For baseball-loving Japan, Hideki Matsui's performance at the World Series on Wednesday - hitting a home run, tying a World Series record with six runs batted-in and being named the most valuable player - sent a clear message. It put a Japanese player and the Japanese game on the American baseball map more firmly than any previous performance.
“Matsui’s one-man show!” an early headline proclaimed in Tokyo after the New York Yankees’ six-game victory. “Unstoppable Matsui goes wild on the field,” another read.
“When Matsui does well, he helps win recognition for Japanese baseball,” said Suguru Egawa, a baseball commentator and former pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants, Matsui’s former team. “Now, the world knows the Japanese aren’t just good at playing ball – they’re power hitters, too.”
Matsui, 35, has often been overshadowed by his compatriot, Ichiro Suzuki, the smooth-talking Seattle Mariners hitter. Matsui skipped the World Baseball Classic tournaments this year and in 2006 to concentrate on the Yankees – much to Japanese disappointment – while Suzuki returned to lead Japan to two consecutive world titles.
But after Wednesday’s World Series triumph, Matsui is, at least for now, bigger than Ichiro.
“Ichiro is great, but you gotta give it to Matsui for being a clean-up batter in a star-studded team like the Yankees,” said Masayuki Kakefu, a former third baseman for the Hanshin Tigers and Matsui’s childhood idol. “Matsui’s MVP holds great weight for all of Japan.”
Parade time today
New York City will host a ticker-tape parade and ceremony today in honor of the World Series champion Yankees.
The parade is set to begin on Broadway at Battery Place at 11 a.m. EST and continue northbound up the Canyon of Heroes to City Hall Plaza where Mayor Michael Bloomberg will give the Bronx Bombers the keys to the city.
Girardi to the rescue
Just hours after guiding the Yankees to the clincher, manager Joe Girardi stopped along a suburban parkway on his way home to help a woman whose car had crashed into a wall, The (Westchester) Journal News reported.
Early Thursday morning, Westchester County police officer Kathleen Cristiano congratulated Girardi on the World Series win as he passed through a drunken-driving enforcement checkpoint, according to the newspaper. Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte had passed through the same checkpoint earlier, she said.
About 15 minutes later, Cristiano was among the first responders to a one-car accident on the Cross County Parkway in Eastchester. She was surprised to see Girardi, this time trying to flag down assistance, the report said.
“The guy wins the World Series, what does he do? He stops to help,” said Cristiano, according to The Journal News. “It was totally surreal.”
The driver of the car in the accident, 27-year-old Marie Henry of Stratford, Conn., was able to get out of the car by the time police arrived, and she was shaken but unhurt, according to the report.
“She had no idea who I was,” said Girardi, who was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.
World Series television ratings bounced back from last year’s record lows.
The Yankees’ six-game victory over the Phillies on Fox averaged an 11.7 rating and 19 share. That’s the highest since a 15.8/26 in 2004, when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals. It’s up 39 percent from the record-low 8.4/14 for the 2008 Phillies-Rays series.
Fox said Thursday that was the biggest one-year increase ever.
Game 6 on Wednesday earned a 13.4/22.
Late Show wonders
Andy Pettitte said on the “Late Show with David Letterman” that winning the World Series is especially gratifying in New York, where missing out on a championship is considered a failure.
Pettitte and Yankees teammates Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada appeared on the show Thursday night, a day after capturing the franchise’s 27th title. World Series MVP Hideki Matsui later joined them on stage, carrying the championship trophy.
Pettitte said he’s close to retirement because he wants to spend more time with his kids, but he hopes to pitch one more season.