Thursday, May 17, 2007

Welcome to the Meikyukai, Yukio Tanaka!

It seemed fairly likely that Yukio would get his 2000th hit last night, as he was getting a start at first base and had 1999 career hits before the game. He had even said previously that he wanted to get it in the Tokyo Dome if at all possible, since that's where he played with the Fighters for 18 years before they moved to Sapporo. Heck, that's where I first saw him and became a fan.

I stayed up long enough for his first at-bat, where he struck out. I expected to wake up in the morning and find that he'd gone 1-for-4. Boy, was I surprised to see that he went 3-for-4 in an 11-6 loss to the Eagles, though! Of course, he was upstaged by Rakuten's Takeshi Yamasaki, who hit THREE home runs. The 38-year-old Yamasaki is a year younger than Yukio and experiencing the craziest late-career surge EVER, I swear.

(picture from Nikkan Sports)

Yukio's 2000th hit was a single to right off of Hiroki Yamamura in the 4th inning. And just for completeness, his other two hits were a single to center in the 7th inning and a single to left in the 8th inning.

He is the 35th player in Japanese baseball history to get to the 2000-hit plateau, and is the first member of the Meikyukai whose entire career was spent with the Fighters. Isao Harimoto spent most of his career with the Fighters and reached the 2000-hit plateau with them, but went on to play for the Giants and Orions before ending his career with 3085 hits. Yasunori Ohshima spent the end of his career with the Fighters and reached the 2000-hit plateau with them (he was also the manager before Trey Hillman). Katsuo Osugi left the Fighters before getting to 2000. There are no Fighters pitchers in the Meikyukai, although 200-game winner Yutaka Enatsu, who played for the Fighters for a few years as their closer in the early 80's, had been a member before getting involved in a drug scandal.

On the Fighters' official team website, there's already a Yukio Tanaka 2000 Hits section, with an AWESOME photo retrospective of him going all the way back to the godawful 1980's Fighters uniforms, some commentary from various bigwigs in the organization, and some really neat commemorative merchandise. By "neat", I mean "stuff I actually kind of wish I could buy", especially the t-shirt.

Anyway, I actually don't have any pictures of my own that I've taken of Yukio, mostly because when I've gone to Fighters games I've always sat way out in the outfield, and he's always either been in the infield or a pinch-hitter. So instead, here is a 10-second video clip that I took of the crowd doing the Yukio Tanaka cheer song in the Tokyo Dome back in September 2003, complete with the jump. This was one of the first player cheer songs I ever learned, because it was so fun!

Hmm. Now I guess the next Fighters-related thing to cheer for is Hichori Morimoto's current 21-game hitting streak...

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