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HARD DRIVES: Japan needs Brown-like passion

by John E. Gibson (Aug 18, 2010)

Believe it or not, Tohoku Rakuten Eagles skipper Marty Brown tempers the tantrums that have famously featured base throwing, dirt kicking and cap slamming.

In four quick seasons on the Hiroshima Carp bench, Brown's antics earned him the Japan pro baseball ejection record for a manager--eight, which he has subsequently extended by getting the boot three times in his first season in Sendai.

Yeah, just 11.

By comparison, Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox is the big league leader with 156 in more than a quarter century as a manager. Brown won't likely top that record but he certainly puts on a good show.

As a first-year field general here in 2006, Brown said he was trying to get the thumb when he went out to argue a call at first. Only problem, all his yelling and screaming didn't get him the old heave-ho.

Managers have a time limit of five minutes to argue a call and are then automatically ejected. He didn't have that knowledge and ended up doing something that flies in the face of tradition here--literally--to get tossed. He unrooted the first-base bag and flung it as far as he could.

"The throwing-the-base thing was very spur of the moment," Brown, 47, told Hard Drives by phone on Monday. "They wouldn't throw me out. I didn't know the rules--nobody had told me that you had five minutes, and obviously I'm trying to stand up for my player and want to be ejected to show my team I'm going to stand up for them.

"And then they wouldn't throw me out and they just kind of left me standing there. I felt really alone; I didn't know what to do. I just grabbed the base and threw it and finally they all tossed me."

The incident spawned "My manager throws bases" T-shirts, and revealed an entertainingly edgy side that import managers can bring to Japan.

No Japanese manager would ever consider such behavior. Most seem to act as though it's better to be a propped-up, "Weekend at Bernie's" skipper clone who corks his emotions for the sake of image.

"The persona of a manager here is a guy sitting in the dugout--you don't do a whole lot. You never pick up a fungo [bat], you never throw BP [batting practice]. You kind of sit there and put a steal on, a hit-and-run and then complain when it doesn't get done," Brown quipped. "That's my perception of the managers in the league, but not all are that way."

Brown pointed to Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara and his replacement at Hiroshima, Kenjiro Nomura (his former Carp teammate), as men with fire who dare to step away from that traditional seat. But the majority exhibit a seen-one-seen-them-all character.

"It's never been done where a guy comes out of the dugout and rants and raves, and kicks dirt on the umpire and throws him out," Brown said. "First of all, they don't know how to do that and they don't want to deal with the negative stuff that comes out of that.

"Some fans hate it, some really, really like it. And then some fans don't really understand it yet."

He is also cognizant of the impact the image of a wild, crazy American manager can have.

"Obviously, I don't go out there with the intent of getting ejected. I try to tone it down at times, just because of the differences in culture and the way it looks to the fans," said Brown, who added he has received his share of praise for his passion.

"Actually, in the Central League, when I was there, the commissioner [Ryozo Kato] came and talked to me and said it was really good for baseball," Brown explained.

"And I saw Sadaharu Oh the other night, and he said, "'It's great. You're changing the thought process of baseball in Japan.'"

It just so happened that Chiba Lotte Marines rookie manager Norifumi Nishimura earned himself a hefty 150,000 yen fine for manhandling an umpire in an Aug. 5 loss to Rakuten at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi.

Maybe being in the same ballpark as Brown gave him the gumption.

It was conduct unbecoming of a manager, but Nishimura's actions were better than the passionless, bad-call-accepting demeanor that can dull the sport.

It's a big boost to have Brown adding some color to the game.


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