Eiji Sawamura was a pitcher for the Tokyo Giants. In 1934, a Major League selection team visited Japan, and Sawamura took the mound in the 8th game.
Although he left the mound at the 8th inning and became the losing pitcher, he pitched well with 5 hits, 1 point lost and 9 strikeouts, and became famous by the name of “schoolboy Sawamura”.
This 8th game was played at Kusanagi Stadium in Shizuoka on November 20, 1934. The Major League team had won the previous 7 games. While this team had prominent players such as the home run king, Babe Ruth, and iron man, Lou Gehrig, the Japanese team was made up of players of different levels because the professional baseball league in Japan had not been established yet.
The starting pitcher for the 8th game was Eiji Sawamura. He was only 17 years old and had just left Kyoto Commerce High School in order to join the Japanese team. In the early innings of the game, he struck out four sluggers in a row: Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx, gave a hit to Ruth, and shutout the Americans for 6 innings. But in the 7th inning, Gehrig hit Sawamura’s curveball to right field for a home run. This was the only score for the Major League in this game. The Japanese team was defeated one to zero.
Sawamura left the mound at the 8th inning and became the losing pitcher, but pitched well with 5 hits, 1 point lost and 9 strikeouts. Sawamura earned the name “schoolboy Sawamura” in the U.S., and became famous among the people related to the Major League.
In the following year, Sawamura joined the first professional baseball team in Japan: Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club (present-day Giants), and went on a tour to the United States. It is said that a scout of the Major League pretended to be a fan and presented a contract to Sawamura, but Sawamura’s companion noticed it and made Sawamura refuse.
On December 2, 1944, Sawamura went to the warfront in Philippines by ship for the 3rd time. Tragically, his ship was attacked and sunk in the East China Sea. Sawamura was killed in the war.
In 1947 the Giants praised Sawamura’s distinguished services and specified uniform number 14 as a retired number. This was the first time in the history of Japanese professional baseball. In the same year, the Sawamura Award was also established, to be given to the most active, whole-game, starting pitcher.