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"Baseball is just Baseball"
-Ichiro Suzuki-

Bios of Nippon League Batters

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* Special thanks to Rob Fitts of Rob's Japanese Cards for allowing me to use his player bios as a foundation. *

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Koji Akiyama
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Lions 1981-1993, Hawks 1994-present

Meikyukai Member

The spark plug of the great Lions teams of the 1980s and early 1990s, Akiyama was one of the best players of his generation. Akiyama, who is still an active player, hit for power (over 400 lifetime homers) and average (a .270 lifetime hitter) in his prime. He also had speed (over 300 lifetime stolen bases), and was a great defensive outfielder (eleven Gold Gloves). He led the Pacific League in homers once, stolen bases once, and runs scored twice, but also led the league in strikeouts three times.



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Noboru Aota
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Giants 1942-44, Braves 1946-47, Giants 1948-53 Whales 1954-57


Though playing most of his career with Yomiuri and Hankyu, Noboru Aota was virtually the only offense the Whales and Robins had during the mid-1950s. Leading Taiyo in batting, home runs and RBIs every year from 1954-57, the right-handed outfielder won five home run titles, three of them with the Whales. Though missing three seasons during the Second World War, Aota compiled 265 home runs, 1,034 RBIs and a career .278 batting average from 1942-59. Aota coached various teams after his retirement, but proved to be more popular as a TV and radio commentator.



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Hiromasa Arai
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Hawks 1975-85, Buffaloes 1986-92

Meikyukai Member

Arai, the star centerfielder for first the Hawks then Buffaloes, was primarily a tablesetter. Although he lacked power and blazing speed, he was a consistent hitter and run scorer throughout his career. During his 18 year career (1975-1992), Arai hit over .300 seven times, twice over .350, and finished with a lifetime .291 batting average. He led the Pacific League in batting in 1987 with a .366 average and finished second in 1979 (batting .358) and 1982 (batting .315). He was named to the Pacific League Best Nine team four times (1979, 1982, 1986, and 1987) and won a Golden Glove in 1987.



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Michio Arito
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Orions 1969-86

Meikyukai Member

Arito was the premier thirdbaseman in the Pacific League during the 1970s. An all-around player, Arito hit for average, socked 20 or more homeruns in 11 seasons, stole 15 or more bases 10 times, and won 4 Gold Gloves (1972-75). He started his career by winning the Pacific League Rookie of the Year in 1969 and being named to the Best Nine for the first of seven straight years. He would later be named to an additional three Best Nine teams. In 1974, Arito helped the Orions win their only Japan Series by hitting 25 HRs and stealing 20 bases. Three years later, he led the Pacific League in batting with a .329 average. By his retirement in 1986, Arito had racked up 2057 hits including 348 HRs.



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Kaoru Betto
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Tigers 1948-49, Orions 1950-57

Manager: Orions 1952, 1954-57; Whales 1958-59, 1967-72; 1977-79; Buffaloes 1962-64; Carp 1973

HOF 1988

Known as the “Gentleman of Baseball,” Betto was a collegiate star who didn’t enter professional baseball until he was 28 years old. In his rookie season (1948), Betto hit .328 for the Hanshin Tigers and was named to the Best Nine team. In 1950, he won the Pacific League MVP by hitting .335 with 43 HR and 105 RBI and led the Mainichi Orions to the first Japan Series Championship where he won the Japan Series MVP Award. Following six consecutive “Best Nine” selections, Betto retired as an active player in 1957. Betto began managing during the 1952 season, and continued after his playing days were over. He skippered 4 teams--Mainichi, Taiyo, Kintetsu and Hiroshima, and retired from the baseball scene in 1979.



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Ralph Bryant
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Dragons 1988, Buffaloes 1988-95

Started with Chunichi but moved to Kintetsu in June of the same year as a replacement for Dick Davis. He slammed 34 homers in just 74 games that first season. He reached 100 homers in his first 246 games, a Japan record (6/1990). Also holds record for fastest from 100 homers to 250. His 204 strikeouts in a season is a Japan record (1993). Slugged three homers in a game eight times. He won Home Run titles in 1989, 1993 & 1994 to go along with an RBI title in 1993 and his 1989 MVP.



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Shigeru Chiba
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Giants 1938-56

HOF 1980

Nicknamed “the Formidable Buffalo”, Chiba was the Giants standout defensive second baseman from 1938 to 1958, missing 1941-1945 due to WWII. Chiba excelled at “little ball”, and had a great eye, leading the Central League in walks for three straight years (1950-52). He was also one of the league’s most consistent hitters and top run scorers. In 1948, Chiba set a record that still stands by scoring six times in a single game. Known as a strong defensive player who showboated in the field, Chiba was selected to seven consecutive "Best Nine" teams (1947-53) and was a five time All-Star.




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Masahiro Doi
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Buffaloes 1962-74; Lions 1975-81

Meikyukai Member

Doi is probably the Kintetsu Buffaloes all-time greatest position player. During his 20-year career, he racked up 465 homeruns, 2452 hits and 1400 RBI. Yet, because he played for the relatively unpopular Buffaloes, he rarely received the recognition he deserved. Doi was only selected to three Best Nine teams, but during his career he hit twenty or more homeruns sixteen times and topped the .300 mark seven times. He led the Pacific League in hits in 1964 and 1967 and homers in 1975. Doi ranks eighth in career hits, tenth in homeruns and RBI, and eleventh in walks.



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Takeshi Doigaki
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Tigers 1940-49, Marines 1950-57

Perhaps the best catcher of the 1940's, he was selected to the seven Best Nines. Tough and dependable.



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Kihachi Enomoto
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Orions 1955-71; Lions 1972

Eligible for Meikyukai Membership

A perennial all-star during the late-1950s and 1960s, Enomoto played from 1955 to 1971 with the Orions and one year (1972) with the Lions. He won the 1955 Pacific League Rookie of the Year, as well as two batting titles, and was selected to the Best Nine Team nine times. Enomoto is eligible for Meikyukai membership but has not joined.




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Akira Eto
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Carp 1990-99, Giants 2000-2003

Star third baseman for the Carp for ten years before going to the Giants as a free agent.  Involved in an off-field sex and extortion scandal.




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Shinichi Eto
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Dragons 1959-69; Orions 1970-71; Whales 1972-74; Lions 1975-76

Meikyukai Member

A star slugger for the Chunichi Dragons from 1959 to 1969, and later for the Orions (1970-1971, 1976), Whales (1972-1974), and Lions (1975), Eto won batting titles in 1964, 1965, and 1971. He also finished second (behind Sadaharu Oh) in homeruns during the 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1968 seasons. He was selected to the Best Nine team five times. He finished his career with 2,057 hits, 367 HRs and a .287 batting average. He was the first to become the leading hitter in both leagues. He was 178cm and 90 kilos in his heydays.



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Fumio Fujimura
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Tigers 1936-58

HOF 1974

Perhaps the Tigers greatest all-time player, Fujimura was a perennial all-star third baseman during the 1940s and 1950s. His .300 lifetime batting average ranks 15th on the all-time list. During his career, Fujimura won one MVP award, was named to six consecutive Best Nine teams, and led the league in homeruns twice, RBI five times, and batting average once.



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Taira Fujita
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Tigers 1966-84

Meikyukai Member

During the late 1960s and early 1970s Fujita was the premier shortstop in the Central League. The Tigers superstar could do it all. He hit for average (.286 lifetime and topping .300 five times); provided power (207 lifetime home runs and eleven seasons in double digits); had decent speed (leading the league in triples once); and was a strong fielder (winning Gold Gloves in 1973, ’75 and ’81). But most impressive of all was his fantastic batting eye. In 1978 he did not strike out for 208 consecutive at bats! In eight out of his last nine full seasons, he struck out fewer than 30 times! Fujita’s career highs included 28 homers, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 12 stolen bases, and a .358 average. He led the Central League in batting, hits, and triples once each, doubles three times, and at bats four times. He was selected to the Central League Best Nine Team six times, and amassed 2.064 career hits.



