The Yomiuri ShimbunHe was called the “Flaming Stopper” for his aggressive pitching style, before his career was tragically cut short by a brain tumor a quarter of a century ago.
The memory of late Hiroshima Carp relief pitcher Tsunemi Tsuda (1960-93) has been preserved by his son, who raised money through crowdfunding to build a museum to honor his father.
The Tsunemi Tsuda Memorial Museum, housing many of the late pitcher’s mementos and other items, opened on May 30 near Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium, the home stadium of the Carp.
“I will never forget the way he challenged sluggers with fastballs,” said one fan, a typical comment that formed the basis for the museum’s realization.
Tsuda joined the Carp in 1982, and quickly became a fan favorite for his dynamic pitching form and his determination to go head-to-head with the top hitters in the game.
One game that sticks in the memory of fans came against the Hanshin Tigers in 1986. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tsuda faced slugger Randy Bass, who would win the second of consecutive batting triple crowns that year. But Tsuda struck him out on three pitches.
Another episode that will be talked about for generations involved Tatsunori Hara, the current Yomiuri Giants manager who was the team’s star at the time. He swung so hard trying to keep up with a Tsuda fastball that he broke his left hand fouling off a pitch.
In 1991, Tsuda received the bad news. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He vowed to fight the disease and return to the game, but in the end, it was a battle he did not win.
Tsuda’s son, Daiki, 30, barely remembers his father as a player. However, fans and acquaintances would often praise his father, saying, “When Tsuda came in, I knew we were going to win,” or making requests to see the glove he used.
This opened Daiki’s eyes to just how beloved his father was and how he has lasted in people’s memories. That led to the idea of building a memorial museum.
Two years ago, he launched the call for donations on the internet through crowdfunding, setting a target of ¥4 million. Initially, he planned to make the museum at his father’s boyhood home in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and only needed enough for renovations.
But the response led him to change his plans. The goal was reached just five hours after starting the campaign, and at the end, amassed ¥26 million from 1,630 donors.
“I’ll never forget his determination and fighting spirit,” wrote one donor. “I still cry every time I see something about him on TV,” said another. There were many more similar comments.
During his career, Tsuda would often say, “Mental weakness is our greatest foe.” One fan cited that quote in saying that it boosts their spirits when they are feeling discouraged.
The location of the museum, on the 2nd floor of a building along the “Carp Road” connecting JR Hiroshima Station to Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium, was selected for its convenience. The funds were used to create an exhibition space, and donors will receive a booklet of paintings depicting Tsuda and a replica autographed ball.
On exhibit are some 100 items, including large-panel photos of Tsuda, game-worn uniforms and gloves, and the trophy he received as the Central League Rookie of the Year.
Admission is ¥300-¥500.