'Spaceman' in Sapporo
TOKYO — I have seen a lot of strange appointments to the post of baseball club manager in my long career as a journalist, but perhaps none so strange as the Nippon Ham Fighters front office decision to hire Tsuyoshi Shinjo as field manager for the 2022 season.
Shinjo was announced as the team’s 2022 pilot in a press conference in which he appeared in a gaudy suit with an extremely high collar, his hair dyed, and declared himself to be “the Big Boss.” He looked like an actor in a yakuza crime film.
Shinjo, a good-field, no-hit outfielder with the Hanshin Tigers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Fighters, had been known primarily through his career as “Spaceman” for his bizarre behavior, which included touching home plate with his hand when scoring and displaying an outre fashion sense – leather suits, orange wraparound glasses, colorful wristbands and eyebrow makeup.
He looked like he belonged in a rock band rather than in center field. After a peek inside Shinjo’s locker in San Francisco during an interview in 2001, a photographer noted wryly, “He’s got more hairspray in there than my wife does in her bedroom.”