1997 JAPAN SERIES: Yakult Swallows vs Seibu Lions

Champion: YAKULT SWALLOWS (4th time)
4 games to 1
Most Valuable Player: Atsuya Furuta (Swallows)

October 23 at Jingu Stadium (33,056 audience)
The Lions lost 3 runs by the 4th inning. Their starting pitcher Fumiya Nishiguchi was gone by the 6th inning. Those who took over thereafter kept the Swallows from scoring more runs. However, the Swallows relayed their pitchers even better. Starter Terry Bros was followed by successful relievers. Ace reliever Shingo Takatsu closed the game. It's the 3rd time he hurled the final pitch of a championship series. The Swallows clinched the Japan Series by winning this game 3 to 0.

October 22 at Jingu Stadium (32,877 audience)
It was catcher Atsuya Furuta again blasted in the game winning run. This was in the 3rd inning. His turn came with runners on 2nd and 3rd base. The Swallows succeeded in scoring more runs after that and won the game 7 to 1. The Lions best play in this game was Kazuo Matsui stealing to second base in the top of the 3rd inning that led to the team scoring their one and only run this day.
Michiyo's Note:The Swallows have one more win to go. However, the game was placed in the shadow of the surprise news of pop icon Namie Amuro's sudden marriage to a dancer, 15 years older. Fans at the Jingu Stadium shifted their focus to the extras distributed during the game.

October 21 at Jingu Stadium (32,867 audience)
The Swallows scored first. They batted in 3 runs in the 2nd inning. The Lions tied in the 4th inning. Both teams carefully relayed their pitchers. In the 8th inning, Lions former ace pitcher Hisanobu Watanabe came on. The first to face him was Swallows' catcher Atsuya Furuta. Furuta smashed Watanabe's 2nd pitch out to the stands to break the deadlock. Watanabe succumbed to base hits after that and lost another point. The Swallows won 5 to 3.

October 19 at Seibu Stadium (31,397 audience)
The game finished a little bit after 11 pm. It went on for 4 hours and 45 minutes, making the game the 2nd longest in the history of the Japan Series. To start with, the Lions batted in 5 runs in the 1st inning. The Swallows gradually accummulated runs. They caught up in the 6th inning in the most unusual way. Dwayne Hosey came to bat with bases loaded and one out. He unconsciously knocked the pitched ball with the grip end of the bat. That "magical" squeeze got a runner back home. The Lions had scoring opportunities in the bottom of that inning and in the 9th but could not take advantage of them. Then in the 10th inning, veteran infielder Norio Tanabe was called to pinch hit with a runner on 2nd base. Tanabe slammed the ball. Swallows' outfielder Mitsuru Manaka touched it with his met, but couldn't hold on to it. The ball bounced further back into the outfield, and runner Makoto Sasaki came home. The Lions brought the game to the end, 6 to 5.

October 18 at Seibu Stadium (31,634 audience)
Pro golfer Ayako Okamoto opened the game. A former softball player, she ceremoniously hurled the first strike. Now, the game was an intense one. Starting pitchers were Kazuhisa Ishii for the Swallows and Fumiya Nishiguchi for the Lions. In the 4th inning the Lions had 2 runners in scoring positions. But Ishii overcame the situation by striking out 2 in a row. In all, he struck out 12, tying with the Japan Series record of the most strike outs in a game. Nishiguchi succumbed to a fatal blow in the 8th inning. American Jim Tatum slugged the ball into the left in the 8th inning. That run gave the Swallows a 1 to 0 victory.
Michiyo's Note: Tatum has had only 13 homeruns during the season which he joined in June from the San Diego Padres. I don't think there were too many people expecting a game winning run from him.