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Yutaka Fukumoto
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Braves 1969-1988

HOF 2002, Meikyukai

Fukumoto was not only Japan's all-time stolen base leader, but is probably also their all-time best leadoff hitter. Fukumoto led the Pacific League in runs scored 10 times (including 9 straight seasons during 1972-80), walks 6 times, hits 4 times, and stolen bases for 13 straight seasons. & times he batted over .300 over his 20 year career, compiling a lifetime batting average of .291, with 1656 runs scored, 449 doubles, 115 triples, and 208 home runs. He was also a fantastic outfielder, winning 12 consecutive Gold Gloves (1972-83). He was durable, playing in a full 130 games 8 times and in at least 122 games in 16 seasons. He was selected for the Pacific League Best Nine team 10 times and won the PL MVP in 1972. His playing helped the Braves capture 8 pennants and 3 Japan Series titles. His 1065 steals made him the all-world leader until Ricky Henderson surpassed him. His .781 stolen base percentage is higher than notable MLB thieves Ty Cobb, Maury Wills, and Lou Brock. Fukumoto is second on Japan's all-time runs scored list, fifth in hits, first in doubles, first in triples, and sixth in walks.



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Atsuya Furuta
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Swallows 1990-2003

Some critics have called him the best player in Japan. Atsuya Furuta can hit for average and power, deliver in the clutch, and no other catcher in Japan can match his defense and command of pitchers. One columnist suggested that the word "indispensable" was invented to describe Furuta. When he's healthy, the Swallows dominate the Central League; when injured, Yakult falls out of the pennant race - in both 1994 and 1996, when Furuta was injured for large chunks of the season, the Swallows dropped to fourth place while the team's ERA soared. In 1997, Furuta displayed his indispensability by winning several games with his clutch hitting while batting .322 (second in the league) with 32 doubles, 86 RBIs and a .413 on base percentage. Behind the plate, the all-star backstop guided a group of cast-off and injury-plagued hurlers to a Japan best 3.26 ERA. In 1991 he won the CL batting crown with a .340 average and earning his first MVP in 1992 while clubbing 30 home runs and compiling a .315 average. He won the 1997 MVP for both the Central League and the Japan Series. A charismatic and telegenic spokesman for the team, Furuta is a smart player and team leader.  He has won seven Gold Gloves and two MVPs.  He is also the president of the Japanese Players Union, and is a strong advocate of reform. He married popular TV announcer Miho Nakai in 1996.
 


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Shosei Go
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Giants 1937-1943, Tigers 1944-1949, Orions 1950-1957

HOF 1995

Known as the “Human Locomotive,” Go was the premier lead-off hitter in the pre-War era. During his twenty-one year career, he led the league in batting twice, hits once, runs three times, triples once, walks once, and stolen bases once. Born in Taiwan, Go played under the name of Masayuki Ishii during World War II as a result of hostilities between Japan and China. His best season came in 1943 with the Giants, as Go won the MVP Award by leading the league in hits, runs scored, walks, games played, and in batting with a .300 average. In 1946, Go was added to the Tigers’ pitching rotation and hurled a no hitter against the Senators among his 14 victories! At bat, he hit .291 with 7 triples and 25 stolen bases. In 1950, he left the Tigers for the Orions, hit .324 with 29 stolen bases, and once again helped his new team to a championship. Go currently ranks ninth on the all-time stolen base list.



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Tatsunori Hara
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Giants 1981-1995
 
Dubbed "wakadaisho" or "young leader". His relationship with his father who was his baseball coach in high school is well known. He played at the high school baseball championship 4 times. Became an idol at that time. Was 2 time triple crown king in collegiate baseball. He was the number 1 pick of the Yomiuri Giants in the 1980 draft meeting. Was awarded best rookie with 22 homeruns. He was the RBI king in 1983, and also won MVP that year. Retired in 1995. Is Giants' coach from the 1999 season.



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Isao Harimoto
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Flyers/Fighters 1959-75, Giants 1976-79, Orions 1980-81

HOF 1990, Meikyukai Member

The only Japanese player to reach 3000 hits, Korean Isao Harimoto played in the Pacific League for most of his career and as a result got far less attention than Oh and Nagashima. In 1976, however, he came to the Giants and teamed up with Oh. Together they led the Giants to two straight pennants. During his career Harimoto won 4 batting titles, a MVP award, and was selected to the Best Nine 16 times. He retired after the 1981 season with 3085 hits (1st on the all-time list), 504 HRs (6th on the all-time list), and 1676 RBI (4th of the all-time list).



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Tatsuro Hirooka
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Giants 1954-66

HOF 1992

An All-Star shortstop and a highly successful manager and GM, Hirooka was known as “The Iron Shogun”. Hirooka joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1954 and earned the Rookie of the Year honors with a.314 batting average and 15 dingers. Hirooka, with his choke batting grip, was seen as possibly having Major League potential. Unfortunately for the Giants, 1954 proved to be Hirooka’s best offensive year. He did not hit above .277 again and often landed in the low .200s. Despite his poor batting, Hirooka was selected to six All-Star teams. Hirooka managed the Swallows (1977-79) and Lions (1982-85), winning Japan Series championships with both teams. As a manager, he was probably the strictest disciplinarian ever. Nevertheless, his rigid style was highly successful as he won three Japan championships and a pennant in eight years of managing. After retiring as a field manager, Hirooka became a general manager. In 1995, he was responsible giving Bobby Valentine the opportunity to manage the Chiba Lotte Marines.



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Yoshinori Hirose
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Hawks 1956-77

HOF 1999, Meikyukai Member

A fleet-footed center fielder from Hiroshima, Hirose was the Hawks’ leadoff batter for much of the 1960s. Hirose led the Pacific League in stolen bases for five consecutive years (1961-1965). He is currently second on the all-time stolen base list. His base stealing percentage was phenomenal, usually ranging between 80% and 90% each year. He once stole 31 bases in a row without being thrown out. Hirose hit over .280 ten times with a high of .366, and reached double figures in home runs seven times. His 187 hits in 1963 remained the Pacific League record for the most hits in a season until Ichiro broke it in 1994. That same season, Hirose also set a record for the most at bats in a single season (626). That record still stands. He also led the league in batting once, hits once, runs scored four times, and triples twice. He was also named to three Best Nine teams.



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Tokuji Iida
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Hawks 1947-56, Swallows 1957-63

HOF 1981

Iida was the run producer on the great Hawks teams of the 1950s. An all-around player, he led the league in hits twice, RBI twice, doubles three times, runs once and stolen bases once while batting over .300 four times. He also reached double figures in home runs in eight straight years (1948-55) and usually led the Hawks in RBI. His finest offensive year came in 1952 when he hit .323 with 18 home runs and led the league with 86 RBI, 29 doubles, 100 runs scored, and 153 hits. He was named to the Best Nine team five times and picked up the MVP in 1955 as he hit .310 and led the league with 163 hits.



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Takahiro Ikeyama
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Swallows 1984-2002

Standout shortstop for many years until injuries slowed him down and forced him to third base in 1996. His power made the move a natural, and when healthy he is an important part of the Swallows game.  He has won 5 Best Nines, a Gold Glove, and two Total Base Crowns -- all while at shortstop.



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Hiromichi Ishige
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Lions 1981-1993, Hawks 1994-1996


Ishige was the #1 draft pick by Seibu in 1981. He became the regular shortstop his rookie year by hitting .311 with 21 home runs, which was also good enough for the Rookie of the Year award. He was one of the fundamental players of the Lions' dynasty that lasted through most of the 1980s and early '90s. Ishige took the MVP Award in 1986, was named to eight Best Nines, and won 10 Golden Gloves. He moved to Daiei in 1994 as a free agent. In 16 years, Ishige played in 1,796 games, hit .283, 236 home runs, drove in 847 runs, and stole 243 bases.



