Years ago, before I saw through Lenn Sakata’s parade of lies, I thought how cool it was that this journeyman second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers had some solid home run punch, and could proudly stand alongside such SP78 sluggers as Reggie Smith, Don Baylor, Willie Stargell, and Rico Carty, and know that his 5′ 9″, 160 lb frame and casual right-handed stance qualified him as a king among kings.
In my Statis Pro 1978 Replay season, he was the last player from the Brewers 25-man roster to make an appearance in a game, but what an entrance he made when he finally saw action, on April 19th, when the Brewers traveled to Fenway Park to battle the Red Sox. Milwaukee manager George Bamberger chose to give regular second baseman Paul Molitor a rest that night, allowing Sakata to vacate his customary spot on the bench and become the number eight hitter in the Brewer lineup. In his first at-bat, he singled off Luis Tiant, but it was his second plate appearance that made players and fans take notice: leading off the sixth, he lifted a towering fly ball off Tiant which easily cleared the 37-foot high Green Monster in left, good for the third round-tripper of his young but suddenly incandescent career.
One game, two at-bats, one home run. At this rate, if he played the remainder of Milwaukee’s regular season games in 1978, he would not only drill another 152 HR’s, he would also shatter a truckload of long-standing baseball records, and no doubt garner several major awards and grace several magazine covers in the process. Lenn Sakata, who in his rookie campaign of 1977 hit a grand total of two home runs in 53 games, and had yet to become a household name, was now a force to be reckoned with.
And that was the question on everyone’s lips the next morning, when news spread throughout the baseball world and, perhaps, the world itself: Who was Lenn Haruki Sakata of Honolulu, Hawaii? And why was everyone saying all these wonderful things about him?
Before the next Brewers game, I took a more in-depth look at his player card and allowed the scope of his HR range to sink in: 24-32, a punishing distance of numbers that rivaled—no, somehow succeeded—the numbers of actual 1978 home run champions Jim Rice (33-41) and Greg Luzinski (24-31), who also possessed the only two cards in my Statis Pro game that carried the the highest ‘power batting’ rating possible, a BD-2. Wow, I thought, did this Sakata guy ever have a banner year in ’78!
Wait…no he didn’t! I followed the actual 1978 season, and Sakata wasn’t anywhere near the league leaders in homers! What bit of deception was going on here? A quick check of my trusty Baseball Encyclopedia revealed the facts: zero home runs hit in 1978. What? None at all? Then where was this fairy-tale range of 24-32 coming from? A second look at his Statis Pro card now told me an entirely different story: a 24-32 home run range and an identical 24-32 strikeout range!
Oh for chrissake! Another freaking typo by the Avalon Hill Game Company! Do you people not employ proofreaders? That HR range should’ve been left blank!
Sadly, with that knowledge now in hand, I returned Paul Molitor to his rightful spot opposite Robin Yount at the keystone corner for that follow-up game; Sakata would not play again until April 28th, when he made a late-inning pinch-hitting appearance against the Royals and, predictably, failed to homer. Eleven games and still no more home runs later, Sakata was shipped to Milwaukee’s minor league team in Spokane, where he remains to this day.
After just one shining moment on the hallowed grounds of baseball greatness, ‘The Kalani Krusher’ was no more.