Where is that famous American batting "pawah" (power), the fans kept asking at Korakuen Stadium today.
American major leaguers can knock the ball out of the park practically at will, many Japanese believe. But 33,000 spectators today watched the Baltimore Orioles pump out a feeble series of grounders, foul balls and easy pop flies in the first game of a three-week exhibition tour. Not one over the fence.
"I want to see a home run," mused an impatient Harumi Michikawa, who from just behind home plate today got her first look at pro ball, U.S. style.
The fans were disappointed with the action but delighted with the scoreboard's final reading, a 1-0 shutout for this year's Japanese champions, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
The flames of baseball nationalism are burning in Japan again and today's victory should fan them higher. The exposure the Orioles' tour is providing has renewed hope here that the baseball world will finally learn what the Japanese have always known: that they play top class ball.
"This is the first step toward a real, international world series," said Japanese Baseball Commissioner Takezo Shimoda. The Japanese for years have complained that Americans call their national championship the World Series.
The closest thing so far to this true series came during a 1971 tour by the Orioles. To the hosts' horror, the Americans ganged up on the national favorite Yomiuri Giants, winning eight games (including four shutouts and one no-hitter) and tying three.
The real battle this time will come when the Orioles again meet the Giants, whose third-in-their-league standing this year has not tarnished fan loyalty. Only about two-thirds of the seats at today's game were filled; the games with the Giants are already nearly sold out.
The Orioles arrived in Japan Thursday. At the obligatory airport press conference, first baseman Eddie Murray talked about knocking balls out of the stadium (fields here are about 30 feet smaller than the U.S. standard) and Manager Joe Altobelli said he wanted to win at least 10 games.
The next day, the team turned out for practice at Korakuen Stadium. The Japanese sports press duly reported that the force of the Americans' hitting had turned Toyko's foremost stadium into a backyard lot.
Former star Sadaharu Oh, now the Giants' manager, viewed the visitors with deep respect. "We are going to learn more from them than they get from us," he said. "They are 75 years ahead of us."
However, many Japanese, including Commissioner Shimoda, wonder if the gap is that big. Players here cannot match the Americans' brawn, it is conceded, but, like judo masters, the Japanese feel they can turn the Americans' strength against them.
Many Americans who play in the Japanese leagues (the rules allow two foreigners on each team) were powerful hitters at home, Japanese fans say. But here pitchers find out their weak points and often strike them out.
From the start, sports commentators here wondered if the Orioles would suffer jet lag or would view the tour as a free vacation and not play serious ball. There was less worry about motivation with the Carp, since they were carrying the country's national honor on their shoulders.
The Carp scored in the second inning, then held the Orioles at bay for the remaining seven innings. Baltimore managed only six hits, the Japanese three. Carp pitcher Kasuhisa Kawaguchi struck out 10 of the Orioles, earning praise from Altobelli.
"If he pitches as well the next time as he did today," he said, "we're going to shanghai him to the U.S."
Later, he added, "Good pitching will stop home runs every time. He's a good kid, Kawaguchi."
Kawaguchi said he just let fly. He said he did not watch the Orioles practice the day before out of fear of being demoralized, he said. But what were his impressions of their big-time hitters?
"I don't know," he said, "they all looked alike to me."