Sunday, April 25, 2010

Specializing in Terrific Shoots

Cardinals in Japan, pt. 1

In the next year or so, Rob Fitts will be releasing a book chronicling the American baseball tours of Japan in 1931 and 1934. These influential tours not only inspired the formation of the Japanese pro league, but also set the standard for further tours of Japan by American ballplayers. By the 50's, the touring teams were made up of a single team as opposed to barnstorming all-stars- below is a list of the teams to tour Japan in the 50's, beginning with the famous Seals tour of 1949.

San Francisco Seals 1949
Major League All Stars 1951
Eddie Lopat All Stars 1953
New York Giants 1953
New York Yankees 1955
Brooklyn Dodgers 1956
St. Louis Cardinals 1958

After ten years of New York all-stars, the Cardinals tour of '58 stands out. They played 16 games all throughout Japan, all against a Japanese all-star team (as opposed to just playing the Yomiuri Giants, who had been the usual competition). Sure, St. Louis had Stan Musial and gang, but they were really a team of more ordinary players up against the best Japan had to offer.

Invited by Ysetsuo Higa, the Cards brought with them approximately 50 people, led by Bing Devine (GM), Art Routzong (business manager) and newly appointed manager Solly Hemus. On October 10 the left for the Pacific and headed straight to Hawaii (where they faced an all-star team that included Eddie Matthews, Lew Burdette and Bob Turley) before moving around the Pacific Rim into Japan. Below is the itinerary:

Oct. 11 Kahului, T.H.
Oct. 12 Honolulu, T.H.
Oct. 13 Honolulu T.H.
Oct. 18 Manila P.I.
Oct. 19 Kadena AFB Ok.
Oct. 21 Seoul Korea
Oct. 24 Tokyo
Oct. 26 Tokyo
Oct. 27 Sendai
Oct. 28 Sapporo
Oct. 30 Nagoya
Nov. 2 Nishinomiya
Nov. 3 Osaka
Nov. 4 Osaka
Nov. 6 Hiroshima
Nov. 8 Fukuoka
Nov. 9 Shimonoseki
Nov. 12 Shizuoku
Nov. 13Mito
Nov. 15 Tokyo
Nov. 16 Tokyo (a.m. and p.m. games)

Musial did not joint the team until arriving in Japan, and he felt he disappointed the Japanese fans with his performance- though he hit over .300 he knocked only two out of the park. What really impressed the Hall of Famer was the fact that the Central and Pacific leagues had decided to put together an all-star team with the hopes of, as Musial said, 'winning 5 of the 16' games against them. (He was also impressed with the control of the NPB pitchers, but not so much with their hustle, or lack-there-of.)

The resulting Japanese all-star team was saturated with the star-power of two golden ages of baseball in Japan, the post-war and V-9 eras. The team was centered around the Golden Boy, the rookie Nagashima, who was coming off a Rookie of the Year performance. However, they were stocked full of future Hall of Famers and superstars.

Led by the ever-competing managers, Osamu Mihara and Nobuyasu Mizuhara (whose mythically contentious relationship leads one to believe that there was little consensus on any decisions made during the series, even though they were managing on alternating days), the stars of 1958, all assembled, were a team to rival the 1934 all-star team for skill and legend. The Mainichi Shimbun, who had sponsored the tour, presented an overview in October of the players plucked from both the Central and Pacific Leagues- not too long after the Lions edged out the Giants in that famous Japan Series contest. The teams are listed as follows (players with an [H] are in the Hall of Fame):

Osamu Mihara 60 Lions [H]
Nobuasu Mizuhara 30 Giants [H]

Pacific League:

Kazuhisa Inao Lions [H]
Tadashi Sugiura Hawks [H]
Matsuo Minagawa Hawks
Takao Kajimoto Braves [H]
Tetsuya Yoneda Braves [H]
Atsushi Aramaki Orions [H]
Masayuki Dobashi Flyers
Bill Nishida Flyers
Mamoru Otsu Pearls

Hiromi Wada Lions
Katsuya Nomura Hawks [H]
Takeshi Yamashita Braves

Futoshi Nakanishi Lions [H]
Yasumitsu Toyoda Lions [H]
Kingo Motoyashiki Braves
Roberto Barbon Braves
Takao Katsuragi Orions
Kihachi Enomoto Orions

