Friday, January 30, 2009
Tamotsu Uchibori, a catcher who spent his entire career with the Yomiuri Giants, was part of the select group of players who made up the first professional team in Japanese Baseball History, playing an instrumental role in the first two golden eras of the Tokyo team. Of the four catchers to play on the early Giants teams, two died in the war in the Pacific. Uchibori was in Burma with one of them, Masaki Yoshiwara, who was considered to be an instrumental part of the early Giants and, by some, the best of all Giant's catchers. Though Uchibori hit safely only three times in Japanese Professional Baseball's inagural season, he handled most of the primary catching duties for the 1937 seasons (Spring and Fall- for a pitching staff that included future Hall of Famers Eiji Sawamura and Victor Starffin), recorded 71 total bases and 34 rbi in 308 at bats.
Though Uchibori's stats are not impressive, he played on many of the great early teams as well as having a few good years after spending five or six years at war. At 17, he is on the manifest for the M.S. Chichibu Maru, sailing from Yokohama on Valentines day in 1935 (along with Sawamura and Takeshi Nakayama, a fellow catcher who would later catch Sawamura's first no-hitter) for the Dai Nippon Tokyo Baseball Club's tour of North America. This was the team, formed by the Yomiuri Shimbun to, at first tour the U.S. and Canada, and then become the first professional team in Japan. By June, the team had made their way into the prairie provinces of Western Canada, to the town of Saskatoon. On the evening of June 19, Uchibori and his battery-mate, Eiji Sawamura, took on the Saskatoon All-Stars for 9 innings and shut them down 14-0. Uchibori scored a run and stole a base while recording 16 putouts and probably chatting with umpire "Bunny" Clouston. When the Dai Nippon team returned to Japan and became the Tokyo Giants, Uchibori continued until 1938, went off to war, and did not return until 1946. He became their primary catcher for the Giants during the birth of their second golden era, and was splitting the catching duties with Toshiyaki Takemiya when Noboru Aota returned to the team in '48.
Note on Sources: I pull much of my information from Daniel E. Johnson's statistical book of Japanese Baseball, the works of Rob Fitts and Robert Whiting, the Data Warehouse on the Japan Baseball Daily site as well as bits of information from my ongoing research into the subject. The cards are all from my collection. If you have any questions please feel free to email me.