As exciting as it was to watch Barry Bonds surpass Hank Aaron’s 755 career home run mark and set a new all-time MLB record with 762; just imagine if he hit 800 long balls…and then just kept on going! That’s precisely what Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh did when he belted out 868 career blasts, including 30+ round-trippers for 19 consecutive seasons.
Oh’s homer #800
Known as “The Japanese Babe Ruth,” Oh is considered by many to be the
greatest home run hitter of all time. Among his feats were a four home
run game in 1964 and hitting home runs in seven consecutive games in
1972. So it is only fitting that he wore the uniform #1 throughout his
22-year career (1959-80).
A nine-time Nippon league MVP, Oh
holds the Japanese single-season home run record (55 in 1964). But he
also hit for average, leading the Japanese Central League five times
and driving in 2,170 RBIs; while maintaining a lifetime batting average
of .301 and winning consecutive Triple Crowns for the Tokyo Giants
(1973-74). One of the key factors in his incredible lifetime batting
average was the fact he was an extremely well disciplined hitter who
seldom swung at a pitch outside the strike zone. He averaged a walk per
Oh was famous for the unique batting stance, which was
designed for him by Tokyo Giants’ hitting coach Hiroshi Arakawa in
1962. The Giants' hitting coach, Arakawa was also a swordsman of some
repute. He taught the left-handed Oh to hit using principles applied by
swordsmen. It involved Oh raising his leg toward the plate but required
tremendous practice and discipline to perfect.
Hitting against Major League Pitchers
who contend that Sadaharu Oh would not have hit as many long-balls had
he played in America, here’s a look at how he matched up against MLB
players of his era. In 13 Japan series games, Oh hit 25 home runs
against visiting pitchers including: Hall-of-Famers Steve Carlton, Jim
Palmer and Tom Seaver.