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Takuro Ishii
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Whales 1989-1992, BayStars 1993-2003

Shortstop Takuro Ishii is good on defense and a smart base-runner who has led the Central League in steals twice.  Ishii started out as a pitcher, but found his true niche on the field behind the mound.



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Tsutomu Ito
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Lions 1982-2003

Widely considered the best defensive catcher in the Pacific League, Tsutomu Ito has won eleven gold gloves and nine Best Nine Titles. A career .252 hitter, Ito doesn't get many extra base hits but his glove, arm and handling skills from behind the plate more than make up for any deficiency with the bat.. Ito was named to manage the Lions on the day he retired after 22 years as the Lions catcher.


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Yoshiyuki Iwamoto
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Hawks 1940-42; Robins 1949-53; Flyers 1956-7

HOF 1981

An all-around player, Iwamoto started playing professional ball at the age of 28 but had his career interrupted by World War II. Prior to the war, Iwamoto played three seasons for Nankai Hawks but after his service he decided to play in the Industrial League. In 1949 he made a grand comebackwith the Robins. His finest year came in 1950 when his .319 average, 39 homers, 127 RBI, 121 runs, and 34 stolen bases helped the Robins win the first Japan Series. The following year, Iwamoto raised his average to .351 and still hit 31 homers at the age of 39. On 8/1/51 he hit four homers in one game. His age began to catch up to him and his performance slowly declined until he retired in 1957 at the age of 45.



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Hiromitsu Kadota
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Hawks 1970-88, Braves 1989-90, Hawks 1991-92

Meikyukai Member

Without much fanfare, Kadota became one of the all-time greats of Japanese ball. A feared hitter, Kadota produced at a high rate throughout his 23 year career, leading the Pacific League in homeruns three times, RBI twice, walks three times, intentional walks seven times, and slugging percentage three times. By the end of his career, he was among the top players in many major categories including: homeruns (3rd), RBI (3rd), hits (4th), runs (8th), walks (4th), doubles (11th), Slugging percentage (13th), and also strikeouts (2nd). Along the way, he was named to seven Best Nine teams, and won the Pacific League MVP award in 1988.



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Masayuki Kakefu
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Tigers 1973-1988


In 1973 he joined the professional baseball team, Hanshin Tigers. He became a regular player in the following year. He hit 48 home runs in the baseball season in 1979, and became a home run king. Many baseball fans came to call him by his nickname, "Mr. Tigers."  In 1985, the Tigers won the Central League championship and the Japan Series behind his 40 home runs and 108 RBIs. In total, the popular player took part in 1,625 games, hit 349 home runs, and batted in 1,019 runs. His career batting average is .292. He is now a baseball commentator. He was selected to be the manager of the 1996 Autumn Training camp of the American baseball team, the California Angels.



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Hisanori Karita
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Senators 1936-39, Tsubasa 1940, Taiho 1941-42, Daiwa 1942-43, Flyers 1947-48, Orions 1950, Pearls 1950-51

Meikyukai Member

One of the greatest middle infielders in Japanese baseball history, Karita was one of the superstars of the pre-War era. In the 1930s, Karita starred at Hosei University and was a member of the All-Japan team that faced Babe Ruth and the Major League All-Stars on their Tour of Japan. After playing with the Giants on their 1935 tour of the U.S., Karita signed with the Senators for the first season of pro baseball in 1936. He led the league in stolen bases during the 1936 Fall season, and became the Senators playing manager in 1938. In 1938 Spring season, Karita hit .299 with 5 homers and captured the MVP Award. His playing career continued through 1951. He is believed to be the first Japanese player thrown out of a game when in 1935 he called an umpire a S.O.B. in English in an Hawaiian exhibition game. Karita was so good with the leather, though, that it was said that, "there was no Karita before Karita nor a Karita after Karita." He was so quick and smooth while turning double plays that it was told that the ball hardly seemed to touch his hands before it was
sent winging toward first. He also used to put on a show for fans by making no look throws during pre-game infield practice. He was such a legendary defensive genius that many players today say that their ambition is to meet Karita's purported standard. He worked as an umpire (this is not an uncommon second career for retired Japanese players), did some coaching, became a baseball commentator for the Japanese daily, Nikkan Sports, and, in 1969, was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Karita was the last surviving member of the original Giants lineup.



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Hideji Kato
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Braves 1969-82, Carp 1983, Buffaloes 1984-85, Giants 1986, Hawks 1987

Meikyukai Member

One of the driving forces behind the great Braves teams of the mid to late 1970s, Kato helped Hankyu to six pennants and three Japan Series titles. Although Kato could hit for power (347 lifetime homers), he primarily hit for average, hitting over .300 for ten seasons between 1970 and 1981. He was also a deadly clutch hitter, leading the Pacific League in RBI for three seasons. In 1979, Kato had his best season, leading the Pacific League with a .364 batting average, 163 hits, 32 doubles and 104 RBI. He also hit 35 homers and stole 14 bases, but did not win the MVP award as the Braves lost the pennant to the Buffaloes. His hitting exploits led to five Best Nine selections and the MVP award in 1975. Kato ended his career in the top twenty all-time leaders in doubles, homeruns, RBI, and batting average.




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Masahiro Kawai
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Giants 1984-2003

Kawai holds the Japanese and world career record of 514 sacrifice hits.  Not particularly speedy and without any real power, Kawai held his job for twenty years on the best team in Japan by being versatile in the field, having extremely soft hands that rarely make an error, being a knowledgeable baserunner and having a deep understanding of the fundamentals of the game.  His has a season high of 66 sacrifices; 3 times over 50, 7 times over 40 and 9 times over 30.  His highest full season BA was .302 in 1994, which is when he earned his single Best Nine.



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Tetsuharu Kawakami
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Giants 1938-58

HOF 1965

Famous for his red bat, this Zen practioner who claimed to be able to stop the flight of the ball before it hit his bat, was known as the "God of Batting" in the Japanese pitcher's era. Kawakami was one of Japan's greatest stars in the 1940s and 1950s and became its greatest all-time manager. As a player, he played first base for the Yomiuri Giants both before and after World War II. He led the league in batting 5 times, in hits 6 times, in RBI 3 times, and HRs twice. He was also a three time MVP and selected for the Best Nine team 10 times. After a meeting with Joe DiMaggio in 1951 about batting, Tetsuharu Kawakami had his greatest season. That year he batted .377 with an On Base Average of .450 and a Slugging Average of .580 -- all career highs -- while striking out only 6 times in 424 Plate Appearances. In 1956, Kawakami hit .364 during the Brooklyn Dodgers Japan Tour. His .313 lifetime batting average ranks 5th on the all-time list. As a manager, Kawakami led the Giants from 1961 to 1974. During this 13 year period, the Giants won 11 Japan Series titles, 9 consecutively.



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Tatsuhiko Kimata
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Dragons (19 years)

Kimata had his best year in 1970 when he hit 30 home runs and batted .283 with 65 RBI.  He won 1 Gold Glove as a catcher.  Kimata hit 285 home runs over his long career, good for 27th all-time, and batted .277 lifetime.  He became a coach after he retired.



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Sachio Kinugasa
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Carp 1965-87

HOF 1996; Meikyukai Member

Sachio Kinugasa is known to American baseball fans as the holder of the World Record for consecutive games (2215) played before Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1996. But like Ripken, Kinugasa was also an all-around great player. Although he never led the league in batting or homeruns, he consistently hit between .270 and .290 with 20-30 homeruns for most of his 23 year career. He led the league in stolen bases in 1976 and RBI in 1984. A strong fielder, he won Gold Gloves at Thirdbase in 1980, 1984 and 1986. The son of a Japanese woman and an African-American GI, Kinugasa was named to three Best Nine teams and was the Central League MVP in 1984. During his career with the Carp, he led Hiroshima to five Central League pennants and three Japan Series titles. He finished his career in the all-time top ten in five major categories: 7th in HRs, 9th in RBI, 5th in R, 6th in H, and less impressively first in strikeouts.