Kiyoshi Sekiguchi Lions
Shigeo Hasegawa Hawks
Kohei Sugiyama Hawks
Kazuhiro Yamauchi Orions
Takao Yoto Orions
Shoichi Busujima Flyers
Jack Ladra Flyers

Central League:

Motoji Fujita Giants [H]
Sho Horiuchi Giants
Masaaki Koyama Tigers [H]
Hiroomi Oyane Dragons
Toshio Nakayama Dragons
Shoichi Kaneda Swallows [H]
Motoichi Murata Swallows
Noboru Akiyama Whales [H]
Takashi Suzuki Whales

Shigeru Fujio Giants
Atsushi Doi Whales

Tesuji Kawakami Giants [H]
Tatsuro Hirooka Giants [H]
Shigeo Nagashima Giants [H]
Yoshio Yoshida Tigers [H]
Hideshi Miyake Tigers
Noboru Inoue Dragons
Atsushi Hakoda Swallows

Wally Yonamine Giants [H]
Andy Miyamoto Giants
Kenjiro Tamiya Tigers [H]
Atsushi Otsu Tigers
Toru Mori Dragons
Katsuji Morinaga Carp

There are 20 Hall of Famers on that list, but what stands out is all of the talent that has yet to be recognized by the Hall- some of the best players of the 50's. The Mainichi Shimbun preview featured short bios of each of the players to earn a spot on the team. Below is a look at those Pacific League Stars, with help from the Mainichi bios.

The Pacific League- Pitchers

To begin with, most of the pitchers from the Pacific League ended up in the Hall- only Otsu, Nishida, Minagawa and Dobashi remain un-recognized.

Matsuo Minagawa (pictured above) is obviously the most deserving- his lifetime record of 221-139, combined with a 2.42 ERA and 1.06 WHIP are evidence enough. However, he only won 20 games once (albeit with a record of 31-10), and was never recognized with a Sawamura award. The Card's tour was on the heels of his first superstar-like season: the Mainichi reports, A lanky fellow, he joined the Hawks immediately after leaving high school. This season, he ended up with 17 wins, eight losses. The righthander showed his finest pitching against the top teams- a real money player. He is a sidehand pitcher, specializing in terrific shoots.

Those terrific shoots helped earn Minagawa a spot with the aces of the Pacific League squad, and Masayuki Dobashi (left) wasn't far behind. Dobashi, who is described in the paper as the ace of the Flyers pitching staff, was discussed in our Hall of Fame post from earlier this year. The addition of Dobashi makes 7 Hall of Fame or near-hall-of-fame pitchers on the staff of the Pacific League side of the team

St. Louis got off to a good start in the first two games, but it was the the two aces from the Pacific League, Inao and Sugiura, who were able to beat St. Louis, by scores of 6-3 (Inao) and 9-2 (Sugiura) in the third and eighth games, respectively. However, the other fourteen belonged to the Cards (attendance in parentheses, Japan team wins in bold):

Oct. 24 Tokyo 5-2 (25,000)
Oct. 26 Tokyo 8-2 (20,000)
Oct. 27 Sendai 3-6 (25,000)
Oct. 28 Sapporo 9-1 (30,000)
Oct. 30 Nagoya 7-2 (20,000)
Nov. 2 Nishinomiya 6-1 (33,000)
Nov. 3 Osaka 6-3 (50,000)
Nov. 4 Osaka 2-9 (25,000)
Nov. 6 Hiroshima 6-3 (20,000)
Nov. 8 Fukuoka 5-1 (30,000)
Nov. 9 Shimonoseki 7-1 (20,000)
Nov. 12 Shizuoku 8-0 (20,000)
Nov. 13Mito 5-1 (20,000)
Nov. 15 Tokyo 9-2 (20,000)
Nov. 16 Tokyo (a.m.) 8-2 (40,000)
Nov. 16 Tokyo (p.m.) 4-2 (40,000)

The Players

The obvious star (from the Japanese perspective) of the entire 16 game tour came from the Central League- Rookie of the Year and future Mr. Baseball Shigeo Nagashima. However, the year before, though he had been the star of the Big-6 University league, his team captain at Rikkyo had been Kingo Motoyashiki (above, with Minoru Murayama, who would not make his debut until the following season), now the starting shortstop for the Pacific League Braves with a spot on the All-Japan team.

