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Updated: September 12, 2013
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2013 by Marco Stoovelaar

Balentien's HR-record chase continues
TOKYO (Japan) - A day after tying the single-season homerun-record in the Japanese Major League by hitting his 55th homerun, Dutch outfielder Wladimir Balentien continued his chase for the record on Thursday. But in tonight's home game against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Balentien went 1-for-3 with a walk. Balentien and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows lost the game, 12-6.

In his first at bat in the first inning, Balentien walked. He then grounded out in the third inning and struckout in the sixth. In the eighth inning, Balentien singled off of Takaya Kawauchi.

...Watch Sadaharu Oh hitting homeruns...
In 1964, legendary slugger Sadaharu Oh set the single-season record by hitting 55 homeruns. Oh, who played in 22 seasons for the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, became a legendary star in Japanese baseball and is very high regarded.

With that, his homerun-record became somewhat hallowed. And that was underscored in the years when the record came into jeopardy.

In 1985, American player Randy Bass of the Hanshin Tigers, had hit 54 homeruns with only one game remaining in the regular season. That game was played against the Yomiuri Giants, which then were managed by Sadaharu Oh. In this game, Bass was walked intentionally four times, then he was able to single in his fifth at bat on another outside pitch.

In 2001, Tuffy Rhodes, another American and former Major League-player, tied Oh's record, while playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Rhodes had three games left against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, which coincidentally also were managed by Oh that season. Rhodes was walked intentionally in all at bats during these games. It was reported that the pitching coach of the Hawks had ordered the walks, saying ''that he just didn't want a foreign player to break Oh's record''.

In 2002, Venezuelan Alex Cabrera, also a former Major Leaguer at that time, also hit 55 homeruns to equal the record. Cabrera had five games left, which came against the Hawks with Oh as Manager. Oh had told his pitchers to throw strikes, but most of them ignored that and threw the ball away from the plate in order to keep the record intact.

Sadaharu Oh always denied that he ordered to throw the walks. The 73-year old legendary lefthanded hitter, with the famous flamingo-stance, is highly respected, not only in Japan, but also in the international baseball world. The webmaster of Grand Slam * Stats & News has had the honour of meeting Sadaharu Oh some years ago and he is a real gentleman, who loves baseball. For his players, it was just the respect for him that his pitchers threw outside-balls and intentional walks to protect the record of their manager.

In 2006, Sadaharu Oh was the Manager of Team Japan, which won the inaugural edition of the World Baseball Classic.

(September 12)

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