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Kazuhiro Kiyohara
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Lions 1986-1996 Giants 1997-2002

Kiyohara was a star since his high school days where they won the high school championship twice. He was the top pick for the Seibu Lions in the 1985 baseball draft. Won the Pacific League Rookie of the Year in 1986. The central player of the Lions his entire time with them, and contributed to the teams 8 Pacific League victories. Estimated to have earned 280 million yen in 1996. He joined his favorite team, the Tokyo Giants from the 1997 season. He agreed to a 5 year contract for an annual 360 million yen.




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Chusuke Kizuka
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Hawks (1947-1959)

In a twelve-year career Kizuka won seven Best Nines at shortstop, six consecutively from 1948-1953, with the seventh in 1955.  He is fourth on the All-Time Stolen Base list with 479, with a season high of 78 in 116 games in 1950.  That 78 is the 5th highest singel-season total in Japanese baseball history.  His best all-around season was 1951 when he batted .309, stole 55 bases and scored 78 runs.  A contact hitter with an excellent eye, Kizuka made more sacrifice hits than he suffered strike outs. He struck out only once every 26 at bats, sacrificed once every 24 at bats, but he walked only once every 21 at bats.



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Akitoshi Kodama
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Pearls/Buffaloes (?1955-1970?)

Kodama hit 358 doubles in sixteen seasons, good for 17th on the all-time list. Perhaps his finest season was 1960 when he belted 20 home runs and batted .301 for the lowly Buffaloes.

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Norihiro Komada
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Giants 1983-93, BayStars 1994-00

In 18 seasons, Komada won 10 Gold Gloves and knocked in 953 runs -- good for 30th all-time.  He also is tied for 18th all-time in doubles with Koji Akiyama at 357.  He also struckout 1113 times to place 18th on that all-time list.


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Kazuhiko Kondo
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Whales 1958-1972, Buffaloes 1973

A nine time all star centerfielder and six time .300 hitter with the Taiyo Whales.  He was known for the odd manner in which he wielded his bat before the pitch was delivered.  He utilized what was dubbed the "tenbin daho (balance scales batting style)". He is the only player to be a runner up in three consecutive seasons (1960-1962) in the battle for batting supremacy. He finished as a bridesmaid a fourth time in 1967. He did claim a steals title, though, in 1961 with 35. By the time he hung up his spikes, he would finish in the top ten in batting nine times.  He was also named to the Best Nine squad seven times. He was the Japan Series MVP in 1960, and owns a record 9-game All Star game hitting streak. He is fifth all time in All Star batting average with a .338 (25-74) figure with six doubles.



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Makoto Kozuro
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Dragons 1942-43, 1946-47, Flyers 1948, Stars 1949, Robins 1950-52, Carp 1953-58

HOF 1980

Kozuru is probably Japan's most overlooked superstar. A true five tool player, Kozuru still holds three single season records set in 1950 that have never been broken - RBI (161), Total Bases (376) and Runs (143). That year he led the Robins to the first Japan Series, hitting 51 HRs and batting .355 while stealing 28 bases! Kozuru's pro career began with the Dragons in 1942. In 1944 he entered the Japanese Navy, serving in the South Seas and China. After two unproductive post-war years with the Dragons, he found success in 1948 with the Flyers and in 1949 with the Stars when he hit .361 to win the Central League batting title. After his spectacular years with the Robins, he finished his career with the Carp, retiring in 1958.




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Makoto Matsubara
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Whales 1962-80, Giants 1981

Meikyukai Member

Although primarily a first and third baseman, Matsubara had played every position except pitcher by his seventh professional season. He was also very durable, playing in 122 or more games for fifteen straight seasons (1965-1979). Although not considered a superstar, Matsubara had a .276 lifetime batting average and 331 home runs. He led the Central League in hits twice (1974 and 1978) and in doubles three times (1966, 1972 and 1978). Matsubara also hit 30 or more homers in three seasons and topped twenty home runs in thirteen years. Playing at the same time as Sadaharu Oh, Matsubara was never selected to a Best Nine team, but he was named to the Central League All-Star Team in 11 different seasons.



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Hiromi Matsunaga
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Braves/BlueWave 1981-92, Tigers 1993, Hawks, 1994-97

Matsunaga and Kazuo Matsui are the only players to have a stolen base title, homered in a game from both sides of the plate twice and to have hit for the cycle at least once during their careers. Both have Gold Gloves, as well. Matsunaga also won a Best Nine, and led the league in On Base Percentage. A solid player, Matsunaga ended his career with a .293 BA, 203 HR and 239 SB.



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Masaaki Mori
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Giants 1955-1974

Mori was a great defensive catcher and handler of pitchers during the Giants dynasty years. After his playing days he managed the Lions and the BayStars. Managing the Lions from 1986-94 he won eight pennants and six Japan Series. There is a story about the BayStars manager at the time, Keiji Osawa, ridiculing Mori's devotion to the sacrifice bunt: Osawa laughed at the Lions' predictable offense, saying fans who spent their precious time at the ballpark deserved better than to be put to sleep by the ubiquitous sacrifice bunts of Mori's methodical machine-like offense. Mori responded with a sermon about a manager's duty being to bore the fans if it results in wins.



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Tokuji Nagaike
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Braves 1966-79

The Braves most productive hitter during the 1970s, he earned the league MVP twice (1969 and '71). Nagaike also picked up three home run crowns (1969, 1972, 1973) and three RBI titles (1969, 1973, 1974). Playing his entire career with the Braves, the right-handed outfielder is tied for 21st all-time with 338 career home runs, and tied for 27th all-time with 969 RBIs. He ended with a .285 lifetime batting average.



----------------
Shigeo Nagashima
----------------

Giants 1958-74

HOF 1988, Meikyukai Member

Japan's most popular player, Nagashima is nicknamed "Mr. Giants" and also "Mr. Baseball." A college superstar at Rikkio University, he signed with the Yomiuri Giants amidst considerable fanfare. His pro debut was the most highly anticipated rookie season in Japan baseball history. A great clutch hitter as well as great fielder, Nagashima could hit for both power and average. During his career, he won 2 homerun titles, 5 RBI titles, 6 batting average titles, 5 MVP awards, and was named to the Best Nine team for 17 straight years. His rookie marks of 29 home runs and 92 RBIs earned him Rookie of the Year honors. In the 1960s, it was the right-handed hitting Nagashima and left-handed slugger Sadaharu Oh who carried the Giants through their famous V-9 (Victory-9) stretch - a string of nine consecutive Central League and Japan Series victories from 1965 to 1973. Throughout these years, both Oh and Nagashima would be at the top of the list in batting statistics every year. The pair were known as the "O-N Cannon" for their abilities to rocket baseballs over the fences and into the bleachers. During his 17 seasons with the Giants, the team won the Central League championship 13 times and became Japan's champion 11 times. Nagashima retired at the end of the 1974 season and managed the Giants from 1975 to 1980 and from 1993 until 2001. During this time, he has led the Giants to five Central League titles and two Series titles, but also a first-ever last-place finish and a few other lackluster seasons. The cult of Nagashima's personality and the aura of his playing heroics (if baseball had saints, then shrines to Nagashima would be in many Giants' fans homes) have buoyed his otherwise hot-and-cold managerial career.



