five ballparks in which we played, a 6’-9’ fence was positioned in front of the first row of seats completely surrounding the playing field. Thus, there were no problems with fans interfering with a ball in play or running on the field. Fans were also protected from wicked foul balls.
**Players received money for television interviews, which is a custom in Japan. For interviews at the ballpark, 20,000 yen ($140.00). Away from the park, 50,000 yen, including the print media.
**Players also received “lucky money” (20,000 yen) for hitting home runs. When I gave Bonds a lucky money coin after the game in which he homered, he threw the coin on the floor. It wound up in my pocket.
Personal highlight came when the interpreter said one of the Japanese newspapers wanted to interview me. Next day the interpreter showed me the paper but he was laughing. Right in the middle of the girlie ads, was my picture and a story which I couldn’t read.
It was an interesting experience to witness the Japanese culture. Everything was so clean and everybody was so friendly. The subways, trains and air planes were crowded, really crowded. Masses upon masses of people.