I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation, and I thought this was an interesting passage. I hope everyone enjoys it.
One bright afternoon in April 1978, I attended a baseball game at Jingu Stadium in downtown Tokyo. It was the Central League season opener, first pitch at one o’clock, the Yakult Swallows against the Hiroshima Carp. I was already a Yakult fan in those days, and the stadium was close to my apartment, so I sometimes popped in to catch a game when I was out for a stroll.
Back then, Yakult was a perennially weak team, with little money and no flashy big-name players. Naturally, they weren’t very popular. Season opener it may have been, but only a few fans were sitting beyond the outfield fence. I stretched out with a beer to watch the game. At the time there were no bleacher seats, just a grassy slope. It was a great feeling. The sky was a sparkling blue, the draft beer was cold as cold could be, and the ball strikingly white against the green field, the first green I had seen in a long time. To fully appreciate a baseball game, you really have to be there in person!
Yakult’s first hitter was Dave Hilton, a rangy newcomer from the United States and a complete unknown. He batted in the leadoff position. The cleanup hitter was Charlie Manuel, who later became famous as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, though, he was a real stud, a slugger Japanese fans had dubbed, “the Red Demon.”
I think Hirohima’s starting pitcher that day was Satoshi Takahashi. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Takahashi’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when bat met ball resounded through Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.
I can still recall the exact sensation. It was as if something had come fluttering down from the sky and I had caught it cleanly in my hands. I had no idea why it had chanced to fall into my grasp. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. Whatever the reason, it had taken place. It was like a revelation. Or maybe “epiphany” is a better word. All I can say is that my life changed drastically and permanently altered in that instant when leadoff hitter Dave Hilton belted that beautiful ringing double at Jingu Stadium.
Loved seeing Philly’s “Uncle Charlie” mentioned here. I never really dug into his playing career much. Also, enjoyed reading what a special moment this was for the writer.
Murakami is consindered one of the more famous writers of modern day, so I’d say it was quite the moment!
Good read. I knew of Japanese baseball, but never followed it. Now we have football in the UK, what’s next? I guess you were ready to write that novel and that one day set you forward. I grew up playing baseball in the 1950s. A bunch of kids with oversize gloves, hardballs, no batting helmets and metal spiked on our feet. It was a dangerous sport and I don’t know how we managed to not get lethally injured, but we made it through.
I’m amazed I never broke anything as a kid. We were pretty rough buckaroos.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Phil.
I love that he could just pop in to catch a professional game when he was out for a stroll. What a refreshing difference from today’s “events.”
Red Demon is a fantastic nickname for a hitter.
They’ve got some pretty interesting nicknames in the Japanese League. I’m looking forward to checking out Shintaro Fujinami who the A’s signed via the Hanshin Tigers.
Thanks for “poopping in” to check out my newest post, Mark. 🙂
I’ve read a handful of Murakami books, and I love every one of them. Gonna have to check this one out, for sure.
It’s not fiction, just ponderings on literature and the book industry, which can be a slog at times–so be aware of that. 🙂
Thanks for the comment.