In Japan, A Victory For Baseball and TV Tech

Posted by: Kenji Hall on March 24, 2009

It was one of those days in Tokyo when cellphone TVs were the indispensable gadget to own. Japan, gunning for its second straight World Baseball Classic title, was playing Korea in the championship game, at Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles.

Halfway around the globe, in Tokyo, dark-suited Japanese salariiman who were out in the early afternoon sun could be seen squinting at the tiny screens of their cellphones as they tried to catch the final minutes of Tokyo Broadcasting System’s live telecast. (Many others had packed into sports bars to catch the action.) These days TVs are a standard feature of Japan’s high-tech cellphones, and reception for the game, while not as crystal-clear or as smooth as on a bigger set, was still excellent (even indoors where reception tends to be spotty).

Fierce regional rivals, Korea and Japan had met four times this tourney, and were even at two apiece. This time, though, it was for the trophy and bragging rights—and the game didn’t disappoint. Though Japan had taken an early lead in the third inning on a triple by Michihiro Ogasawara, Korea’s Bum Ho Lee had tied it up by the ninth inning with a single to left field, sending the game into extra innings. At the top of the tenth, Japan’s batters went first. With runners on second and third and the count full, Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki stepped up and smacked a tie-breaking double to center field. Two runs scored before Korea could shut down Japan’s hitters. Then it was Korea’s turn at bat, but Japan’s 22-year-old relief pitcher Yu Darvish shut out his opponents, striking out Young Min Ko to end it at 5-3.

Near Tokyo station, a few salariiman, their necks bent, cellphones balanced on one palm, pumped their fists after the final toss. They were clearly thinking about the game but when I saw that I couldn’t help think about the engineers who were able to squeeze a TV tuner into such a lightweight, slim pocket-sized gizmo.

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