Baseball: Japan hails MVP 'Godzilla'

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The Independent Online

"Godzilla" hit the headlines across Japan today, but the news was all about baseballs, not buildings, being crushed after New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui was crowned the World Series' Most Valuable Player.

Matsui, who earned the nickname thanks to his prodigious power with the bat, became the first Japanese player to win the award after the Yankees' 7-3 Game Six win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Major League Baseball's Fall Classic.

Japanese media flashed up news of Matsui's success while national broadcaster NHK led its hourly news report with the World Series result. Japan's chief government spokesman interrupted his regular news conference to note Matsui's feat.

"It's been seven years since (Matsui) went to Major League Baseball from Japan. This is a great achievement and I am excited from the bottom of my heart," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference.

The slugger, who played for the Yomiuri Giants before signing with the Yankees in 2003, drove in six runs in the series decider to tie the record for most RBIs in a World Series game.

Matsui batted .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs against the Phillies during the Series.

At the Tokyo Stock Exchange, almost 50 company and exchange staff gathered during corporate earnings season to watch a live broadcast of the game, chanting "MVP" and rooting for Matsui.

On the streets of Tokyo, fans said the award was a fitting achievement for a player who left the Giants as the most-feared slugger - and highest paid player - in Japanese baseball.

"He was the best player in Japan and now he represents the country in the Major Leagues with a great performance. I'm very proud," 28-year-old Ryu Morikawa said.

In the Series finale, Matsui belted a two-run homer, hit a two-run double and two-run single to lead New York to the title.

The Yankees' director of Pacific Rim operations, George Rose, said the organisation was thrilled with Matsui's MVP award.

"Hideki Matsui is a truly special player and human being. His character exemplifies all the best qualities of both Japan and the New York Yankees," he said.

Giants fans, meanwhile, said they still followed Matsui's exploits across the Pacific.

"I'm a long-time fan of his from when he played for the Yomiuri Giants and then moved to the Majors," said businessman Katsuo Kubota, adding that he had watched the game while he was supposed to be working. "I think it's truly outstanding."