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Articles in NEWSLETTER, Vol.19, No.4

p.1  2010 Hall of Famers Elected
                                                          Hiroshi Satou, President

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced its Hall of Famers for 2010 at the press conference held at 3 pm at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, January 12, 2010. Osamu Higashio, the late Shin-ichi Etoh were elected by the Players Selection Committee, and the late Masayuki Furuta were elected by the Special Selection Committee. The membership of the Hall of Famers is now 171, including 34 living Hall of Famers.

After the opening speech by Ryozo Kato, chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the results of the PSC were reported by Teruaki Yonetani, representative director of the PSC, and those of the SSC by Yoshio Nishida, chairman of the SSC. Nishida also announced that Shigeo Nagashima, 1988 Hall of Famer, and Isao Harimoto, 1990 Hall of Famer, had been appointed new members of the SSC. Then the 2010 inductees were given a certificate of their induction from Ryozo Kato.

In his acceptance speech, Higashio said, “I owe everything to the people concerned. Though I thought little of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame when I joined the Lions back in 1969, I was conscious of the possibility last year when I was on the verge of election. I feel like praising myself for what I had done in pro baseball,” a surprisingly humble speech from a person of bold pitching. Koji Yamamoto (2008 Hall of Famer), his guest speaker, said that they were contemporaries in different leagues but were in friendly rivalry, meeting only at the annual All-Star Series.

Shozo Etoh, new manager of Keio Nine and speaking on behalf of his elder brother, the late Shin-ichi Etoh, was moved to tears when he said he was glad to know that his brother was to be among the baseball greats enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Shigeru Sugishita (1985 Hall of Famer), who spoke for the late Etoh, had a fond memory about him because he was manager of the Chunichi Dragons when Etoh joined them in 1959. “The rookie catcher was proved unreliable by pitchers so he was converted to a first baseman, but he was so awkward in handling balls thrown at him from infielders. However, his pulling batting was fascinatingly strong that he was finally converted to an outfielder. “ His story ran off to into a secret episode in the fall of 1975 when he coached the Tokyo Giants under Shigeo Nagashima (1988 Hall of Famer) in their training camp. Etoh was then manager of the Taiheiyo Club Lions. “The pitching stuff of the Giants was so weak that I tapped barter of two pitchers from the Lions including Higashio, but his transfer was definitely rejected.”

Yoshiko Furuta, widow of the late Masayuki Furuta, made a brief acceptance speech on behalf of his deceased husband. His guest speaker Yoshinobu Suzuki, vice president of the Japan Amateur Baseball Association, dealt on many episodes on him. He was such a man of few words, he said, that when they traveled a thousand kilometers to Hakata from Tokyo by train, he didn’t utter a single word except, “Shall we buy a box lunch?”
The press conference ended by taking commemorative photos of the inductees, but was followed by a long interview of each of them by a lot of media people. The Induction Ceremony for Osamu Higashio and the late Shin-ichi Etoh is scheduled to be held at the first game of the 2010 All-Star Series at Yahoo Stadium in Fukuoka on Friday, July 23, 2010. The late Masayuki Furuta will be inducted during the Inter-City Baseball Championship which is slated to be held at Tokyo in coming August, but the definite date is not decided yet.

Photo left:   (From left ) Yoshiko Furuta, Osamu Higashio, Ryozo Kato, and Shozo Etoh
Photo right  :(From left in the back row)
                                  Yoshinobu Suzuki, Koji Yamamoto, and Shigeru Sugishita
                   (From left in the front row)
                                  Yoshiko Furuta, Osamu Higashio, Ryozo Kato, and Shozo Etoh

p.2   2010 Hall of Famers elected by the Players Selection Committee
                                                Teruaki Yonetani
                                                Representative Director of the PSC

The 50th Players Election Committee elected Osamu Higashio in the Players Division and the late Shin-ichi Eto in the Experts Division. In the election in the Players Division, 317 members with an experience of reporting baseball for 15 years or more wrote in the names of 7 candidates at most on a ballot out of 29 eligible candidates prepared and listed by the Screening Committee. Higashio received 254 ballots by a majority of 26 over the stipulated number of 228. Hiromitsu Ochiai (current manager of the Chunichi Dragons), the runner-up, missed out on selection by the same one vote for the second year in a row.
In the Experts Division, the 48 electors consisting of directors of the PSC and the living Hall of Famers wrote in the names of 3 candidates on a ballot out of 10 eligible candidates prepared and listed by the Screening Committee. The late Shin-ichi Etoh received 37 ballots by a majority of 5 over the stipulated number of 32 and became the second successful candidate in this division.

