Shohei Ohtani Adds to His Legend
Let me start by saying Babe Ruth is my favorite athlete, all-time.
Not just because I witnessed him, last game of 1947, clearly sick, addressing a crowd in Yankee Stadium.
Not just because he had coached for my Brooklyn Dodgers for a while.
Not just because I later met his daughter who talked about “Daddy.”
I consider him my favorite athlete because he could pitch and he could hit and he could entertain fans just by being “The Babe.”
Now I can say, I have also seen Shohei Ohtani pitch and hit in the same game, for the World Baseball Classic, holding off the Americans with skill and power and flair, just like the Babe.
Whatever else is wrong with the world at the moment – don’t get me started – there is this versatile champion from Japan, thrilling fans around the world.
By now, you undoubtedly know that Ohtani saved Japan’s victory over the United States late Tuesday evening (Eastern time), closing the game by striking out his Los Angeles Angels teammate, Mike Trout, with a hellacious slider that broke clear across the plate.
If there is anything you don’t already know about Tuesday’s championship, try to log on to Tyler Kepner’s column in the Times, written right after the game.
Tyler touched all the bases, with gusto and knowledge, writing: “ The tournament, it is safe to say, is no longer taking off. It is already in orbit.”
The Babe, it is said, saved baseball by hitting more home runs than anybody had ever done, 29, while still a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1919.
In the same year, some members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to lose the so-called World Series, in a gambling plot, followed by sleazy legal maneuvers by the hangin’ jury of the baseball leadership. The Yankees purchased Ruth, who promptly hit 54 home runs and entertained the world (including Japan, on a barnstorming visit) for a decade and a half.
Now, Shohei Ohtani has pushed the baseball tournament toward the grand tournament for the world’s most popular sport, soccer/football, the World Cup. In its own quadrennial tournament last fall, Argentina’s elder superstar Lionel Messi held off France’s young superstar Kylian Mbappé in an exciting final.
Baseball still has a long way to go, around the world, but at least Ohtani has nudged his sport into the discussion of world events.
Ohtani made baseball a 24-hour spectacle. I confess, as a notorious early bird, that I have rarely caught a glimpse of Ohtani (or, for that matter, Mike Trout.) I’m a Mets guy, a National League guy. But now Ohtani, with one inning of smoke, has inserted himself into worldwide consciousness.
I woke up Wednesday morning and found an email from our friend Fumio, who used to live across the street on Long Island – such nice people, I think of him and Akie every day. back home in Japan.
I replied to Fumio that as a baseball fan and a journalist, I recognized that the “story” was this poised young superstar holding off his Angels teammate and the American all-stars.
It is now 105 years since Babe Ruth pitched and hit the Red Sox to a “world” championship.
Imagine. One hundred and five years. An accomplishment I can legitimately label “Ruthian.”
3/22/2023 11:47:04 am
July 6, 1933. Baseball's first All-Star Game is held in Chicago. My sixteen year old dad bicycles from his home in Brooklyn up to his Cousin Lenny's house in the Bronx to listen to the game on radio. My dad arrives at Lenny's in the 3rd inning to be greeted by Lenny screaming, "The Babe smacks a homer!"
3/22/2023 06:59:45 pm
Roy:your dad, age 16, pedalled from Brookyn to the Bronx? Wow.
3/22/2023 07:28:21 pm
24 years later. Duh. GV
3/22/2023 11:57:46 am
3/22/2023 12:17:03 pm
Moe Berg was a fascinating real-life character. I've read everything that I could find about him, which is not much since he was a spy.
3/22/2023 12:24:36 pm
3/22/2023 07:02:24 pm
Bruce, as I recall, Oh;s book (autographed by him and David Falkner) has a nice section about the Koshien -- and the military drills he did with a bat instead of a sword, to produce his swing. I met hlm just before the first Classic...GV
3/22/2023 07:22:15 pm
3/22/2023 12:08:12 pm
My dad was born in the Ukraine, but the family always called themselves Russian. This was probably due to all the anti-antisemitism that they experienced.
3/22/2023 07:04:45 pm
Alan, quite right, the Babe was a West Side guy. His lovely daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, got teary-eyed when she talk about "Daddy" being home and spending a lot of time with her.GV
3/22/2023 07:28:37 pm
3/22/2023 03:29:59 pm
3/22/2023 07:06:28 pm
Altenir: Larger-than life Category. The Babe fits right in with your current reading session with Thomas Wolfe, another giant. GV
3/22/2023 03:53:14 pm
When Peggy and I were in Japan the last time, we walked over to Yokohama Stadium and I thought of Saddaharo Oh, “the Japanese Babe Ruth” homerun champ—before allowed in MLB. Now there is an even more impressive “Babe Ruth” pitching and hitting.
3/22/2023 07:11:23 pm
Ed, I've seen those photos. Friend of mine ran the Babe Ruth Museum in that neighborhood...and there is a souvenir Babe photo book somewhere on my shelves. The whole Ruth clan was outside the family bar -- and all of them had the same nose Babe had. GV
3/22/2023 04:49:55 pm
3/22/2023 05:54:48 pm
3/22/2023 07:14:42 pm
Randy, I love your family's story about that skinny kid wandering into the wrong identical coal-town house late one night -- your family house, lucky he didn't get blown away. Musial was a pitcher then, but he could hit. Next year in Daytona Beach, Manager Dick Kerr (the "honest" young lefty on the 1919 White Sox) converted him from pitching after he hurt his arm. Years later, the Musials gave Dickie Kerr and his wife a house. GV
3/22/2023 08:03:19 pm
Alan D Levine
3/22/2023 06:33:06 pm
I didn't watch much of the game last night. I consider Ohtani to be the best player in baseball. But the WBC? I'll be thinking of it during every game that Edwin Diaz will not be able to close and I will say, "I told you so."
3/22/2023 07:18:55 pm
Alan, I saw Altuve's finger get broken.Then again, Nimmo made a timid slide in an exhibition and may be slow getting into the season...stuff happens, Dizzy Dean took a line drive in one ofthe first all-star games and was never the same. Part of the game...Remind me of my sanguine response when the Mets lose one in the ninth! See you in May. GV
3/22/2023 07:55:37 pm
GV,, saw this, awful
3/22/2023 08:57:36 pm
I saw Carlton Willey, very nice pitcher from Maine, get hit on the jaw by a line drive from Gates Brown, last start of spring training. 1963! Willey was never the same. It was 2 outs in 7th. Nobody goes that long these days. GV
3/22/2023 07:49:52 pm
Lets see George, there was a kid playing bal, first base, I think, for Lafayette HS, while another named Fred Wilpon was pitching. I forget the kid’s name, but he must have been a decent fielder and could get a hit along the way, “Sandy” something, lefthanded as I recall.
3/22/2023 07:53:39 pm
Alan D Levine
3/22/2023 09:34:29 pm
Wasn't it Lincoln and not Lafayette?
3/29/2023 11:26:16 am
Matewan was a fantastic movie. I would watch anything by John Sales, including Eight Men Out and Brother From Another Planet over and over.
3/29/2023 11:47:54 am
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.