Kingo Motoyashiki was, according to the Mainichi, sold short by most experts before the [1958] season opened. It was a poor prediction. He played in every game of the season for the Braves (the only one in the Pacific League to do so), and tied teammate Chico Barbon for the lead in triples with 10. His .260 average was respectable (helping him to score 49 runs), but it was his glove that really made him valuable. Always regarded as a brilliant fielder, he showed that he can hit in the pinches, too.

Motoyashiki (left) led all shortstops in the Pacific League in every category, and led all infielders in assists with 418. Only Barbon edged him out in putouts for middle infielders- with those two up the middle, the Braves generally were at the top of the league in terms of runs given up. However, they were also usually at the bottom in runs created, and during Motoyoshiki's tenure the team never won a pennant. He would continue to shine for Hankyu, earning two trips to the All-Star game, until 1964, when he moved to the Hanshin Tigers and helped them to the Japan Series. He joined Hall of Famer Yohio Yoshida to form a powerful plug up the middle, as well as add some stability to Hall of Fame Manager Sadayoshi Fujimoto's constant platooning- two changes that brought the Tigers to game seven of the Series, though they lost to MVP Joe Stanka in the end. Motoyoshiki got only three hits, and for the next five seasons saw less and less action. He eventually became a coach and broadcaster.

The other shortstop from the Pacific League was Takao Katsuragi. Nineteen-Fifty-Eight was his breakout season- to quote the Mainichi, One of the biggest news of Japan pro baseball this season has been the amazing performance of this rough and ready performer. At press time he was batting .306 and had slammed out 20 home runs beside showing remarkable improvement in fielding, a weak spot in other years. This year he was the Runs Batted In champion of the league.

Katsuragi (right) had been stellar at 3rd base for the Orions in 1957, leading all third sackers in assists and double plays as well as hitting for the cycle in August, but he was moved to short for the '58 season. Though he held his own in the field, his offense picked up, leading the league in hits and rbi (as he would do again in '59), and he was voted to the Best 9 for the first of two consecutive years. He was a 5 time All-Star, and his 174 lifetime home runs are high on the list for those that spent their careers in the middle infield.

The games were well attended in Japan (a total of 438,000 fans turned out in all) as well as nationally televised. Some of the games were even carried, in a delayed broadcast, on KMOX in St. Louis. Joe Garagiola, former Cards catcher and future Today Show stud, even traveled with the team through Japan taping the games to be broadcast later. However, the good international good feelings were not felt by everyone.

Rob Fitts points out that it was during the tour that Yomiuri Giants president Kazue Shinagawa made an important announcement. "Japanese baseball should be played by Japanese players and we have no intention of signing up new foreign players in the future." The Giants had been the first team to really embrace Gaijin and Nisei players in the post-war era, first with Wally Yonamine, then with Andy Miyamoto and Dick Kashiwaeda. Yonamine and Miyamoto made it on to the '58 team, but they were nearing the end of their careers and soon would be replaced by Shinagawa's idea of 'pure' players.

The rest of the league did not follow suit, and more and more foreign players would find success in Japan, with Joe Stanka becoming the second Gaijin MVP for the Hawks in 1964. One of the early Nisai to go across the sea (the 42nd) was Jack Ladra, who landed in the outfield of the all-star team against the Cardinals.

Ladra (left) was born in Hawaii and went to Fresno State before joining the Flyers in 1958. Like many of his fellow Americans, the Japanese fans were impressed with his aggressiveness and speed, and he finished the season in the top 10 in stolen bases, triples and doubles. His steady play in both the infield and outfield helped the Flyers steadily climb through the Pacific League until, in 1962, they edged out the Hawks for the pennant. Though he did not help out too much at the plate, his presence in the outfield no doubt helped the Flyers to their only Japan Series title. He had set a Pacific League record that year for most defensive chances in a game, his glove having proven to be his weapon of choice for the entire season. He led all Pacific League outfielders in putouts and assists. He was tied for the league lead in triples in '64 and ended his career with 32 in only 2307 at bats, the same rate as all time leader Yutaka Fukumoto.