Profile of Osamu Higashio

At the press conference, he said, “It was only last year when I was first conscious of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly I foresaw its realization this year, but I never dreamed of it when I joined pro baseball.” He pitched for the Lions 20 years with a lifetime record of 251-247, winning MVP two times. He was the first as a pitcher to earn 100,000,000 yen. Will all these brilliant record, his rookie year in 1969 was a miserable one when he joined the Nishitetsu Lions on graduating from Minoshima High School. He notched no wins and lost confidence. He almost thought of converting to a fielder, but the notorious scandal in the off-season expelled their leading pitchers out of the team. He had no choice but to stick to pitching. His record in the second and third years were 11-18 and 8-16, and in the 4th year he pitched more than 300 innings, with a record of 18-25.  “Misfortune proved a golden opportunity for me. I was fortunate enough to pitch in many games, gaining invaluable knack of pitching myself.” He holds the Japan pro record with 165 HBP, which shows that he boldly pitched inside to batters with the help of his control gained by long and strenuous pitching.
He played for the Lions for 20 successive years, but the name changed to Taiheiyo Club, Crown Lighter, and Seibu. In 1975, he played under manager Etoh and now he shares the honor with Etoh, but in the preceding 5 years he played under manager Kazuhisa Inao (1993 Hall of Famer). “I am very grateful for him. I was sometimes spanked by him, though I had never been done even by my parents. But I was not scared. He was really kind and sincere.” Though his number of wins fell short of his great senior (276), but managed to follow his mentor in his steps to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Profile of Shin-ichi Etoh

Most remarkable feat of Etoh is that he was the arch rival of Shigeru Nagashima (1988 Hall of Famer) and Sadaharu Oh (1994) in his flourishing days. He was a perfect slugger to be called a “Brave Warrior.” It sounded modest of Shozo Etoh, his younger brother (current manager of Keio Nine), when he broke off in his acceptance speech on his brother’s behalf. “To think that my brother is now among the baseball gods here ……”

In 1959, he joined the Chunichi Dragons as a catcher from a non-pro team Nittetsu Futase. He was converted to a fielder to exploit his batting ability, and in 1964 and 1965 he won the batting title consecutively. Oh led the Central League in HR and RBI, being the runner-up in the batting race. (He won the Triple Crown later in 1973 and 1974.)  In 1971, in his second year with the Lotte Orions in the Pacific League, he won his third batting title, thus becoming the first and only player who won the coveted title in the both Leagues.

According to his acquaintances in his youth, “He was out drinking almost every night, and on returning home late in the night, he would practice swinging his bat. As the eldest of four brothers, he acted as their father. After he joined the Dragons, he let his family live in Nagoya and supported his younger brothers with school expenses. “My brother didn’t go to college, so he wanted all the more to send his younger brothers to college. Though he was only 5 years senior to me, he was actually my father.”  Shin-ichi died on February 28, 2008 at the age of 70. Shozo intends to visit his brother’s grave in Izu on his 3rd anniversary of his death and report his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

p.3    2010 Hall of Famer by the Special Selection Committee
                                     Yoshio Nishida, member of SSC

The candidates in the Special Selection Committee are 1) amateur players, coaches, managers, and umpires; 2) those people who contributed, or have contributed, a great deal to the development of pro and/or amateur baseball in terms of organization and management. All of the 14 members (including two new members in Shigeo Nagashima and Isao Harimoto) of the SSC met at Tokyo Dome on January 8 and discussed the candidacy of 10 eligible candidates prepared by the Screening Committee in last November. They were entitled to vote in three candidates at most whom they regard as adequate to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The names of the candidates who received one or more valid votes are as follows.

Masayuki Furuta 12; Kiro Osafune  9; Osamu Ohmoto  9 ; Hisatsugu Owari (New)  3; Tadashi Bito (New)  2: Nobuyoshi Tsubota (New)  2; Kazuo Itoh  1; Takizo Matsumoto (New)  1;Eizo Matsui  1
  
The number of vote necessary to be elected was 11, that is, three fourths or more of 14. Therefore, the late Masayuki Furuta was successfully elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the SSC.

