Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unruly Bronco, Unruly Mustang, Restive Horse- these are some of the ways that Noboro Aota's nickname- jaja-uma - have been translated. His strength was legendary- accounts in the oral histories of Rob Fitts have him tossing grenades almost 230 feet- and his position at retirement as all-time home run leader in Japan illustrates the power he possessed. He liked to drink-while fighting with Takehiro Bessho he tore down a friends home and then drunkenly left- a flawed hero, like any hero should be. I am not sure why I venerate/revere a restive horse, why I collect these old heroes from a place I have never been. Maybe it is something handed down from civilization to civilization, but I am not sure if it is Zeus or Brahma who is responsible.

His first home run, some time in July or August of 1942(seven months after pearl harbor),a year when Seizo Furukawa led the league with 8 (I will feature him in the coming weeks), and the Giants were known under their wartime moniker the Tokyo Kyojin....... was the home run leader in five separate seasons 48, 51, 53, 56-57, the first of which he shared the title with teammate Tetsuharu Kawakami, when they were the only two players in the league to hit more than 20. That season he also led the league in batting, and came in third in the RBI race and just missing the triple crown and making his first best 9 along with Chusuke Kizuka (who I will also feature soon).....From his retirement in 1959 to 1963, when Yamauchi overtook him (albeit briefly, before he was taken over by Nomura and then Oh) Aota was the all time home run leader, though, I am not sure what, if any, fanfare was made about the feat. Here is a list of the all time leader at the end of each season beginning in 1938:

1938- 21 Nakajima, Haruyasu (15 Yamashita, Yamashita)
1939- 27 Nakajima, Haruyasu (22 Kageura, Masaru)
1940- 31 Nakajima, Haruyasu (22 Kageura, Masaru)
1941- 34 Nakajima, Haruyasu (23 Karita, Hisonori)
1942- 41 Nakajima, Haruyasu (23 Karita, Hisonori)
1943- 44 Nakajima, Haruyasu (25 Karita, Hisonori; Kageura, Masaru)
1944- 44 Nakajima, Haruyasu (25 Karita, Hisonori; Kageura, Masaru)
1946- 44 Nakajima, Haruyasu (33 Kawakami, Tetsuharu)
1947- 44 Nakajima, Haruyasu (39 Kawakami, Tetsuharu)
1948- 64 Kawakami, Tetsuharu (53 Oshita, Hiroshi)
1949- 91 Oshita, Hiroshi (88 Kawakami, Tetsuharu)
1950- 117 Kawakami, Tetsuharu (115 Kozoru, Makoto)
1951- 139 Kozoru, Makoto (133 Aota, Noboru)
1952- 156 Kozoru, Makoto (151 Aota, Noboru; Fujimura, Fumio)
1953- 178 Fujimura, Fumio (170 Kozoru, Makoto)
1954- 199 Fujimura, Fumio (191 Aota, Noboru)
1955- 220 Fujimura, Fumio (208 Aota, Noboru)
1956- 233 Aota, Noboru (224 Fujimura, Fumio)
1957- 255 Aota, Noboru (224 Fujimura, Fumio)
1958- 262 Aota, Noboru (230 Kozoru, Makoto)
1959- 265 Aota, Noboru (230 Kozoru, Makoto)
1960- 265 Aota, Noboru (230 Kozoru, Makoto)
1961- 265 Aota, Noboru (230 Kozoru, Makoto)
1962- 265 Aota, Noboru (230 Kozoru, Makoto)
1963- 265 Aota, Noboru (262 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro)
1964- 293 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro (274 Nomura, Katsuya)
1965- 316 Nomura, Katsuya (313 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro)
1966- 350 Nomura, Katsuya (331 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro)
1967- 385 Nomura, Katsuya (349 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro)
1968- 423 Nomura, Katsuya (370 Yamauchi, Kazuhiro)
1969- 465 Nomura, Katsuya (400 Oh, Sadaharu)
1970- 507 Nomura, Katsuya (447 Oh, Sadaharu)
1971- 536 Nomura, Katsuya (486 Oh, Sadaharu)
1972- 571 Nomura, Katsuya (534 Oh, Sadaharu)
1973- 599 Nomura, Katsuya (585 Oh, Sadaharu)
1974- 634 Oh, Sadaharu (611 Nomura, Katsuya)
1980- 868 Oh, Sadaharu (657 Nomura, Katsuya)

And why do I dote on him? Frank Gifford fumbled twice in the greatest football game ever played, and then went on to marry Kathy Lee. Fred Exley could only stand in the background as he cheered Frank on- We are all fan’s even if we want to be heroes, and heroes are strange.

"The question took me unawares, and I did not answer her for a long time. I had never before tried to articulate what the thing was, and I was fairly sure that whatever I said would come out badly and be taken all wrong. But I thought I would say something. The heavy hum of the wheels was beneath us, the darkness of the cab enshrouded us the atmosphere seemed conducive to talk. I told her about my first year in New York, how I had had this awful dream of fame, but that, unlike Gifford- who had possessed the legs and the hands and the agility, the tools of his art- I had come to New York with none of the tools of mine, writing." -Exley, "A Fan's Notes"230-231.

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