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Rob Smaal

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Museum honors Oh

by Rob Smaal (Mar 11, 2010)

Sadaharu Oh had a lot of hits over his Hall of Fame baseball career--2,786 to be exact. He's hoping for one more this summer.

On Wednesday at a Tokyo hotel, Softbank chairman Masayoshi Son and Oh announced that the Oh Sadaharu Baseball Museum will open July 3 at Fukuoka's Yahoo Dome.

"Oh-san is a treasure of the international baseball world and we wanted to celebrate his illustrious career," said Son, owner of the Softbank Hawks, the club Oh managed before stepping down in 2008 for health reasons. "We want it to be a place to convey the fighting spirit, effort and determination it took Oh-san to realize his dreams."

Oh's baseball career certainly features a lot to celebrate. He still holds the all-time professional baseball record for career home runs with 868, all of them coming during his 22-year playing career with the Yomiuri Giants that started in 1959. He also holds the Japan single-season HR record of 55, since equaled by both Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera in 2001 and '02, respectively.

"I'm very moved that there will be a museum in my honor and I hope that many kids will visit and feel inspired and want to return again and again," said Oh, who was born in Tokyo in 1940 to a Chinese father and a Japanese mother. "I must say it was kind of a shock when I realized it's been over 50 years since I first joined the Giants."

While Oh made history with a bat in his hand, ironically he was signed by the Giants as a pitcher, much like another famous slugger, American Babe Ruth. After retiring as a player in 1980, Oh went on to have a successful career as a manager. He piloted the Giants to the Central League pennant in 1987 before finding more success in Fukuoka, where he managed the Hawks to three Pacific League pennants and two Japan Series titles. The pinnacle of his managerial career, however, came in 2006, when he skippered Japan to victory in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

When asked to pick a highlight of his lengthy career, Oh went with a memory from his time as the Hawks skipper.

"It's really hard to pick one moment after spending 50 years in the game, but winning the Japan Series as manager in 1999 with the Hawks certainly ranks right up there," Oh said.

The Oh Sadaharu Baseball Museum will take up 2,150 square meters behind the outfield wall at Yahoo Dome. It will feature a library, an interactive studio where kids can take cuts at simulated pitches, and a "Home Run Theater" with video of Oh hitting home run No. 756, which sent him past major-leaguer Hank Aaron. There will also be a section where fans can watch the Hawks in action on game days as well as plenty of memorabilia and photos on display from Oh's playing and managing days.


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