Common Name: Sadaharu Oh
Born: May 20, 1940 in Tokyo, Japan
Full Name:Sadaharu “Wan-Chan” Oh
Major League Debut:June 15, 1923
Nick Names: The Japanese Babe Ruth
Primary Position: 1st Base
Teams Played For:
He led his team to 14 Japan Series and won it 11 times, nine of them consecutively.
In 77 Japan Series games, Oh belted 29 home runs. That is better than his regular season average.
He is the world’s all-time home run king with 868 in his 22-year playing career.
This mark was 211 ahead of the next best Japanese total.
He won 15 Home Run Championships, 9 MVP Awards, 18 Japanese All Star awards as the leagues best first baseman, two consecutive Triple Crowns in 1973 and 1974, the first 9 Gold Gloves awarded in the last nine years of his career, and was a 20 time All-Star. He led his team to 14 Japan Series and won it 11 times, nine of them consecutively.
Oh began his schoolboy career as a left-handed pitcher, like Ruth, and then, as the “Bambino,” became a slugger of mythic proportions, setting every Japanese home run record.
Oh’s career caused others to wonder that if one Japanese player could have success against major leaguers, what about others? In the spring of 1971, the San Francisco Giants toured Japan and lost a series of games to different Japanese teams, marking the first time the Americans had been defeated in one of the cross-Pacific tours. In 1974, one year after reaching the World Series, the New York Mets visited Japan and lost a series to the Yomiuri Giants, Oh’s team. Neither the Americans nor the Japanese were convinced that there was parity between the leagues, but the notion that individual Japanese players might indeed be stars wherever they played was firmly established.
Today, Japanese stars are as familiar to American baseball fans as Latin marquee players. As the game itself has become increasingly internationalized, Japanese baseball has become a rich resource for the majors.
“He sure hit me. He was a superb hitter. He hit consistently, and he hit with power. Had he played in America, Sadaharu Oh could easily have been a lifetime .300 hitter, averaging 25-30 home runs a year.”
— Tom Seaver
Did You Know...
Oh learned how to hit home runs by literally standing on one leg and using his bat like a long Japanese sword. Under the tutelage of a hitting and martial arts guru named Hiroshi Arakawa, Oh corrected a late, looping swing by rooting his body in a flamingo pose. Standing on his back leg, then releasing the raised front leg at the last moment, Oh would bring his bat down into the ball as though he were a swordsman delivering a precise death blow to an opponent.