Wladimir Balentien aiming to become Japan's home run king
Tokyo Reporter -- Aug 30
Succession to Japan's home run crown is just a few swings away. In the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday at Meiji Jingu Stadium, Wladimir Balentien, the right-handed slugger for the Central League's Yakult Swallows, uncoiled his burly frame to pound a hanging curve ball into the seats in left field.

The solo shot was his 51st round-tripper of the year, putting him within striking distance of 55, the single-season record first set by Sadaharu Oh five decades ago and later equaled by Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.

With 31 games left on the schedule, the native of Curaçao knows that getting to 55 could become challenging as Nippon Professional Baseball is not known for playing fair when foreigners approach the record considered to be unrivaled.

"As (the record) nears, pitchers will be reluctant to throw strikes," said Balentien in a statement issued on the Swallows' Web site after the game, an 11-7 loss to the Chunichi Dragons. "I sense that, but I'm concentrating on hitting strikes."

Oh, the former first baseman and manager who is one of the most highly regarded sports figures in Japan, set the record in 1964 when he was with the Yomiuri Giants. Since then there has been a blatant effort on a number of occasions - notably in games involving Oh himself - to ensure that it remains intact.

The Hanshin Tigers' Randy Bass entered the last game of the 1985 season with 54 home runs. He was walked four times by the Yomiuri Giants, who were managed by Oh.

In 2001, Tuffy Rhodes, while playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, came into the final five games of the year with 55 home runs. The outfielder faced challenges similar to Bass in games against the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, a team also skippered by Oh.

"They didn't throw me any strikes," said Rhodes by email, referring to the games against Fukuoka. "I had to swing at two pitches (out of the strike zone) if I wanted to hit."

The following year, Alex Cabrera, then of the Seibu Lions, as well complained about a lack of pitches over the plate after his pursuit of the record also stalled at 55.

Speculation has started in Japan's tabloid media about whether Balentien will suffer a similar fate. The online Business Journal went as far as to suggest that the negative publicity from a repeat of unsportsmanlike behavior would endanger Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. (The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to announce the winning city on September 7.)

Source: Tokyo Reporter
Nov 01
International visitors to Japan spent 1.46 trillion yen ($13.2 billion) in the first nine months of 2014, up 40% on the year and surpassing the 2013 figure of 1.41 trillion yen. (Nikkei)
Nov 01
Many of the Chinese fishing boats that poach scarce coral, dubbed "jewelry coral," in waters around the Ogasawara Islands in Tokyo cast off from Xiapu County in Fujian Province, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. (The Japan News)
Nov 01
Former Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, who survived being shot by a right-wing extremist in 1990, died of pneumonia on Friday. He was 92. (Jiji Press)
Oct 31
The operator of the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday tentatively removed part of the cover shrouding the No.1 reactor building installed in the wake of the 2011 disaster to keep radioactive materials from dispersing. (Kyodo)
Oct 31
Police in Tokyo have arrested a 39-year-old member of the Air Self-Defense Force on a charge of attempted murder after he pushed a man onto the train tracks at JR Okubo Station in Shinjuku Ward. (Japan Today)
Nov 01
Tokyo's Shibuya scramble crossing was the scene of a massive gathering of Halloween revelers on Friday night. Police had their hands full trying to control the crowds. (Japan Today)
Nov 01
A court in Sapporo on Friday sentenced a 27-year-old man to seven years in prison for kidnapping a 9-year-old girl and confining her at his apartment. (Japan Today)
Nov 01
Six men and women were bitten by a wild boar in Akiruno and Fussa cities in Tokyo on Friday morning. (Japan Today)
Nov 01
The Japanese film Pale Moon directed by Daihachi Yoshida grabbed two awards at the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival. (NHK)
Oct 31
Until only recently, Japan never celebrated Halloween. And why would it? The nation honors the spirits of its ancestors in August, during the ancient Buddhist festival of O-bon, when ancestral spirits are said to revisit the family altars -and when reported encounters with ghosts and spirits reach a fevered peak. (marketwatch.com)
Oct 31
A 63-year-old man who died in Waikiki Saturday has been identified as a deputy mayor from Japan. (khon2.com)
Oct 31
A 41-year-old man, who was arrested in August for abusing his 14-year-old stepson, has also been charged with coercing the boy to commit suicide. (Japan Today)
Oct 30
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Thursday announced the bust of a risque bar in Machida City for licensing violations, reports Jiji Press (Oct. 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
Oct 30
Police in Komae City, Tokyo, on Thursday questioned the owner of a beauty salon over the murder of the salon manager whose body was found on the premises. (Japan Today)
Oct 30
A 25-year-old man who works as a host at a club in Tokyo's Kabukicho district has been arrested for trying to extort 3 million yen from his girlfriend by threatening her. (Japan Today)