Ex-Major Leaguer Balentien Ties Oh With 55th Japan Home Run

Wladimir Balentien hit his 55th home run this season in Japanese baseball, tying the mark shared by three others including all-time leader Sadaharu Oh.

Balentien, a former Major League Baseball player now on the Yakult Swallows, hit the solo home run in the sixth inning of a 6-2 home loss to the Hiroshima Carp in Tokyo. The team’s Facebook page published a photo of Balentien waving to fans after being given a bouquet of flowers following the record-tying homer.

Oh hit 55 home runs in 1964, a mark matched by former major-leaguers Tuffy Rhodes (2001) and Alex Cabrera (2002), according to the Associated Press.

Balentien, a 29-year-old from Curacao, has 21 games left to surpass the mark.

He played in the major leagues from 2007 to 2009. In 170 games for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he hit 15 home runs and batted .221.

Oh is considered a national hero in Japan, having hit a record 868 career home runs. He also was criticized in the three previous cases when foreign-born players tried to break his season mark against clubs Oh was managing. Randy Bass, who hit 54 homers in 1985, Rhodes and Cabrera all had late-season series against Oh’s teams -- the Yomiuri Giants in 1985, and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 2001 and 2002. The record stood as opposing pitchers threw ball after ball in all three cases. Rhodes faced just two strikes in 18 pitches in the finale against Hawks pitcher Keizaburo Tanoue, AP reported at the time.

Oh denied any involvement in the pitching decisions. The Japanese baseball commissioner at the time of the Rhodes’s case, Hiromori Kawashima, declared the actions “completely divorced from the essence of baseball, which values the supremacy of fair play,” AP said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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