American baseball player whose utter mediocrity in his native land led him to Japan, where he became the best hitter in the country, despite deep resentment from the Japanese.

Bass played first base. He was big and he had a beard. His first appearance in the American major leagues came in 1977, and he played here and there for 5 big-league teams in his six-year American career. Though an outstanding batter in the minor leagues, he was never able to prove his talents against the higher level of competition.

So in 1983, he went to Japan to play for the Hanshin Tigers. By 1985 he had become the best player in Japan's Central League, winning the league's Triple Crown with a .350 batting average, 54 home runs and 134 RBI.

The Japanese home run record was held by Sadaharu Oh, who had hit 55 of them many years earlier. By 1985 Oh was manager of the Yomiuri Giants, who played against the Tigers on the last day of the season. Bass never got a chance to challenge Oh's record - he was intentionally walked by Giants pitchers every time he came up to bat. Apparently the honor of the Japanese samurai that Oh so enthusiastically emulated just doesn't translate well to the Western notion of sportsmanship.

The Tigers won the Japan series that year. The fans went wild. Inexplicably, they decided to celebrate by finding people who looked like each of the Tiger players and having them jump into a polluted river. Everything was going fine and dandy until they got to Bass - what Japanese looked anything like a burly, bearded American? Finally they decided to compromise and kidnapped a life-sized statue of Colonel Sanders from the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. At least he was white and had a beard, right? The Colonel was tossed into the river. It seems he's still there.

Randy Bass came back for a splendid encore, winning another Triple Crown in 1986. He set the Japanese record for single-season batting average (.389) while doing it.

Bass stayed around until June 1988, when a bad case of culture clash ended his career. His son was very sick, hospitalized back home in Oklahoma - and Bass had no intention of going back to work until the situation resolved itself one way or another. The Tigers management had different ideas, though. Placing personal loyalty above organizational loyalty just isn't something that's done in Japan, and Bass's playing contract was revoked.

Since his playing career came to an abrupt end, Bass has spent his time managing and coaching American minor league baseball teams. Among the Japanese, his reputation as an unappreciative gaijin remains. And according to local superstition, the Hanshin Tigers will never win another championship until Colonel Sanders is found.

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