Sadaharu Oh and Hank Aaron Remain Close Friends
Written by Jim Rednour
Sunday, 31 January 2010
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
36 years after Oh and Aaron met for the home run showdown, the greatest hitters of their generation remain close friends working together to promote baseball worldwide.
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.
Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh at their home-run derby in 1974.
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."
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.