Profile of Masayuki Furuta

Born in Kumamoto Prefecture on September 30, 1933.  On graduating from Kyushu Gakuin High School in 1952, he entered Rikkyo University and played for Rikkyo Nine as second baseman. In his second year Rikkyo Nine won in the Tokyo Big6 University League for the first time in 20 years. On graduation in 1956, he joined a non-pro team Kumagaigumi and as second baseman he participated in the Inter-City Baseball Championship. The team was the runner-up in the tournament, and he won the batting title. He was chosen as a member of the All-Japan and participated in the 2nd Global World Series of Baseball held in Milwaukee. His clutch batting and splendid fielding contributed a great deal to the first victory in the ICBC in 1957. The All-Japan in 1957, again including Furuta, won in the 3rd GWSB held in Detroit.

He participated in the ICBC for 13 consecutive years until 1968. In 1966 he led his team to its third victory in the ICBC as manager/player, and won Hashido Award, i.e., the MVP. After a brief retirement, he played for Kumagaigumi until 1980, participating in the ICBC three more times. He kept declining many offers from pro baseball and from 1977, he devoted himself entirely to the development of amateur baseball, particularly ICBC by filling important posts with Japan Shakaijin Baseball Association (now Japan Amateur Baseball Association). In 1999, he was awarded a distinguished service medal at the 70th anniversary of the ICBC.

He died on July 30, 1999 at the age of 65. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame coincided with the appointment of Shigeru Nagashima, two years junior to him at Rikkyo University, as a member of the SSC, making the present writer feel something of fate in baseball.

p.4  Column: Much to See, Much to Enjoy (33)  
          
           Behind a study on Shigeo Nagashima lies frustration and fury
                                         Tadatoshi Hiramatsu, Researcher of Shigeo Nagashima

I would like to tell you why frustration and fury forced me to begin to study Shigeo Nagashima. What makes him “Mister Pro Baseball” is not only his energetic fielding with picturesque running throw, his active and daring base running , always intending to advance to the next base, but also his clutch hitting which rarely failed to come up to ardent expectations of baseball fans at decisive moments.

When he was active as player, I expected publishers and newspapers to check his batting percentage in the clutch and made it public. This feeling became much stronger when he hung up his spikes and I waited in vain for ten more years. In the meantime, “Authorized Book on Shigeo Nagashima” was published by Hochi Shimbun. In its records section, “Chance Batting” showed batting average in the clutch and the one according to the number of runners on the bases. This was not good enough. It was too general for me. Whether it was score-tying, or comeback, or first, or sayonara (come-from-behind in the bottom of the 9th inning) hit, or whether it was a late-inning, game-deciding hit, must be tabulated to show the true value of Nagashima.

I waited and waited later on. Once I made a telephone call to a sports newspaper which was seemingly the most exhaustive in records and asked the statistician to carry the records I desired. He answered offhand, in a insincere manner, “That kind of job will need a few part-timers. We cannot do it if it does not pay.” Half anticipating such an answer beforehand, though, I was raged at his insincerity. I made up my mind at last. Waiting would not produce anything. It must be done by no one but myself. I firmly decided to collect necessary data of his “chance
batting” and publish for the sake of the posterity the records of the Greatest Player Ever Born who had made the greatest contribution to enhance the prosperity of Japanese professional baseball.

As chance would have it, the Nikkan Sports offered their service to let the readers to copy any pages they liked. I was able to obtain all the pages covering the details of every game in the annual All-Star Series and managed to calculate the coveted batting percentage I mentioned before. My painstaking worked revealed an astonishing record: Nagashima in his heydays hit .533 (when a runner or two are on second and/or third base), and .586 (plus when a runner is on first base). However, the data in regular seasons were unobtainable, and I had to give up my dream, half-heartedly, so to speak, thinking that All-Star Games were all I could make research on,
One day I saw an article on a hanging ad on the commuter train which told a presumed yearly salary of a baseball player. “How dare they are to publish such an unreliable sum,” I said to myself, but on a sudden something came to my head. “If presumed yearly salary is OK, how about “chance percentage” in regular seasons?”  I was bold enough to set to estimate Nagashima’s “chance percentage” in my own way. The presumed conclusion revealed outstanding percentages: .380 in his heyday and .344 even throughout his career (For the matter of that, Oh was .306). How do they compare with those of other clutch hitters like Tetsuharu Kawakami and Hiromitsu Ochiai? Presumably they will second to none.
(See “Hurrah, Mister, A Hero Legend,” May 15, 2004, and published by G.B. for “Achievement of Shigeo Nagashima as seen from his records.”

p.5  Inductees Remembered (26)    

