The 1974 NHL Amateur Draft was an example of these tactics coming to a head. The draft was conducted ahead of schedule and via secret conference call in order to prevent leaks. The system, however, had a significant downside — it was tediously slow. And for the first time ever, an NHL team drafted a Japanese player. With the 183rd pick in the draft, George “Punch” Imlach, general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, announced his team’s selection: Taro Tsujimoto, the star center of the Tokyo Kitanas….
A few weeks into training camp, Tsujimoto had still not shown his face in Buffalo. Disgraced by the mocking? Visa troubles? Nope. Tsujimoto hadn’t arrived because Imlach had made him up; the byproduct of a bored general manager frustrated by the league’s cloak and dagger draft.
– Dan Lewis, Now I Know newsletter.
Cool. I think drafting fictional players and hyping them up is something I’d definitely be tempted to do if I were running a professional sports franchise. You need a good endgame, though, because otherwise you’re just going to end up with an empty roster.
Anyway, this tidbit from Lewis’ newsletter reminded me of a couple points: First, late in the 2010 season, Chan Ho Park earned his 124th win to pass Hideo Nomo as the winningest Asian-born pitcher. It’s weird; I think I’ve come to associate Park so closely with his big contract in Texas, his brutal one-start stint with the Mets and his diarrhea kerfuffle from earlier this season that I forget he was actually the first Major Leaguer in the recent wave of imports from the Far East. He actually tossed two innings at the beginning of the 1994 season, a full year before Nomomania set in.
Second, now seems like a good time to pop Lewis’ newsletter, which is awesome. It’s basically one random bit of trivia a day, and it’s a breeze to read. You can subscribe here.