Last Sunday in Tokyo, Wladimir Balentien, a native of Cura√ßao, hit his 56th and 57th home runs for the Yakult Swallows to shatter Japan's single-season record set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964. Oh, who shared the record of 55 with two MLB expats, outfielder Tuffy Rhodes and first baseman Alex Cabrera, is Japan's most revered sports figure, but fans have celebrated Balentien's assault, even amid a controversy over juiced baseballs. (Nippon Professional Baseball admitted in June that it used a livelier ball this season.) The hulking 29-year-old outfielder, who hit .221 with 15 homers in 559 major league plate appearances before moving to Japan in 2010, mashed 31 home runs in each of his first two seasons. Before this season, Balentien signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal, a move he now likely regrets.
This is an article from the Sept. 23, 2013 issue