            My father believed in “Power of Baseball”
                     Motoharu Makino, third son of Naotaka Makino, 1996 Hall of Famer

I would like to introduce the most impressive scene in the 80 years of my father’s baseball life by quoting a few passage from his book ,“Power of Baseball”( 2003, Mainichi Shinmbun-sha). He admits that the scene had been the mainstay of his whole baseball life. A long-time bench warmer with Keio Nine spent much more time than his teammates to master hitting curveballs and at last in his third year he started at shortstop for the first time in a game against Waseda Nine in the 1930 fall season. Immediately after the game began, while the starting siren was still blowing, a grounder came to him. He was still out of the game: he slipped and fell on his backside. The error triggered a loss of two scores in the top of the first inning. His mind went blank and he let a simple grounder go through his legs. The jeers from the stands struck him home.

In the bottom of the 4th inning, when Keio was trailing the game by 0-3, they scored a run on a walk with the bases loaded, with two away. It was my father turn to bat. Naturally he was sure he would be replaced by another player. But manager Koshimoto cried loudly to my hesitating father, “What are you doing, Makino?”  Bracing himself up, he sipped a little water and went to the batter’s box trembling with excitement. “All right! My baseball life hinges on my batting now.” Southpaw Tase was pitching for Waseda. My father was in the hole with ball count one and two. He anticipated a curve coming inside, but he managed to hit the next fake pitch to just in front of the right fielder, scoring two runs. A poor Texas leaguer proved to be a timely hit. (Manager Koshimoto was well aware that my father had been practicing hard and did not think of replacing him.)

Later in a special number of “Asashi Sports,” he said in retrospect, “On second base, I felt released. My surroundings became light suddenly. Many spectators were detestable before, but they were all the more pleasing because they were many. The blooper brought me back to life. I became confident and relaxed. After the game I could do everything free from care. Probably I was most pleased with the victory. I knew not why, but I could not sleep well that night. On the second base, I stood in the limelight for the first time in life.” My father told me once that the very “safety hit” had given him confidence and supported his later baseball life. I am sure that from then on he began to go up steadily the steps of a long baseball life step by step.

Let me end my essay by dealing a little about his daily life. In his study photos of his three mentors were always on display. There were Old Mr. Nanshu Saigo, Master Yukichi Fukuzawa and the Venerable Boku Seki, chief administrator of Tenryuji Temple whom he regarded as his senior. Writings were also encouraging for him. One by Prof. Shinzo Koizumi, “Practice makes impossibles possible,” another is by Master Haruka Nagai whose health exercise he follows daily, “Sound in body, sound in mind,” and another by the Venerable Boku Seki, “Wherever you are, establish your identity.” He comes of Kagoshima. He must have learnt from Saigo, a great man from Kagoshima, to “Respect the Heaven and Love People.” He revered gods and Buddha. He collected photo clippings of the Imperial Family. When princess Aiko was born to Prince Naruhito who threw in the first pitch ceremony at Koshien Stadium, a photo of Princess Aiko was on display for a long time on his desk.

The 4th president of the National High School Baseball Association used to call the young baseball players his children. I cannot forget his word which he uttered on the bed when he heard of unfortunate accidents of children and youth. It was in the hospital a little before he died. “It is a hard world now. But I believe in young people.” It was the very word that only my father could tell; as the president, he took care of a countless number of young baseball players and believed in their innocence and potential.

On July 18, 2006, looking forward to the upcoming Summer Tournament at Koshien Stadium, grateful for many people whom he had met there and then, he bid farewell to his 95 years of life, being hale and hearty until the last.
His posthumous Buddhist name given in his life by the Venerable Boku Seki tells a great deal about his life.

p.6  Rara Avis (69)  Baseball Poster, “London v.Tokio”
                                          Miwako Atarashi, curator

Let me introduce an interesting poster from among those on display at the current “Exhibition on Baseball Posters” (January 26, Tuesday through Sunday, March 14). It features baseball games played by Meiji University Baseball Squad in London in 1929. Manager Genzaburo Okada (1978 Hall of Famer) donated it to the Baseball Museum at its opening in 1959. In their baseball tour to America in 1929, they extended their itinerary to Europe and thus made a tour around the world, the first and the last of its kind. It is reported that the president of Meiji University and the people concerned granted them a grand tour at the urgent request of Okada. He took with them Takizo Matsumoto, who spoke excellent English, as his assistant in charge of every procedure involved. (See: A  History of Meiji University Baseball Club, Vol. 1, 1949)

Leaving Yokohama on March 15, they stayed in the U.S. until May 31 playing baseball games with local teams on the way to New York. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean and played two games in London. After that, they visited France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Egypt. On the way back to Japan, they stopped at Hong Kong and Shanghai and played a game there. It was on July 29 that they finally returned home after their long journey.