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Haruyasu Nakajima
-----------------

Giants 1936-49, Whales 1950-51

HOF 1963

Japan’s first slugging superstar, Nakajima was the driving offensive force behind the pre-War Giants teams. Nakajima stared at Waseda University and played on the All-Japan team against Babe Ruth’s All Stars in 1934, before becoming a charter member of the Yomiuri Giants. In the Spring of 1937, the league’s first full season, Nakajima led the league in homers. Overall, he would lead the league in home runs twice, RBI four times, batting average once, and hits three times. His best season came in Fall 1938 when he won Japan’s first Triple Crown with 10 home runs, 38 RBI and a .361 batting average in 38 games.



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Norihiro Nakamura
-----------------

Buffaloes 1992-2003

Nakamura was courted by the New York Mets in 2002 -- but he backed out of a 2-year deal that was on the table. Perhaps he is wiser than the Mets, as it appears his best seasons are behind him even if he did profess to want to pick up the mantle of Japan's Best Ballplayer in the absence of Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki.  Perhaps he shouldn't be included in this set, but with his poor showing in 2003 his career stats are not unbalancing to the included career players. During his stint with Kintetsu, Nakamura won the PL's RBI title in 2000 and 2001 and led the league in home runs in 2000.



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Futoshi Nakanishi
-----------------

Lions 1952-69

HOF 1999

A feared slugger, Nakanishi helped lead the Nishitetsu Lions to five Pacific League championships during his 18-year career (1952-1969). During this time, he won five homerun (four consecutive), three RBI, and two batting titles, as well as Rookie of the Year (1952) and MVP (1956) awards. He was also selected to the Best Nine team seven times. A career .307 hitter, Nakanishi was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999. Nakanishi hit what might be the longest home run in Japanese history, at 161 meters in 1953. Through 1958, his average never dipped below .296. He played his last full season at age 27, but after missing most of two years, rebounded in 1961 with 21 HR in 99 games. Appointed the Nishitetsu Lions' manager for 1963, he remained a part-time player and led his club to the Japan Series. He continued to pinch hit effectively for another four seasons. Upon retiring, he skippered and coached for several teams before became a commentator. But his broadcast career ended abruptly when three Lions were among six players barred for life for fixing games. Although not directly implicated, Nakanishi proclaimed himself responsible, and vowed to break all contact with baseball.




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Michio Nishizawa
----------------

Dragons 1937-46, Stars 1947, Dragons 1948-58

HOF 1977

Nishizawa was one of the most popular players Japan, despite playing for the lackluster Chunichi Dragons. Nishizawa began his pro career at only 16 years old (some say 15) as a pitcher for the Dragons in 1937.His finest season on the mound came in 1940 when he went 20 and 9 with a 1.92 ERA. Two years later (1942), Nishizawa pitched a no-hitter against the Hankyu team. He injured his arm during two years of WWII service in the Japanese Navy, and despite a .196 batting average at that point, the Stars converted him into an outfielder. He returned to the Dragons, and demonstrating exceptional desire and dedication, he won a regular job and became one of the league’s best hitters. He won a HR crown in 1950 with 46, but his best season came in 1952 when he hit a league leading .353 and led the league with 98 RBI. His late season hot streak led the Dragons to the Central League title in 1954, breaking up what would have been nine straight Giants’ titles. Nishizawa was selected to three Best Nine teams. He later managed Chunichi.



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Katsuya Nomura
--------------

Hawks 1954-77, Orions 1978, Lions 1979-80

HOF 1989, Meikyukai Member

Nomura is perhaps the greatest player in Pacific League's history. From his rookie season in 1954 until 1977, he caught nearly every game the Nankai Hawks played. During this period, he won 9 HR titles (8 in a row), 7 RBI titles (6 in a row), a batting title, a triple crown, 5 MVP awards and a grand total of 19 Best Nines! He also helped the Hawks win 7 Pacific League championships. In 1970, he became a player/manager for the Hawks, winning one championship before leaving the team after the 1977 season. Nomura had the longest career of any Japanese player. He retired as a player after the 1980 season with 657 HRs (2nd on the all-time list), 1988 RBI (2nd on the all-time list), 2901 hits (2nd on the all-time list), and 2918 Games as a Catcher (1st all time). Nomura once caught every single inning of a 150 game season, including 16 double headers. Since retiring as a player Nomura has become one of Japan's greatest managers. In 1990, he took the helm of the lowly Yakult Swallows and led them to 4 Central League titles in nine years. The event of the Hawks releasing Nomura has come to be known as the "Curse of Nomura" -- as the Hawks have had only 1 winning season in the two decades Nomura has been gone, and as well have had only 1 season with a team ERA under 4.00.  One might also add that the Hawks are now saddled with the Fukuoka Dome -- a monstrosity of sanitized baseball with large foul territories and an outfield larger than most American Major League parks.



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Kenjiro Nomura
--------------

Carp 1989-2003

Shortstop Kenjiro Nomura is a leader of the Hiroshima offensive attack  His best season (1995), saw him mark .315 with 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and 75 RBIs while leading the league with 173 hits. So far he has compiled 248 career steals, and has led the Central League in stolen bases three times (1990-91, '94). He has also led the league in hits twice (1994-95), and has three Best Nines and seven All Star selections. Kenjiro career numbers are .286 with 160 career home runs and 693 RBIs. Kenjiro is considered by many to be the best defensive shortstop of his time. A loyal player, when he became a free agent he decided to stay with Hiroshima and stated "I began my career with the Carp, and it is because of their support that I am where I am today."



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Hiromitsu Ochiai
----------------

Orions 1979-86, Dragons 1987-93, Giants 1994-96, Fighters 1997-98

Eligible for Meikyukai membership but not a member

Ochiai broke many of Japanese baseball's traditional training rules but still became one of its greatest players. A three time triple crown winner (1982, 1985 and 1986), Ochiai led his league in HRs 5 times, RBIs 5 times, and batting average 5 times. He also was named to the Best Nine 9 times and MVP 2 times. He retired after the 1998 season with 510 career homeruns (5th on Japan's all-time list), 1564 RBI (5th on Japan's all-time list), 2371 hits (9th on Japan's all-time list), and a .311 batting average (7th best in the history of Japanese baseball). He became the highest paid Japanese player in his time, and was also the oldest player in the league when he retired.



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Sadaharu Oh
-----------

Giants 1959-80

HOF 1994, Meikyukai Member

Probably the most famous Japanese player, Oh actually carries a Taiwanese passport because his father is Chinese. Oh played for the Yomiuri Giants from 1959 to 1980, and is the world's homerun leader with 868. As a schoolboy Oh was a star pitcher, leading Waseda to the Koshien championship in 1957 and hitting homeruns in two consectutive games in the 1958 Koshien tournament. The following year, with much fanfare, Oh signed with the Giants. His first professional season was a diasater as he only hit .161 and struckout 72 times in 193 at bats. Although he improved over the next few years, Oh did not become a star until Hiroshi Arakawa helped him develop his famed flamingo batting stance in 1962. After adopting the new stance, Oh went on to lead the Central League in homeruns for thirteen straight seasons and walks in eighteen consecutive years. His batting average also rose fifty points with the new stance. Oh was not a one dimensional player; he also won five batting titles, 13 RBI titles, two triple crowns (including the first ever Triple Crown in Japan) and nine Gold Gloves as well as 15 homerun titles. This led to nine MVP awards, being named to 18 Best Nine teams, and to his Giants winning 11 Japan Series and an additional three Central League titles. In Japan Series play Oh hit a record 29 homers and also managed at least one homerun in thirteen straight series. He ended his career with 2170 RBI, 1967 Runs, 2390 Walks, 422 Doubles, a .446 On Base Average and a .632 Slugging Average. He also managed 84 Stolen Bases. Against touring Major League teams, Oh hit .259 with 20 homeruns in 325 at bats but had a .409 on-base percentage. In individual tours, Oh hit .344 (21 for 61) with 5 homers against the Dodgers in 1966, .356 (21 for 59) with 3 homers against the Cardinals in 1968, and .322 (19 for 59) with 6 homers against the Mets in 1974. Oh retired after the 1980 season. He managed the Giants from 1984 through 1988. He is now the manager of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, and the Japan team in the World Baseball Classic. As a manager, Oh has won three pennants and one Japan Series title.



