One Prize to Rule Them All

Norifumi Nishimura leads his team in pregame calisthenics.

Yesterday it was announced that Norifumi Nishimura, manager of the Japan Series-winning Chiba Lotte Marines, had won the 2010 Shoriki Award. Nishimura may not have been entirely shocked to receive the call¹ though, because apparently since 2001 the Series-winning manager has received the Shoriki Award every year, with the one exception being Trey Hillman in 2006. Presumably Japan foresaw the mustache.

This Shoriki Award is given to the person who made the most outstanding contribution to Japanese baseball in the last year. It is named for Matsutaro Shoriki, a very interesting fellow who founded one of Japan’s largest newspapers and one of its first television stations and last but not least for our purposes its greatest baseball franchise, the Yomiuri Giants. In 1935, a politically charged time in Japan, Shoriki arranged for Babe Ruth and some other Americans to play an exhibition game in Tokyo, and for his trouble somebody tried to assassinate him with a sword.²  As far as I know, this exact thing never happened to Connie Mack.

Returning to the Shoriki Award, I haven’t been able to identify a comparable “outstanding contribution to baseball” prize in the United States. Considering the diverse spectrum of interpretations that American baseball writers and fans manage to project onto comparably well-defined awards such as most valuable player and best fielder, I can’t begin to imagine the ensuing discord if we did have something like the Shoriki Award (assuming people cared about it). How would you approach the question of who made the most outstanding “contribution” to American baseball in 2010? Maybe Roy Halladay — playoff no-hitters get people talking — or Josh Hamilton, with his great story. But probably I’m not thinking about this in broad enough terms.

¹ I always imagine people being informed that they won prizes by means of 5 AM phone calls like American Nobel laureates get because of the time difference with Sweden. Surely that’s not always how it works. I will win a prize and confirm — stay tuned.

² This article was originally printed in a 1935 issue of Time Magazine, so please excuse its regrettable language.

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