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Hitting Homeruns in Five Consecutive Games

Posted May. 23, 2005 03:44,   


Hanshin’s Randy Bass, who is considered one of the best foreign players in Japanese pro baseball history, had to feel great frustration in 1985, when he won MVP award, and in the 1986 season.

The unity of Japanese pitchers to protect the record of Japanese hero Oh Sadaharu was spiteful. They overtly walked him intentionally when Bass was only one homerun behind Oh’s record of 55 in 1985, and when he tied Oh’s seven-game homerun hitting streak in 1986.

Since then, two decades have passed. Korea’s national team batter Lee Seung-yeop is challenging Oh’s consecutive homerun record. Lee hit 56 homeruns in 2003 wearing a Samsung uniform, and broke Oh’s single season homerun record in 39 years.

On May 22 in an inter-league home game against Chunichi Dragons at Chiba Marine Stadium, Lee, hitting sixth and playing left field, hit a solo homerun at the third inning, extending his homerun hitting streak, which started on May 18 against Hiroshima, to five games.

It is his 10th homerun of the season, and he is one game short of a six-game homerun streak that he set in July of 1999. The Marines’ team record is also six wins.

The reason why Lee is anticipated to break the record is because of his fame as the “May Man.” During the 1999 season, when he hit 54 homeruns, and his Asian record setting 2003 season, he hit 15 homeruns in May.

Lee’s hot bat was noticeable since his first at-bat. Leading 4-0 in the first inning, with one out and runner on first, he hit a high inside pitch from Nakata Kenichi for a single. In the third inning, with the count 1-1, he smashed Nakata’s 130 kmph forkball high over the centerfield fence. In the fourth inning he struck out, and in the eighth he flew out to center, but he produced another hit that landed in front of the right fielder in the sixth inning.

Going 5 for 3, Lee’s batting average jumped to .325. Although he lacks the required at-bats, his average is around fifth place in the league, and ranks sixth in home runs.

The Japanese press is not hiding their excitement, making headlines such as, “Asia’s Homerun King Has Been Resurrected.”

Sankei Sports wrote, “Asia’s slugger is finally bursting after the waiting from Japanese and Asian baseball fans,” while Sports Hochi praised, “Fans recognize a true hero. Efforts never betray you.”

In an interview the day before, Lee said with a bright laugh, “I think the fruits of my efforts are paying off. My pregnant wife should have been very happy watching today’s game.”

Hwan Soo Zang zangpabo@donga.com