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Yutaka Ohashi
-------------

Braves (1970-1981)

Ohashi won seven consecutive Gold Gloves as a shortstop from 1972-1978, but evidently has earned little respect from English speaking fans of the game because I could find very little information about him. He ended his career after 1346 games with a .210 batting average, 96 home runs and 87 stolen bases.




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Daijiro Oishi
-------------

Buffaloes 1982-1998

Daijiro won the Rookie of the Year Award and a Golden Glove at second base to start off his career as one of the best at the keystone corner. He has also won four Stolen Base crowns, three Best Nines and is seventh lifetime in SBs with 417.  In 1986 he led the league in triples with 12, which is good for 15th (tie) as an all-time single season record. He also is tied for 15th in career triples with 63. He is seventeenth lifetime in Runs Scored with 1116. In 2003 he was hired by the Buffaloes as their fielding and running coach.


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Yasunori Oshima
---------------

Dragons 1971-87, Fighters 1988-94

Meikyukai Member

Oshima teamed with Kenichi Yazawa to give the Dragons of the late-1970s and early-1980s a powerful one-two punch. A power hitter, Oshima could play 1B, 3B and the outfield. Although he led the Central League in HRs only once (1983), Oshima consistently reached double figures in homeruns. His consistent hitting helped the Dragons to pennants in 1974 and 1983. Throughout his career, Oshima was a dependable player. In his 23 year career, he played in all 130 games six times and in over 120 games eleven times. He ended up playing in 2638 games, the fifth most in Japanese baseball. Oshima collected 2,204 hits and 1,234 RBIs with a .272 career batting average during his long career. After he retired he became a TV sports commentator, and then in 2000-2002 the manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters.



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Hiroshi Oshita
--------------

Senators 1946, Flyers 1947-51, Lions 1952-59

HOF 1980

Taiwanese batsman Hiroshi Oshita, famous for his blue bat, was one of the best hitters of the 1940s and 1950s. After leading the league with 20 homers in his rookie season, he went on to win three batting titles, and three homerun crowns. He hold the record for most hits in a game (7), and his .383 BA in 1951 remained the single-season record until Isao Harimoto topped it by .0003 in 1971. He was named to eight Best Nine teams. His best season for the Lions came in 1954 when he won the MVP Award, hitting .321 with 22 homers, 88 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He also won the 1957 Japan Series MVP award.



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Katsuo Osugi
------------

Flyers 1965-74, Swallows 1975-83

HOF 1997, Meikyukai Member

A power-hitting firstbaseman, Osugi teamed up first with Isao Harimoto of the Flyers and then with Tsutomu Wakamatsu of the Swallows to form feared one-two punches. During his nineteen year career, Osugi topped twenty homeruns in fourteen seasons, including seven seasons with over thirty and three with over forty. He also reached the 100 RBI plateau four times. In 1970, he had one of the finest seasons in the history of the Pacific League, batting .339, hitting 44 homeruns, and driving in 129. Only teammate Harimoto's exceptional .389 batting average kept Osugi from gaining the Triple Crown. A durable player, Osugi played in all of the Flyers games for seven out of eight straight seasons and he missed only two games in the 8th. During his career, Osugi led the league in homeruns and RBI twice and hits once. He was named to five Best Nine teams and won the Gold Glove in 1972. Osugi ranks eighth on the all-time homerun list (479) and seventh on the career RBI list (1507).



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Isao Shibata
------------

Giants 1962-1981

Meikyukai Member

The leadoff hitter for most of his 20 seasons with the Giants, Shibata was the starting centerfielder (5 Gold Gloves) on the V-9 Giants. During his career, Shibata was named to the Best Nine team four times, the All-Star game 12 times, and led the Central League in stolen bases 6 times (a League most). His 14 Japan Series steals is an all time best. He was also a member of 12 championship teams. He is tenth on the all-time list for runs scored, and third on all-time list for stolen bases (579). Shibata is the first switch hitter ever to score 1000 runs. He batted cleanup once while Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh were on the team, the only man to do that (1969). He was originally signed as a pitcher, getting into six games total in his rookie season, and ending his pitching career that same year with an 0-2 record and a 9.82 ERA. Shibata posted a .565 average in one Japan Series (1965), and was named MVP of another (1966). He batted solely from the right side one season, but reverted to switch hitting the next campaign (1968). Selected to 12 all star teams. He coached for Yomiuri after retirement before heading to the Fuji TV broadcast booth as a baseball commentator.




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Toshio Shinozuka
----------------

Giants 1977-1994

Toshio Shinozuka hit for average consistently (.304 lifetime), as well as field consistently. The 4-Time Gold Glover won the batting crown in 1984 (.334), tied for the batting average crown in 1987 (.333), but his best season might have been 1981 when he batted .357 and lost the batting race to Taira Fujita by 1 point.  A solid middle infielder and important member of the Giants lineup for many years. He was elected to the Best Nine in 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1987. He is currently a Yomiuri coach.



--------------------------
Katsumi (Toshio) Shiraishi
--------------------------

Giants 1936-43, Pacific 1946, Giants 1948-49, Carp 1950-56

HOF 1985

Shiraishi was the Giants’s starting shortstop from the league’s inception through 1949 (except for the war years). Although only a .256 lifetime hitter, he was among the top ten in batting average five times during the pre-war deadball era. He had an incredible command of the strike zone and was usually among the leaders in OBA. He led the league in walks in 1939 and amassed a lifetime ratio of 4.5 walks per strikeout. In 1950 he became the second man in Japanese history to play in 1000 games. A hometown hero, Shiraishi became the Carp’s first player prior to the 1950 season. After changing his first name from Toshio to Katsumi in honor of the occasion, he had his best offensive season, batting .304 with 20 homers and 92 runs scored. He was known as a spectacular defensive player. After retiring as an active player in 1956, Shiraishi managed the Carp and coached the Giants.



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Kozo Shoda
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Carp 1985-97

Kozo was the Japanese olympic baseball team's leadoff hitter at the L.A. Olympic Games (1984). He became the first switch hitter in Japanese history to win a batting title (1987), and he was the first man since the two league system was introduced to win that crown without going deep at least once during the season. He led the CL in batting in 1987 (.333) and 1988 (.340). He stole six bases in a game to set a record (10/15/1989 against Chunichi at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium). His sterling defense was rewarded with 5 Gold Gloves, and through his excellent bunting skills and knowledge of small ball, he topped 30 SB twice and 30 sacrifices twice (a high of 41 in 1996, with 245 lifetime).  He batted over .300 five times, 4 times consecutively. He coached with Hiroshima after retirement before taking a similar job with Kintetsu.



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Koichi Tabuchi
--------------

Tigers 1969-78, Lions 1979-84


Some consider the powerful 6'3" 210-lb Tabuchi the greatest Japanese catcher. After two years of challenging Sadaharu Oh for the home run crown, Tabuchi finally won it with 43 in 1975, ending Oh's 14-year dominance in that department. He was fastest at the time in history to 200 HR (21st fastest to that mark now) and 300 HR (10th in history to that number now). He was the second fastest in history to 400 HR behind Sadaharu Oh (7th fastest now). Traded by Hanshin to Seibu, he switched to first base and designated hitter to prolong his career, and continued to hit between 20 and 30 HR a year into the mid-1980s. He was an eleven-time All-Star and won five consecutive Best Nines. He was the catcher when Yutaka Enatsu whiffed nine straight hitters in an all star game. He amassed 1135 RBI (19th) and 474 Home Runs (9th). After retiring Tabuchi became a baseball commentator until taking a job as a hitting coach for Hanshin in 2002.



