TOKYO ) -- A sumo wrestler waddled to his seat and the crown prince sat in the Royal Box. Fans snacked on sushi with chopsticks, and some even wore surgical masks.
Mike Hampton, however, made this a wild opening day.
Baseball truly turned international today, and the Chicago Cubs took advantage of Hampton's career-high nine walks to beat the New York Mets 5-3 in the first major league game played outside North America.
''A loss is always disappointing, however they come,'' Hampton said after his Mets' debut. ''I wish I could've performed a little better.''
A mostly quiet, sellout crowd announced at 55,000 in the Tokyo Dome watched the earliest opener ever and saw Shane Andrews and Mark Grace homer for the Cubs and new manager Don Baylor.
''At home, opening day is completely different than it was today,'' Baylor said. ''But today was very special.''
Mike Piazza hit a two-run shot for the Mets and, in keeping with Japanese ''besuboru'' custom, was presented with a stuffed doll when he reached home plate. He followed tradition, too, and threw the trinket over the dugout.
Sammy Sosa, who visited the U.S. Embassy with Piazza earlier in the day, got the biggest cheers. He delivered a double and single and walked twice, then met with Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako after the win.
Jon Lieber kept in control, pitching seven neat innings and allowing one run and five hits. He certainly made his parents proud -- his mother and father woke up early back home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to throw a breakfast party and tune their satellite to the telecast.
''There's always a little bit of nerves. It's not just opening day for me, it's almost every start,'' Lieber said.
After five women in colorful kimonos presented flowers to both teams and the umpires, Hampton started the season by throwing a strike to Eric Young at 7:06 p.m. local time, making it 5:06 a.m. EST in New York and 4:06 a.m. in Chicago and the Liebers' house.
That was about all Hampton got over the plate as he struggled with the mound dirt. His previous high for walks was seven, done twice.
''The consistency of the mound wasn't something I was used to, but I was the problem,'' he said.
Traded to New York after going 22-4 for Houston, Hampton lasted only five innings. In addition to his nine walks -- one short of the team record set by Mike Torrez in 1983 -- he hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
New baseballs were used, ones bearing the signature of commissioner Bud Selig since the league presidents no longer exist. They did not seem to be the source of Hampton's problem, though, since the Mets infield had no trouble in turning four double plays to back its struggling pitcher.
There was a minor flap with one strike to go in the game. Mets manager Bobby Valentine came out of the double-bench dugout and put the game under protest, saying Cubs defensive replacement Jeff Huson was not listed on the lineup card.
The game ended one pitch later and Valentine said he was dropping the protest. It turned out Jeff Reed was listed twice and Huson was mistakenly left off.
''I really did not want to do that,'' Valentine said. ''But if, in fact, they were playing with 26 men, we had to file a protest.''
Baylor seemed peeved but his words sounded like he was.
''Bobby tried to distract the pitcher, which is probably the right thing to do,'' he said. ''You just have to understand Bobby, which I try to.''
Young, acquired to give the Cubs a leadoff man with speed, led off the game with a walk, stole second and scored when newcomer Damon Buford followed with a single.
After the Mets scored in the third on Darryl Hamilton's sacrifice, the Cubs took the lead for good in the fifth on Hampton's wildness. Buford singled and one out later, Hampton walked Sosa, Henry Rodriguez and Andrews to force home a run.
Andrews hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Dennis Cook to make it 4-1.
''We'll always say that was the first home run of the century,'' Baylor said.
Grace connected in the eighth. Piazza hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Brian Williams.
Between the lines inside a ballpark that looks like the Metrodome and is home to both the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters, it seemed like any big league game in America, except for uniform ads on the Mets and Cubs. Also, players seemed to have trouble with the infield dirt, which caused several batters to stumble coming out of the box.
Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks sang ''Take Me Out to the Ball Game'' during the seventh-inning stretch for fans who paid $115 for the top ticket.
It was off the field where the big differences showed up.
Broiled eel, rice balls and sake were served up in the concession stands, and beer girls in fluorescent outfits sold beer. Some fans wore masks to cover their mouths, this being heavy pollen season.
Missing, though, were the drums and horns that usually mark games in Japan. There appeared to be a mix-up -- Japanese officials wanted to create an American atmosphere, and banned the noisemakers. But major league officials wanted that flavor, and promised there would be a change Thursday night when the Cubs and Mets wrapped up the opening two-game series.
Notes: Mets pitcher Al Leiter and Cubs pitcher Kevin Tapani did not make the trip. They stayed home to prepare for starts next week. ... Kyle Farnsworth pitches for Chicago against Rick Reed on Thursday night. It will be the Cubs' turn to be the home team. ... This was Chicago's first game at a neutral site since Oct. 15, 1892, when it beat St. Louis 1-0 in Kansas City. ... Cubs SS Ricky Gutierrez was scratched because of a strained muscle in his left ribcage. ... Cubs OF Tarrick Brown made his made his major league debut as a defensive replacement and singled in his first at-bat.
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