Friday, November 02, 2007

Misero Ochiai Nippon Ichi!

I don't believe it, but Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase combined for a perfect game to win the fifth and final game of the 2007 Japan Series. DAISUKE FREAKING YAMAI! Sunglasses at night!

The last time the Dragons won the Series was 53 years ago. It's kind of cool, because last year the Fighters ended their 44-year championship drought, and this year the Dragons ended an even longer one. If I'm not mistaken, the longest drought now is 23 years since the Hiroshima Carp won a championship in 1984. (I'm counting Orix as Orix, not counting the fact that the Kintetsu Buffaloes never won a championship.)

Yeah, the Fighters lost, but fortunately the Dragons are my second favorite team, so it's all good. If the Fighters had lost the Japan Series to the Giants, for example, I'd be pretty pissed off.

(picture from Mainichi Shinbun)

I only saw 15 minutes of tonight's game -- my cellphone works as a mini-TV, but I don't get reception in my workplace. Amazingly, I saw the only scoring play of the entire night. It must be something about the GPS on my cellphone which causes the opponents to score runs as soon as I switch on the TV. I really ought to get that fixed.

I left the building to grab dinner around 6:30pm, tuned in to the game, and what I saw was the Fighters going down meekly in their half of the 2nd inning. Woods singled, and then I saw Nori Nakamura hit the ball way out to right field. From what the announcers were saying and from the low-resolution screen, I almost thought it was going to be a home run, but no, it bounced off the back wall, and if it hadn't been Tyrone on first, that'd probably be an RBI double.

Runners at second and third with no outs pretty much meant that the only way nobody was going to score was if Darvish struck out the next three batters (not entirely unlikely, but not likely either) or if the Dragons ran themselves out of the inning (possible, but come on, I wouldn't bet on Shinya Tsuruoka to win a collision with Tyrone Woods). So, sure enough, he struck out Byung-Gyu Lee, but then Hirata hit a sac fly to right, and even Tyrone could score on that one. Tanishige struck out to end the inning, and I had to head back to work.

I was thinking at the time, "Man, 1-0. That might be just enough to win this game, given how dead the Fighters bats have been."

I checked in around 8pm, and it was still 1-0, in the 6th inning or so. I didn't realize that the 0 actually meant 0 runners as well.

The next time I could look was at 9pm, and that's when I saw a bunch of email messages on my phone basically saying "Holy crap! Yamai and Iwase combined for the first perfect game in Japan Series history!" I had a voicemail from my friend Jeff, who was down in Nagoya Station where it was, as he put it, "a FUCKING MADHOUSE out here".

I was torn between four emotions at that moment:
1) "Crap, the Fighters lost. And how."
2) "Cool, the Dragons won. Misero Ochiai Nippon Ichi!"
4) "...I have to teach a class now?"

After I was done for the evening, I went home and basically watched sports highlights as they shifted on and off of various stations. They showed bits and pieces of the game -- the run scoring, and then random strikeouts and nice plays, mostly by Arakibata, and then they showed Iwase coming in to close out the game, and the streamers and doage and whatnot. Norihiro Nakamura was named the Japan Series MVP, and unlike his calm manager, Nori was in tears during his speech. You can't blame him. Here's a guy who started off the year as a taxi squad player, managed to make the real roster out of camp, and against all odds played most of the year at the top level and put up an 800+ OPS with 20 home runs, essentially replacing Fukudome's bat in the lineup. All this from a guy who never even got his own player cheer song -- to the end, the fans were still singing the "guy who we haven't made a cheer song for" theme during his at-bats.

They had some interviews with Ochiai-kantoku, who was -- get this -- actually smiling and laughing, and then a bunch of stations had an interview with Iwase, Kawakami, and Takashi Ogasawara, who had apparently been steam-cleaned from the postgame festivities, and were in street clothes. Ogasawara was calling Kenshin "sempai", since they were a year apart at Meiji University. It was cute. Tanishige eventually kind of wandered onto the set like "Hey guys, what's up? Oh, you're on live TV? Nice."

Then there was footage of the beer-kake party on another station. It wasn't quite as funny as the Fighters post-playoff party, but amusing nonetheless. The cameramen were trying to interview Nori Nakamura, but of course people kept pouring beer on him the whole time and he was like "AAAAAA! AAAAAAA! SAIKOOOOOU!" Asakura was wearing a fuzzy ski cap facemask, and Araki still looked freakish, and Ibata was wearing pink goggles and babbling about how cool everything was. Morino went on camera and was like "Yeah, er, 53 years IS a really long time, y'think?" before someone got him right in the face with some frothy foamy alcohol stuff which also took down the camera, and it cut to a completely soaked Tanishige yelling "YARIMASHITA!!"

Alas, the sad part is really that the season is over now. I'm looking forward to going to watch the Konami Cup finals next weekend -- maybe I'll get a little more mileage out of my Morino #31 jersey this year after all -- but it's going to be a long winter. Fortunately, I still have a lot of remnants of game reports and photos to go through from the season, which will keep me busy for a while. And, of course, there are many upcoming Fan Fests...

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