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Morimichi Takagi
----------------

Dragons 1960-80

Meikyukai

For most of the 1960s and 1970s, Takagi was the best second baseman in the Central League. Takagi led the league in stolen bases three times and reached double figures in home runs 14 times. He stole five bases in a game on 5/8/1964 against Taiyo. He compiled 369 stolen bases over 21 years, good enough for eleventh all-time, and 1120 Runs (16th). Had eight homers leading off the first inning. He had six sayonara basehits, four sayonara homers and one sayonara walk. He was best known, however, for his defense. Gold Glove Awards were first presented in 1972, near the end of Takagi’s career. Nonetheless, he won three. The combination of his offensive abilities and defensive prowess led to seven Central League Best Nine team selections. He always kept a stoic expression. It was once said he was offered an extra one million yen if he smiled at the fans in an attempt to make him more lovable. Considered to be one of the best second baseman of all time. Some considered Takagi to be one of the few Japanese of the period who could have been a Major League star.



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Yutaka Takagi
-------------

Whales 1981-93, Fighters 1994

This speedster and middle infielder compiled 321 stolen bases over 14 years, good enough for nineteenth all-time. However, his 28 Caught Stealing in 1984 tied a Central League record. His three Caught Stealing in one game on 10/15/89 tied a Japan record. He was selected to eight all star teams (1983-1986, 1988, 1990-1992). All time Yokohama leader in combined BB/HBP with 757. He won a Gold Glove at second base in 1983, and has a more than competent glove at short as well. In his career he has played all over the infield and even into the outfield when necessary. His lifetime .297 batting average made him an asset everywhere on the field they put him. He won the Doubles crown in 1986, and the Triples crowns in 1983, 1985 & 1987. He was elected to Best Nines in 1985, 1990 & 1991.  Worked as a Fuji-TV announcer after retirement before becoming a coach for Yokohama and then Yakult.  He was an Olympic baseball coach for 2004.



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Yoshihiko Takahashi
-------------------

Carp 1976-89, Orions 1990, Tigers 1991-92

The base hit games streak (33) is held by a former Hiroshima Carp switch-hitting shortstop and top base-stealer, Yoshihiko Takahashi. His 477 stolen bases in seventeen years are good for fifth on the all-time list. However, his 202 Caught Stealing is also a Central League record. His 11 Triples in one season and 55 in his career are Hiroshima team records. He played in four Japan Series, batting .320 (39-122 with six doubles, eight stolen bases, five walks and 17 strikeouts). Takahashi amassed 1003 Runs (29th) in 1722 Games, banged out 57 Triples (22nd), and ended with a .280 Batting Average. He led the league in Hits in 1980, Triples in 1978-80, and was elected to 5 Best Nines (1978-80, 1983, 1986).



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Kenjiro Tamiya
--------------

Tigers 1949-58, Orions 1959-63

HOF 2002

Tamiya joined the Hanshin Tigers in 1949 as a pitcher, but shoulder trouble in 1950 forced him to move to the outfield in mid-season 1952. Just missed throwing the first perfect game in Japanese pro history when he gave up a bloop hit with two gone in the ninth inning to Sakae Nakamura (3/16/1950 against Kokutetsu at Kurashiki). He went on to collect 1427 hits with a lifetime .297 batting average. Tamiya beat out Shigeo Nagashima for the batting title in 1959, preventing Nagashima from winning the triple crown. In 1959, he moved to the Daimai Orions and became part of the "Missile Cleanup" with Kazuhiro Yamauchi and Kihachi Enomoto. Tamiya was a seven-time All-Star and was selected to the Best Nine five times. After retiring he became the Toei Flyers (now Nippon Ham Fighters) field boss.



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Kazuyoshi Tatsunami
-------------------

Dragons 1988-2003

This #1 Draft Pick has been a mainstay of the Dragons lineup. Kazuyoshi Tatsunami is a reliable hitter who can also be counted on to play very good defense whereever he is needed. He has won 3 Gold Gloves at Second base, 1 Gold Glove at Shortstop, and 1 Gold Glove at Third Base. He has stroked 416 Doubles in sixteen years, putting him 6th on the all-time list. He has scored 1024 Runs (27th), has 2058 Hits (23rd), and 917 Walks (16th).



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Yasumitsu Toyoda
----------------

Lions 1953-69

A shortstop for the Nishitetsu Lions (and currently a professional baseball critic) who was nicknamed “Samurai Toyoda” for his toughness as a baseball player and his tenacious will to win. Toyoda joined the Nishitetsu Lions team in 1953, and was Rookie of the Year. In 1956, he won the Batting crown with an average of .325, and helped the team win the Japan series -- where he won the MVP title. He took part in 10 all-star games and achieved an average of .321 in these games. On the other hand, his batting average for all Japan Series games averaged .362. He remained a batter who never missed a chance to win a game until he retired as a player in 1969. Toyoda always prayed in the waiting circle, “Let there be a chance for the team, let me make a hit.” Toyoda always believed in himself and maintained a positive attitude, and this brought him the renown as a player who “never misses a good ball” and “always performs better when there are opportunities.” Through the years, he was always a player who lived up to the expectations of his fans. He compiled 980 Runs, 215 Stolen Bases, 263 Home Runs, 934 Walks (15) and a lifetime .277 Batting Average. He coached with Yakult and Kintetsu after retirement before becoming a baseball commentator for Bunka Broadcasting.



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Michinori Tsubouchi
-------------------

Dai Tokyo 1936-37, Lions 1937-40, Asahi 1941-44, Gold Star 1946, Stars 1947-48, Dragons 1949-51

HOF 1992

Tsubouchi was one of the early stars of Japanese Pro ball. A great base stealer, he won 2 stolen base titles and finished with 344 career steals (16th). At the time of this retirement, he was Japan’s all-time stolen base king. Tsubouchi’s career batting average was only .262, but playing in the deadball era, he was usually among the league’s top ten batters. For example, his .241 average in 1942 placed him fifth in the batting race. Even towards the end of his career in 1947 and 1948, Tsubouchi was named to the Best Nine team. He finished with 58 Triples, enough for a tie at #19.



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Hatsuhiko Tsuji
---------------

Lions 1984-95, Swallows 1996-97

After being given an ultimatum in 1996 from the Seibu Lions: either become a coach or be released -- still feeling he had a few good seasons left in him, Tsuji joined the Swallows in 1996 and batted .333 (second highest in the Central League). After watching Tsuji play against the Swallows in two Japan Series, Yakult manager Katsuya Nomura reportedly told his players to model themselves after him. Though not a power hitter (53 career home runs), the scrappy infielder knows how to get on base. A lifetime .282 hitter with a lifetime .355 On Base Average, Tsuji earned the 1993 Pacific League batting crown with a .310 average. Tsuji was always a solid defensive second baseman. Flipping the ball directly from his glove to the shortstop has become Tsuji's trademark play, something that has become more popular in Japan recently. Injuries took their toll on his later career. Reportedly, Tsuji's absences led the Lions to release him. Since 1993, he's missed an average of twenty to thirty games a season, and in 1997 he sat out fifty games. Tsuji won 8 Golden Gloves at second base, seven consecutively, and 5 Best Nines, three consecutively. He walked away with 235 Stolen Bases.



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Yutaka Wada
-----------

Tigers 1985-01

Wada joined Hanshin from Nihon University in 1985 as a third-round draft pick and led the league in hits in 1993. He has a .291 career batting average and .355 career On Base Average with 42 Triples, 720 Runs and 212 Sacrifices in 1,709 games. Wada remains with the Tigers as a batting coach. A quiet player who consistently led his team through example. He set a new record by opening a season with a 24-game hitting streak, and finished the season with a .300 average. Never showing much power during his seventeen-season career, Wada has demonstrated that there is more to baseball than home runs. He won two Best Nines and three Gold Gloves at second base.



