THE FCCJ ENJOYS QUITE a place of honor in the annals of Tokyo’s international sports scene, and not just for the impressive roster of uber legends that have graced our corridors: Pele, Shigeo Nagashima, Mao Asada, Maradona, Carl Lewis and Tommy Lasorda. Club archives brim with contests of athletic prowess, including some that could outshine a United Nations initiative for fostering international good will.

In June of 1962, UP’s legendary Ernie Hoberecht, alongside fellow news luminaries, took on a Gaimusho team which starred then Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka, in a game of baseball. Records show we lost 15 12 though it is important to note FCCJ could well have taken the game if not for the extreme thirst of the players in the 5th inning precipitating a beer break from which they never returned. Such are the vagaries of serious competition.

There were no beer breaks for the more serious Alley Cats, the pride of the FCCJ during the years that the Club sponsored the mighty softball team. Donald Kirk was one of the founders of the team, and as he recalls in our history book, from its inception in 1972, it included an impressive list of journalist/athletes like Normal Pearlstine, who went on to be Time’s ed in chief, Sam “the galloping daruma” Jameson of the Los Angeles Times, the UPI’s Shiro Yoneyama as well as some FCCJ staff, like former chef Fumio Okuda. Some of the legendary managers included Ron Yates of the Chicago Tribune, Andy Adams of Sumo World, John Wells, Kirk himself and Pat Killen, who revived the team in 1988.

Killen led the team to two championships of the Tokyo International Softball League, with members including Glenn Davis, Dan Sloan, George Faas, Bruce Rutledge, Roger Schreffler and Jim Clark. Dan Sloan remembers it as a team of great friends who were good athletes, as opposed to their fierce rivals from the Global moving company, who were good friends who were great athletes. Pat Killen’s unforgettable managerial memory is of a routine grounder followed by a long series of errors, leading to four runs being scored against his team on the play and leaving him scratching his head in disbelief.

Sadly, the Alley Cats are no longer connected to the Club and the team includes no active journalists or FCCJ members. Given Japan’s increasing love affair with soccer, it’s not surprising that the Club’s football team, the FCCJ Spirit, has now taken up the banner against opponents such as politicians and bureaucrats though it must be said, with questionable success.

A recent futsal match against Japan’s politicians kept the FCCJ Spirit’s perfect record intact with a fifth consecutive loss. With what star player Julian Ryall reported as a carefully selected squad of the “elderly, the walking wounded and the not very good,” enormous confidence at the outset had deteriorated to considerable “wheezing and puffing” by the end of warm ups, and even the heroics of goalkeeper Shinichi Nakajima, FCCJ General Manager Tomohiko Yanagi, Toru Fujioka, Toshi Maeda and Captain Andy Sharp could not fend off the fearsome attack of the LDP members. While shocking rumors of a proposal for weekly training sessions have not been verified, Captain Sharp is reportedly very optimistic about the team’s prospects having nowhere to go but up.

These years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics seem like a good time for the making of new sports legends.