My post the other day about Ichiro got me thinking about Japanese baseball, and I recalled a story that was already a year old when I first went to Japan, but which was still being told gleefully by baseball fans. It involves Randy Bass, a now little-known American player who made it big in Japan playing for the Hanshin (Osaka) Tigers.
First, a little background info.
One of the bitterest, most long-standing rivalries in Japanese baseball is between the Tigers and the Tokyo's Giants. One reason is the rivalry between the cities themselves: Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, always feels overshadowed by Tokyo.
Another reason for the rivalry is that fact that the Giants usually whoop the Tigers.
Anyhow, in 1985, the Tigers finally beat the Giants in Japan's World Series. Tigers fans danced in the streets. A group of particularly fired-up fans outside the stadium decided to celebrate by grabbing guys who looked like the Tigers players and chucking them into a nearby river one by one, shouting the name of the player as they chucked.
As far as I know, everyone who went into the river came out. With the exception of one.
When the crowd got to Randy Bass, they were stumped. They scanned the crowd but couldn't find anyone who looked like the Lawton, Oklahoma native. Then someone noticed a life-sized statue of Colonel Sanders standing solemly in front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. "He'll do!" they shouted, then heaved the Colonel into the drink—where, they say, he still rests. True story.