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Tsutomu Wakamatsu
-----------------

Swallows 1971-89

Meikyukai

After decades of being a sub .500 club, the Swallows came out of nowhere in 1977 to finish second. The following year they won their first Central League pennant and their first Japan Series. Leading the team was Tsutomu Wakamatsu, an extraordinary batter. Standing only five feet six inches and weighing just 165 pounds, Wakamatsu hit over .300 in fifteen seasons. His .319 lifetime batting average is the second highest in the history of Japanese baseball. Surprisingly, he only led the Central League in batting twice. During his best season (1977), he led the league with a .358 average and struckout only 14 times in 441 at bats! Wakamatsu was named to nine Best Nine teams, won two Gold Gloves, and was the Central League MVP in 1978. Wakamatsu also hit 355 doubles, 220 home runs, scored 1015 runs and stole 151 bases. In 1999, Wakamatsu was hired as the Yakult manager.



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Gregory "Boomer" Wells
----------------------

Braves/Blue Wave 1983-91, Hawks 1992

Boomer was the first foreigner to ever win the Japan Triple Crown (1984). He hammered four grand slams in a season (1987). He homered in five straight games  beginning on Opening Day, the first time in Japanese history that had ever happened (1989). But he also grounded into a record 34 double playes in a season (1989). Booomer was the fastest ever to 1000 hits at the time, 781 games. He was selected to  five all star teams. In 1991, was 11-25 on 3-2 counts, which lead the Pacific League. He won Batting Average titles in 1984 & 1989, a Home Run title in 1984, RBI titles in 1984, 1987, 1989 & 1992, the MVP in 1984, Gold Gloves in 1986 & 1987 and was Best Nine 1984, 1986, 1987 & 1989.



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Koji Yamamoto
-------------

Carp 1969-86

Meikyukai

Nicknamed "Mr. Red Helmet" for the primary color of the Hiroshima Carp batting helmet he wore. Yamamoto is undoubtedly the Carp's all-time best player and may have been the best centerfielder in the history of the Central League. An all-around player, Yamamoto had tremendous power, hit for average, was a threat to steal, and was a Gold Glover. During his 18 year career, he won 4 HR, 3 RBI, and 1 batting titles He also led the league in runs four times, walks three times, and slugging percentage three times. From 1977 to 1981, Yamamoto reached 40 HRs and 100 RBI in five consecutive seasons. His exemplary play brought the Carp to Central League pennants in nine years, and led him to be named the league MVP in 1975 and 1980. Yamamoto was named to the Central League Best Nine team 10 times and was also awarded 10 Gold Gloves. He finished his career in the top ten career leaders in runs (1365), homeruns (536), RBI (1475), walks (1168) and slugging percentage (.542).  He also stacks up well with a lifetime .381 on base average, 231 stolen bases, and 45 less strikeouts than walks.



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Kazuhiro Yamauchi
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Orions 1952-63, Tigers 1964-67, Carp 1968-70

HOF 2002, Meikyukai

Yamauchi played with the Orions, Tigers, and Carp between 1952 and 1970. During this time, he collected 2,271 hits, 396 homeruns, and 1286 RBI. He won one batting, four RBI, and two homerun titles; he won the 1960 Pacific League MVP award; and was selected to the Best Nine team ten times. He managed Chibe Lotte from 1979-1981, and Chunichi 1984-1986.



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Hiroyuki Yamazaki
-----------------

Orions 1965-1978, Lions 1979-1984

Meikyukai

Yamazaki, known for his slick fielding and power, was one of the best second basemen of the 1970s. During his twenty-year career, he reached double figures in home runs 14 times with a high of 25. His 270 homers top all other second baseman in the history of Japanese baseball. His excellent fielding, described as “oxidized silver” won him Golden Gloves in 1977, 1980 and 1981. The combination of defense and power led Yamazaki to be named to five Best Nine teams (1969, 1970, 1971, 1974, and 1980), and eleven All-Star teams. He ended with 2081 Hits, 985 RBIs and 137 Stolen Bases.



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Kenichi Yazawa
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Dragons 1970-1986

Meikyukai

One of the best Japanese batters of all time, Kenichi Yazawa is one of only fifteen players to finish their career above the .300 plateau. Hitting .302 exclusively with the Dragons (1970-86), the left-handed first-baseman won two batting crowns, with a .355 average in 1976 and .369 in 1980. In his seventeen year career, Yazawa also stroked 273 home runs with 2,062 hits, 348 doubles and 969 RBIs. Yazawa was the Dragons most productive hitter during the 1970s and early 1980s, helping them to two Central League pennants. Yazawa began his career by winning the Central League Rookie of the Year in 1970. He missed most of the 1978 and 1979 seasons due to injury. Yazawa rebounded in 1980 to lead the Central League with a .369 average and also hit 27 homers. Over the next five years, he continued at a high level, and was named to three Best Nine teams.




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Wally Yonamine
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Giants 1951-60, Dragons 1961-62

HOF 1990

Hawaiian-born Yonamine was the Giants' lead-off hitter for most of the 1950s. Wally revolutionized the leadoff role in Japan, wielding the bunt as an offensive weapon and running the bases with fierce abandon. Indeed, Wally also revolutionized all of Japanese baseball, bringing a distinctly US style of play into mainstream usage. Yonamine led the league three times in both batting average and runs scored. He won the MVP Award in 1957 and was selected for the Best Nine team for seven straight years (1952-1958). His .311 lifetime batting average ranks sixth on the all-time list. As manager of the Dragons, he led his team to the top of the Central League in 1974 stopping the Giants run of nine straight championships. Yonamine was originally signed by the San Francisco 49er's, but an injury forced him out of football. He met Lefty O'Doul in San Francisco, and Lefty encouraged him to go to Japan to play baseball. In Japan he became the "Nisei Jackie Robinson," enduring great abuse and paving the way for more Japanese-Americans to be able to play professional baseball in Japan. He never won over all the players and fans, but by the time he retired, most admired him for his skill and courage. In 1990, he became the first American ever to make Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame.



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Yoshio Yoshida
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Tigers 1953-69

HOF 1992

Standing about 5 feet 5 inches tall, acrobatic shortstop Yoshio Yoshida was the spark plug of the Hanshin Tigers during the 1950s and 1960s. He is considered by many to be the greatest fielding shortstop in Japanese history. He earned the nickname "Mr. Shortstop" ("Ushiwakamaru") because of his swift and accurate movement at the position. Although only a .267 career hitter, he was the central batter in the lineup for the Tigers, and was selected to the Best Nine team nine times. Yoshida played in 2007 games, compiled a career 66 home runs, belted 70 triples (tenth on the all-time list) and stole 350 bases (fourteenth).  He also won two stolen base titles, and in 1985 managed the Tigers to their only Japan Series championship. Between stints as their manager also managed the French Olympic Baseball Team. His number 23 for the Tigers is his alone.



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Koichiro Yoshinaga
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Hawks 1990-00, Giants 2001-2003

The Hawks regular catcher until the arrival of Kenji Jojima, Yoshinaga had been predicted to play first base for the Hawks but instead saw a lot of time as designated hitter. Without the worries and pains involved with crouching behind home plate for nine-innings, Yoshinaga's bat looked like it was on steroids for a couple of years before age and aches finally settled in. As a DH he batted .300 and slugged .544 (fourth best in the league) in 1997, and  hit 29 home runs with 73 RBIs. After twelve years with the Hawks he signed with the Giants and ended up their pinch-hitter.





"I learned a long time ago,
whether I have a very good day or a very bad day, I never say it.
You're better off letting others do that."

-Ichiro Suzuki-