Thursday, January 29, 2009

Each post I plan to highlight the career of a player who, like Aota, was great in his day but has not been recognized by the Hall of Fame. I am not endorsing their enshrinement- just showing the images and feats of great players from the past. Since the focus is on Home Runs, here is a great home run hitter of the 50's:

Satoshi Sugiyama

He was an instrumental part of the 1954 Dragons championship team- a team for whom he hit almost half of the home runs in the season: 28 of 70. He also led the league in rbi and, along with Michio Nishizawa, a rookie infielder named Noboru Inoue (who would go on to be one of the star infielders of the 50's), and Shigeru Sugishita, led the Dragons to a 86-40 mark, winning the Cental League from the Giants by 5 and a half games. They were led by Hall of Famer Shunichi Amachi, a former Mejii University catcher in his fourth year as Dragons mangager. They won the series, only the fifth ever played, in 7 games against the first of the powerhouse Lions teams- though Sugiyama played in only one game and got only one hit (thought he did score a run). The Dragons would not win another Series until the Perfect 7th game of the 2007 Series. That season he was one of the three outfielders to be named best 9 in the Central League, along with Hiroyuki Watanabe and Wally Yonemine, and was voted to the all star team as well.

Beginning in 1948 he was one of the top hr hitters of the 1950's- by 1959 he was one of only five players to have accumulated 200 home runs, along with Aota, Fumio Fujimura, Makoto Kozuru and Michio Nishizawa. However, his 789 strikeouts leads all of these home run hitters. In only his second season, 1949, he was one of the five players to hit more than 30 home runs, along with Fujimura, Nishizawa, Betto and Oshita. He also twice led the leauge in strikeouts, and never broke the 100 rbi barrier. In 1952, when the power surge caused by the expansion to two leagues had died down, he made the best nine for the first of two times while leading the league in Home Runs with 27 and hitting .306 with a .639 slugging percentage. He spent his last year helping the newly christened Buffaloes (a name much more charming and appropriate than Pearls) climb out of the cellar- they finished with fewer than 90 losses for the first time in three seasons. After he left, the Buffaloes lost a record 103 games in 1961, while he went on to a long coaching career.

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