The day a Japanese high schooler struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession
With all the talk of home run-hitting, 100-mph-fastball-throwing Shohei Ohtani potentially joining a big leage roster next season, we wanted to shed some light on a Japanese phenom of the past and the day he made a few future Hall of Famers look absolutely silly.
In November 1934, a group of Major Leaguers went on an epic barnstorming trip to Japan. All-Stars like Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Gomez, Moe Berg (who was also there for other reasons) and, of course, Babe Ruth played a total of 18 games against Japanese pros.
They won most of the games by a large margin, but on Nov. 20, during a 1-0 affair, a 17-year-old pitcher by the name of Eiji Sawamura did something most people can only dream about in their backyards as a kid.
The high schooler entered the game in the fourth inning and struck out nine American batters including Charlie Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx in succession. Manager Connie Mack attempted to sign Sawamura after the game, but he refused and joined up with the Tokyo Giants as part of Japan's first professional league (a league inspired in part by the '34 games and the teenager's performance).
Sawamura went on to pitch the Japan league's first no-hitter and two more before dying in World War II. The Sawamura Award is currently given to the top pitcher in the NPB every year. Ohtani finished in the top 3 for the award in 2015, but was not considered for the honor in 2016 because of lack of innings pitched (he was too busy hitting dingers).
A version of this story first appeared on Nov. 20, 2015