November 6, 2021
Yomiuri Giants great Shigeo Nagashima was one of six individuals presented with the Order of Culture at a ceremony held at the Imperial Palace on the Nov. 3 national holiday, Culture Day.
Nagashima, 85, was a star third baseman for the Giants when they won nine straight Japan Series starting in 1965. He later went on to manage the team and captured two Japan Series. He is now manager emeritus for life.
Nagashima is the first baseball player to receive the Order of Culture and only the second athlete awarded the honor. The other recipient was the late Hironoshin Furuhashi, a former Olympic freestyle swimmer who set many world records.
Nagashima was accompanied by his daughter Mina to the Imperial Palace where they met Emperor Naruhito.
According to Mina, the emperor told Nagashima that he was happy for him because he himself played baseball at one time.
Nagashima told the emperor that he wanted to do what he could to contribute to further developing baseball for the sake of the fans.
Nagashima first captured national attention in 1959 when he hit a walk-off home run in the first professional baseball game attended by Naruhito’s grandfather, Emperor Showa, the posthumous name for Emperor Hirohito, who reigned from 1926 until 1989.
Nagashima suffered a stroke in March 2004 that has left him partially paralyzed. But he appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics in July to participate in the Olympic torch relay along with former teammate Sadaharu Oh, and Hideki Matsui, who played for Nagashima when he managed the Giants. Matsui later starred for the New York Yankees.
The Giants retired Nagashima’s number 3 after he retired in 1974. At the ceremony marking his retirement, Nagashima also left behind the much-remembered phrase, “Our Giants team will live on forever.”
The other Order of Culture winners who attended the ceremony at the Imperial Palace were poet Hirohiko Okano, 97; cultural anthropologist Junzo Kawada, 87; painter Koji Kinutani, 78; Kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro VII, 79; and mathematician Shigefumi Mori, 70.
Three recipients could not attend the ceremony: Syukuro Manabe, 90, one of the co-winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics; molecular biologist Tsuneko Okazaki, 88; and choreographer Asami Maki, who died on Oct. 20 at age 87.