The photo left is a poster, 31.5 cm x 20.0 cm, announcing the baseball games between the visitors and the local two teams. They were held at Stumford Bridge Ground (home ground of Chelsea Soccer Club). On June 13, the Meiji Squad defeated the Americans living in London by 26 to 0, and on June 16, the crew of the U.S. Flagship Raleigh by 6 to 5.

Library Note       A souvenir program featuring S. F. Seals goodwill tour of Japan in 1949
                                                    Taku Chinone, co-librarian

Back in 1949, when Japan was still occupied by the Allied Powers headed by Douglas MacArthur, the San Francisco Seals visited Japan, the first of its kind after the WWII. Japan was barely recovering from the devastation of the war, and their visit was enthusiastically welcomed as a symbol of rehabilitation of Japan.

The S.F. Seals was a 3A team belonging to the Pacific Coast League, one of the three 3A Minor Leagues consisting of 24 teams. Though they were not a MLB team, (there were only 16 MLB teams at that time), they were much stronger than expected by the Japanese who did not know how strong a team was which ranked 1st (1946), 2nd (1947) and 2nd (1948) in the 3A PCL.

At first 10 games were scheduled to be played against: Far East Air Force 2, Army-Navy 2, and Japan’s pro teams 6, individual and combined. The SFS led by the Japanophile Frank O’Doul (Japan’s 2002 Hall of Famer) won all the games against them except only the one against FEAF. He was well aware that baseball in Japan had been student-oriented. O’Doul Day was arranged especially on October 30 and he invited children in Tokyo to a game against Student All-Stars. There are still some septuagenarian visitors to our baseball library who recall the day with nostalgia, calling him dearly, “O’Doul-san.”

The 120-page “SOUVENIR PROGRAM/San Francisco/SEALS/Goodwill Baseball Tour of Japan/OCTOBER 1949” was then on sale at 200 yen. Most of the introductory articles are written in English. Eiji Sawamura (1959 Hall of Famer) and Takeo Tabe (1969 Hall of Famer) are introduced as players who played a big role in the baseball friendship between Japan and the U.S. Notably, scorecards run as many as 12 pages

p.7  A   Change in officials

                Retiring councilor    Hideo Ohkoshi

       B  Sustaining members for 2010 Invited

Since its foundation in 1959 as a museum specializing in baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has been dedicated to its functions of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting materials on baseball and its related sports. We now have about 30,000 artifacts and photographs, and some 50,000 books and magazines, and we have more than 150,000 visitors per year to the baseball museum and the baseball library. We have honored baseball greats by inducting them into the Hall of Fame through annual selections by the Players Selection Committee and the Special Selection Committee.
Sustaining members are expected to endorse and support the above projects by paying the membership fees.

Privilege of Sustaining Member

Sustaining members are entitled to receive the following:

  1.  Quarterly Newsletter
  2.  Complimentary ticket (i.e., member’s card) valid throughout the year. This ticket is also valid for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
  3.  5 courtesy tickets for non-members (Individual membership)
    20 courtesy tickets for non-members (Corporation membership)
  4. Occasional News Release
  5. 10% reduction to the items on sale at the baseball museum
  6. The Baseball Hall of Fame 2009 (published in March, 2009)
    (New individual sustaining members only)
  7. Baseball Museum original pin
    (New junior sustaining members only)

          There are three kinds of sustaining members. The yearly membership is valid from           April to March.

  1. Individual membership   (Membership fee is 10,000 yen)
                                       Overseas membership fee is 100 dollars)
  2. Corporation membership  (Membership fee is 100,000 yen)
                                       Overseas membership is 1,000 dollars)
  3. Junior Membership      (Primary and junior high school students.
                                         Membership fee is 2,000yen

*The membership fee for new individual sustaining members varies according to the month when they join:
                       From April to September:   10,000 yen
                               October to December:  5,000 yen
                                January to March:      2,000 yen
         
     If you have any questions, please feel free to ask the Management at 03-3811-3600.

       C  News from the Baseball Museum

     1) Guide to the Baseball Museum
          The entrance is located to the right of Gate 21 of Tokyo Dome.
          Hours: 10:00-18:00 (March through September)
                   10:00-17:00 (October through February)
                (Visitors are requested to enter at least 30 minutes prior to the closing time.)

