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二宮清純「プロ野球の時間」(第1、3火曜更新) : 第440回 最も日本プロ野球に影響を与えた外国人選手、ダリル・スペンサー
投稿日時: 2011-05-24 13:15:49

 プロ野球において、近年、外国人選手は1チーム4人まで一軍登録することができる。
 しかしルール上、野手のみ4人、ピッチャーのみ4人というのは許されない。つまり、4人を同時に使おうと思えば野手3人とピッチャー1人、あるいは野手、ピッチャーとも2人といった具合にうまく振り分けなければならない。
 外国人選手でも、FA権を取得すると外国人枠からはずれる。たとえば巨人のアレックス・ラミレスがそうだ。何だか変な話ではあるが……。


 さて、これまでに来日した外国人選手の中で、最も日本プロ野球に影響を与えた者は誰か。
 私は1964年から72年にかけて7年間(2年間ブランクあり)阪急ブレーブスに在籍したダリル・スペンサーだと思う。パワー、スピード、そしてインテリジェンス、どれをとっても一級品だった。
 辛口の評論で鳴らした青田昇が生前、「ナンバーワンの外国人はスペンサーや」と語っていたことを思い出す。
 では、どのように凄かったのか。インテリジェンスの部分にしぼって話を進めたい。

 青田には自著『ジャジャ馬一代』(ザ・マサダ)でこう述べている。
<スペンサーが、相手投手のクセや捕手のクセを見抜く眼力は、まことに凄いものがあった。実を言えば、この僕も、長年のプロ野球経験で、その方面では人後に落ちないという自信を持っていたのだが、スペンサーの眼力は、それ以上だった。
 その頃、南海に渡辺泰輔という慶大出の好投手がいたが、最初なかなか打てなかった。しかし、すぐスペンサーがクセを見破って、それからはスコンスコンだ。
 例えばアンダーシャツの袖がここまできたらカーブとか、ちょっと短くなったら直球とか、そういう細かい変化をじっと見ているわけだ。グラブが真っすぐ立っていたら直球、ほんの少し傾いたら変化球とか。
 もちろん相手の投手も、クセを直そうと必死だ。だが、ピンチになって無我夢中になると、クセという奴は必ず出てくるものなのだ。
 僕がコーチス・ボックスにいる時、例えば渡辺が投げると、わざとからかってやる。
「今度は直球や」「おっと今度はカーブ」
 そのたびに野村がピッチャーに「青田さんがカーブ言うとるやないか」。だが投手にはなぜ自分の球種がわかるのか、その原因がつかめていないから、すっかり混乱してしまう。メロメロになってノックアウトだ。>

 スペンサーの“弟子”に代打ホームランの世界記録(27本)を持つ高井保弘(元阪急)がいる。
 高井といえば現役時代は“クセ盗みの名人”として知られた。高井がピッチャーのクセを盗むようになったきっかけは、練習中から相手ピッチャーの投球に目を凝らすスペンサーの姿だった。
「これがホンマのプロやと思ったね。ピッチャーが投げるたびにメモを取るんやから。そこまでするか、とワシはカミナリに打たれたような気分やった。それからや、ワシがピッチャーのクセを盗むようになったんは……。
 今日は新人が投げる、と聞くと、ネット裏まで行って、じっとそのピッチャーを凝視する。真正面から見た方が分かりやすいからね。
 そこで、最初に見るのが手のスジの動きや。スジを見れば、ほぼ球種を言い当てることができた。
 だから、若いピッチャーにはよう言われましたよ。“高井さんだけは打席でボクの目を見ていない。どこか違うところを見てるはずや”ってね(笑)」

 高井はオールスターには1度しか出ていない。しかし、たった1度の出場でMVPを獲得しているのだ。しかも、一振りで。
 1974年7月21日、東京・後楽園球場。
 セ・リーグが2対1とリードして迎えた9回裏、一死一塁の場面で高井は代打に起用された。
 マウンド上のピッチャーはヤクルトのエース松岡弘。2球目、シュート回転のストレートがスーッと真ん中低目に入ってきた。フルスイングすると、打球は快音を残して左中間スタンドに突き刺さった。
「実は松岡にはちょっとクセがあったんや」
 引退後、高井はこんな秘話を披露した。
「カーブを投げる時には左肩が上がるけど、逆に真っすぐの時は心持ち左肩が下がる。“オールスターやから、それほど難しいボールは投げてこんやろう“と思うて、ワシはストレート1本に的をしぼった。投げる瞬間、わずかに左肩が下がった。“もろた!”と思ったね」
 スペンサーの遺産がもたらしたMVP弾だった。
 近年、スペンサーほど日本野球に影響を与えた外国人はいない。日本の野球のレベルが高くなったのか、それとも知性派のプレーヤーが来日していないだけの話なのか。答えに窮するところである。

<この原稿は2011年5月24日号『経済界』に掲載されたものです>


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