Arguably the two greatest home run hitters of all-time, Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh, met at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium in November 1974 to showcase their legendary power and to determine – once and for all – who was greatest home run hitter on the planet.
Hammerin’ Hank defeated the Yomiuri Giant great 10-9 to take home the global “Home Run King” bragging rights, but later said the competition hadn't really proved anything. "I was happy to come to Japan and engage in the contest with Oh,” Aaron said. “But it doesn't necessarily prove that I'm a better hitter than Oh because it wasn’t under game conditions and we didn’t bat against pitchers who wanted to strike us out," Hank added, in the sportsmanlike manner for which he is famous.
The contest before 50,000 was based on the number of home runs either Aaron or Oh could rap out on 20 fair balls. They alternated with five fair-hit swings each. Foul balls didn't count. Aaron slammed 10 out of 18 fair balls for homers. Oh connected on nine out of 20.
Kuniyasu Mine, Yomiuri's special batting practice pitcher served up pitches for the Japanese all-star first baseman and the New York Mets coach Joe Pignatano, pitched to Aaron. Both Aaron and Oh had a half-hour of batting practice at the stadium before their duel. Korakuen's dimensions are 300 feet from home plate to left field, 390 to center field and 300 to right field.
Oh, who was 34 at the time, was generally considered the contest favorite. He had been playing against the visiting New York Mets all week and just recently finished playing in the Japan Central League pennant race.
Hank, 40, on the other hand, had not had any batting practice for more than a month and "was feeling rusty."
Then how is it Aaron won the contest? If he was rusty and tired from the long trip from the United States, he didn't show it. "I won it (the contest) because it was a home run contest," Aaron explained. "I waited for my pitches and I'm a very patient guy.”
The contest was shown on stateside TV by CBS. Aaron was paid $50,000 for winning the "homer derby" and Oh received $20,000.