         Admission: 500yen (300yen)    Adults
                            200yen (150yen)   Primary & Junior High School students
                                        (* Per person in groups 20 or more)
                             300yen                Senior citizens aged 65 or more
            
          Closed: Mondays except those 1) during the spring and summer vacations,
                                           2) that fall on National Holidays,
                                           3) when a pro baseball game is held at Tokyo Dome.
                    N.B. In other words, from February to April, the museum will be closed on:
                         February 1, 8, 15, and 22; March 1, 8, and 15; April 12,19 and 26.
 

  1. Editor’s Note  Welcome to our Newsletter! Please come and visit our Website at:

 http://english.baseball-museum.or.jp/topics/letter/index.html  for back issues of our Newsletter Vol.14, No. 1.

p.8  Essay (39)    Norihiro Akahoshi, RedStar53

                           Hikaru Suzuki, Director of the Players Selection Committee

There was a harrowing scene in the bullpen under the right field Alps stands of Koshien Stadium. Centerfielder Akahoshi was lying motionless. He had tried a desperate diving catch to grab a line drive, only missed it by a foot. He stumbled and hit his shoulders on the ground. He felt a strong pain in the neck and was carried away on the trainer’s back. It was in the top of the 3rd inning, two away, in a rainy game against the Yokohama BayStars, on September 12, 2009. First-aid treatment was begun but he could not even stir. Though he was urged to take off his wet uniform, he could not do it for himself. His temperature fell incessantly. The uniform had to be cut with scissors. He told me a few days later, “I was barely conscious they were doing their best to cut my uniform. Clothed in a towel, I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.” Arriving there, his red wrist band was cut away. The loss of his trademark betokens the beginning of the countdown to his retirement.

The game had been delayed for 48 minutes. Bases were loaded with two away. While pitcher Fukuhara was pitching against clutch hitter Uchikawa, he anticipated the course of the batted ball and changed his fielding position a few steps toward right-center. “He won’t be able to pull the pitch, for his legs are not in a good condition.”  He ran straight towards the ball hit as expected and the tragedy occurred. He could not help think of many ifs, he admitted. If the rain had been stronger and the game was cancelled,…. If I had not changed my position…. But he accepted everything. “My motto has been to do my utmost to outrival my fellow players. I risked catching a difficult ball, for I was confident I would succeed. I failed, but I am not sorry I risked it.”

His injury was diagnosed as central spiral lesion. He underwent rehabilitation to make his fingers move normally, but a danger of recurrence did not disappear and might prove fatal to him. After many talks with the front office, he announced his retirement on December 9 last year to the astonishment and regret of not only Tigers fans but pro baseball fans in general. He played a great role in the Tigers’ victory in 2003 and 2005. By his speedy action, he made his presence felt with the Tigers when they were ascending from the cellar to the top. He boasts 381 stolen bases, tying Shosei Go (1995 Hall of Famer) in the 9th spot in the category.

The splendid performance by a non-elite player joining pro baseball with the 4th choice in the draft gave a new impetus to pro baseball. The Giants were the first to respond. “Why didn’t we select such a player as Akahoshi?” Hidetoshi Kiyotake, representative of the Giants was well aware that recruitment of sluggers through free agency was not dependable. He drastically reconsidered his draft maneuver and took to select in the Instruction League category those players who excel in one particular skill. Akahoshi remembers accosted by Kiyotake, “I’ll see that  the Giants will produce talented players like you.” True to his word, pitcher Tetsuya Yamaguchi and outfielder Tetsuya Matsumoto made a spectacular showing in helping the Giants achieve three successive victories in the Central League. It is no exaggeration to say that Akahoshi played a big role in enhancing the potential of pro baseball in Japan.

“Happily I was cheered not only at my franchise Koshien but also at every other ball park, so I am very grateful for my fans across the country. Though I have retired, I love baseball and I cannot think of myself without baseball. I want to publicize the wonder of baseball to all people. Of course, I’ll continue to donate a wheelchair to charitable institutions.”  I clearly remember his first year at Tiger camp. At batting practice his balls rarely went beyond the infield. To my joking reminder, he replied, “Well, for that reason I am all the more proud of my record of .295 in my 9-year career.” Not a piece of his uniform (number 53) he wore in the last game is left at his hand. He has given everything he got to baseball. Now as a reporter, the fiend of baseball will soon cover baseball at spring camps and stadiums from coming February.

 

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