Japan swells with pride for Matsui
'Godzilla' legend grows with MVP-earning effort in Series
When Hideki Matsui torched Phillies pitching in Game 6 to help deliver the Yankees their 27th World Series championship late Wednesday night, the afternoon sun was already up in his home country.
So his die-hard Japanese fans naturally took an extended lunch break.
Japanese workers crammed into downtown electronics stores in Tokyo to watch the final few innings of the World Series, which ended a little after 2 p.m. local time, The Associated Press reported from location. The crowd must have been one of many to watch one of their hometown heroes become the first Japanese-born player to win Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
Takeuchi was likely not alone. Matsui, known in that part of the world mainly as "Godzilla," posted a record-tying six RBIs in a 7-3 World Series clincher over the Phillies -- one that gave New York a 4-2 Series win.
The 35-year-old designated hitter homered, doubled and singled in Game 6, capping a Fall Classic that saw him bat .615 (8-for-13) with three home runs and eight RBIs.
"As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact," former Giants pitcher Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player to play in the Major Leagues, said after he watched the game from his Tokyo home.
Matsui was a three-time regular-season MVP for the Yomiuri Giants -- in 1996, 2000 and '02 -- and also won MVP honors for the '00 Japan Series, the country's version of the World Series.
This season -- his seventh in the Major Leagues -- the lefty-hitting slugger played in 142 regular-season games for the Yankees, batting .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs.
Matsui just concluded the final year of his four-year, $52 million contract, and there is speculation that the Yankees won't keep both Johnny Damon and Matsui for next season.
The native of Kanazawa, Japan, has been the subject of speculation in the Japanese media, according to The AP. Sports dailies have suggested Matsui may even return to Japan to play for the Hanshin Tigers, the Central League rivals of his ex-Japanese team.
Only time will tell. But for right now, Matsui is on top -- in the U.S. and Japan.
"He's a very hard worker and is serious about his career," Murakami told The AP. "I hope he stays with the Yankees. I know he wants to stay, and the Japanese fans want him to stay."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.