Short Stops

Dodger closer Saito honors Walter O’Malley

Popular Dodger closer Takashi Saito kneels in tribute to Walter O’Malley and polishes the gravestone of the former team owner on October 13, 2006. Saito also polished the gravestone and honored the memory of Ike Ikuhara, former Dodger Assistant to the President, who was a graduate of Japan’s Waseda University and enshrined in the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.

Takashi Saito, the successful former closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, honored the memory of Walter O’Malley and former team executive Ike Ikuhara by visiting their gravesites at Holy Cross Cemetery on October 13, 2006.

Saito, who joined the Dodgers as a free agent in 2006 after 14 seasons with the Yokohama BayStars of the Japanese Central League, was selected as a National League All-Star in 2007. The 37-year-old right-hander went 6-2 with 24 saves and a 2.07 ERA in 2006 and had another fine season on the mound for the 2007 Dodgers (2-1, 1.40 ERA with 39 saves).

In his 2007 autobiography, “Self-Revival,” Saito writes about the experience of visiting O’Malley’s grave:

“When the season had ended and before I left for Japan, I visited the graves of Ike Ikuhara and Walter O’Malley (former owner of the Dodgers).

The cover of National League All-Star Takashi Saito’s 2007 autobiography titled “Self-Revival”.

“After graduating from Waseda University (in Japan), Ike became a head coach of Asia University. He moved to the United States and worked for the Dodgers’ minor league team. He climbed the career ladder and became an assistant to the president of the Dodgers (for Peter O’Malley). Ike is my great senior.

“Their tombs are located on a small hill next to a big tree. Their graves are located next to each other. The person who guided me to the tombs was current Dodgers’ director of Asian operation, Acey Kohrogi. Acey is my benefactor who helped me make my dream of playing in the major leagues come true.

“I took a bottle of water and cleaned their tombs. Dirty gravestones became clean in no time. I put my hands together and prayed toward their tombs saying, ‘Thank you very much for a great year.’

“In front of the tree was an ocean, the Pacific. Acey told me that whenever Ike visited Mr. O’Malley’s tomb, he was saying, ‘Japan is on the other side of this ocean.’ I was able to discover a new self by traveling across the ocean. This was made possible by not only myself, but by efforts of pioneers like Ike and my friends.”

Saito also paid his respects by purchasing flowers to place at their gravesites.