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Exciting Home Run Race in Three Countries

Posted September. 18, 2001 08:51,   


A matter of primary concern for the professional baseball in Korean, Japan and the United States is, most of all, a home run race. In Korea, Lee Seung-Yeop (25, Samsung) entered into keen competition with two imported players, and the new record chasing of Barry Bonds (37, San Francisco Giants) and Tuffy Rhodes (33, Kintetsu Buffaloes) is attracting the greatest attention in the United States and Japan. Although the racial discrimination and the terrorist attacks cut the fans` concern off in Japan and the US, the baseball circles are watching these history chasers with a great concern.

At the end of last month when Lee Seung-Yeop used to go to hospital from time to time for a nosebleed, most people thought that the home run race went far away from him. However, Lee`s peaceful mind liberated from the acute home run race, on the contrary, rekindled the languished bat. Lee once fell to the slump to share the third place, but he recaptured the first place, blasting 5 homers during recent 4 games from the game with the LG on 9th and the game with the SK on 16th.

Lee said, ``As a matter of fact, I don`t know why I was able to hit a long shot so often. No change was made in my batting stance, and there was no special factor. I guess that as I left the home run race aside, on the contrary I was able to hit more homers.``

Because Lee Seung-Yeop of 37 homers left 11 games to play, Giant Jose (36 homers) and Bear Woods (34 homers) left 9 games and 11 games respectively, Lee has more advantage over other two competitors. Jose has suffered from a loathsome series of intentional base-on-balls, and Woods has been recently missing the strike zone.

It is Barry Bonds who has been most affected by the terrorist attack on the U.S. Bonds had maintained the sharply rising tendency, exploding 6 homers for 9 games in September, including three homers in game with Colorado Rockies on 10th. When considering his old age (37), the sudden stoppage of the ML games might grant him with the sufficient rest, but the atmosphere surrounding him is going well with him.

Above all, it seemed that just as the fans were cooled down, so was his volition for history chasing. Bonds said, ``The record is not important at this moment. It is so hard for me to focus on the game.`` With 18 games left in the season, Bonds is leading the home run pace, 9 homers up the NL second place Sammy Sosa (54 homers). San Francisco is scheduled to play a three-game series with the Houston Astros from 18th. If he hits 8 more homers in the remaining games, he will be able to surpass Mark McGwire`s single season home run record (70) in 1998.

If Tuffy Rhodes was not a foreigner, the Japanese newspapers would have never stay calm about him who has blasted 54 homers until 16th. As of today, Rhodes is only one home run away from tying the home run mark of Sadaharu Oh (55 homers) in 1964.

However, the Japanese baseball circle has unexpectedly been silent. It must be unacceptable for Japanese that a foreigner breaks the myth of the Japanese baseball. Even the New York Times pointed out, ``In Japan, a Bid for Home Run Mark Is Largely Ignored.`` acknowledging that he has received virtually no endorsements while playing in Japan and has never done a single television advertisement.

Cincinnati-born African American lefty Rhodes (1m82, 87 kg) is a veteran player, who moved to Kintetsu with 10-year Major League experience. Rhodes captured two hitting titles of home run (40) and RBI (101) in 1999, but he fell to slump with just 0.272 BA, 25 homers and 89 RBIs last year. With 9 games left in this season, it is just a matter of time to re-write a home run history in Japan.

Kim Sang-Soo ssoo@donga.com