Uehara hailed in Japan after Red Sox World Series glory
Koji Uehara #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Six of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on October 30, 2013
The news of Boston's 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at home came shortly after noon in Japan, and evening newspapers were full of praise for the 38-year-old closer.
"Uehara at the top of the world," read a front-page headline in the popular daily Tokyo Shimbun. "The tenacity of weeds flourishes," said the influential Asahi Shimbun.
The headline was a reference to Uehara's use in 1999 of a Japanese proverb as he vowed to do his best for Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants.
In the World Series game, the 188-centimetre (6ft 2ins) right-hander was called in the ninth inning. He had saved Boston's two last games in the series.
Uehara struck out St. Louis lead-off hitter Matt Carpenter after getting two batters each on a flyout.
A longtime MLB aspirant, Uehara joined the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 and switched from a starting role to a reliever, hampered by injuries to his right elbow, which limited him to four wins in two years.
He was traded to the Texas Rangers in the middle of the 2011 season and chalked up just one win, two losses and one save. He was dropped from the Texas roster in the 2011 World Series.
Uehara's fortunes turned around this year after signing with the Red Sox. He had established himself by mid-season as a reliable closer, rescuing the Red Sox a number of times with his well-controlled split-finger fastball.
"He has finally come out on top in his fifth year in the major leagues after injury-prone, uncertain times," the Mainichi Shimbun said. "His name, Koji, should be remembered for generations."
"I can't feel anything but happiness," Uehara said, according to Japanese media. "The only thing that mattered was winning, so I went to the mound thinking I could (afford to give up) one or two runs.
"This season, I was performing so well that it felt scary," he said. "But it's finally over and I'm really eager to take a break."
Nine Japanese have now become World Series champions with the addition of Uehara and his Boston teammate Junichi Tazawa, who pitched in one third of the seventh inning.
Recently retired Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui was named the series MVP when the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series.