In the outfield only one of the Pacific League stars, Kazuhiro Yamauchi, made it into the Hall of Fame- all the others wallow in in NPB obscurity. Besides Ladra, who had a decent career in Japan, there were Kiyoshi Sekiguchi (One of the most dependable veterans on the powerful Lions team, he batted .276 and hit 16 home runs this season. Slightly weak against curves, he never lets a good one go by. A 10-year veteran of veterans), Shigeo Hasegawa ( he is one of the heaviest hitters on a heavy hitting nine), and Takao Yato (A former infielder, he was transferred to the outer garden this season with outstanding success, batting .286. Always considered as having infinite promise, he is rapidly rounding into form). But the shining star of that forgotten lot is Shoichi Busujima, the one star from the all-star team that deserves a plaque more than anyone else.

The 1962 Series, that featured both Ladra and Dobashi (who was also MVP of the series), also saw a Game 3 home run by Busujima, who was in the middle of his stellar, almost 20 year career with the Flyers. When he retired in 1971, his 1977 hits (only 23 shy of the magic number of 2000 that would give him entry to the Meikyukai, or Golden Players Club) placed him 6th on the all-time list, only one behind Hall of Famer Tokuji Iida. More importantly, he was the all-time leader in triples- two years earlier he had tied the original Mr. Tiger Masaichi Kaneda for tops on the list, and had passed him by three in 1970.

Though Busujima (above) was eventually passed by stolen base champ Yutaka Fukumoto, he remains second on the triples list with 106. As an outfielder, he was always in the top 5 in putouts and assists, and in '58, though trailing Ladra in most categories, he led all Pacific League outfielders in double plays with 4. To quote the Mainichi in 1958, coming from a famous high school team, he is the outstanding batter of his team, hitting .306 this season. Although not the aggressive type, he is a smart batter able to hit to all fields. An All Star player. Eight times an all-star, that is, with a .381 average in 18 games according to Japan Baseball Daily. Voted to the Best 9 three times, Busujima's career deserves more attention as well as votes towards the Hall.

Of the top five batters in the PL in '58, Busujima was second, Katsuragi third and Kohei Sugiyama fifth. Sugiyama began his career with the Kinnetetsu Pearls, but made his mark with the Hawks. He was a three time all-star in Hankyu, and led the - The traditional Japanese Baseball calendar consists of 130 games, but the Pacific League experimented with a longer schedule during the mid '50s, culminating with a 154 game set in 1956. Sugiyama, one of the few stars to play in every game that season, still owns the record (tied with two others) for games played in a season. He had performed admirably for the Hawks for the first six seasons, hitting .303 with 93 rbi in '56, but in '58 he was the "big hitting star of the Hawks" according to the Mianichi, a medium range batter, noted for his cunning at the plate.

Sugiyama's best seasons were still to come- the greatest of which was 1961, when he finished with a .321 average, a .496 slugging percentage with an OPS of .884. He slugged 15 home runs and led the Hawks to the Japan Series, where he hit one more homer and scattered 5 hits with 3 rbi. Sugiyama was the Mr. October of the Hawks franchise, playing in six different series, with 78 at bats and 20 hits. In fact, after the '61 postseason, he spent two seasons with the Braves (with whom he is pictured at right). During those two Sugiyama-less seasons, the Hawks would finish second in the PL. Upon returning in 1964, he would provide, or provide again, the spark that would lead them to the Series for the next three seasons ('64-'66). Though not the greatest outfielder in the world, Sugiyama held his own each season, occasionally leading the league in double plays and, in 1958, coming in second with a .986 fielding percentage.

During the trip, several of the American pitchers were offered large contracts to stay and pitch in the Japanese league. Phil Paine had pitched a previous stint for the Nishitetsu Lions in '53, where he was one of the first former MLB players to suit up in Japan (his BR page states incorrectly that he was the first, but in a previous post on this blog Leo Kiely was stated as being the first- Kiely's debut for the Orions was on August 8, 1953, according to Japan Baseball Daily, and Paine's was on August 23rd, according to the BR page, making him the second), and had come back to put together a short major and minor league career in the US. 1958 would prove to be Paine's last stint in the show, but he would stick around a few more years in the PCL. He, along with Bill Wight, at the end of a long career himself, declined to stay.

The third Cardinal offered cash to stay was Jim Brosnan, at the beginning of his career as a mildly effective journeyman pitcher. He turned down the offer as well, thinking of his family- it was a good move. His 1959 season would prove excellent fodder for the first real baseball memoir, The Long Season, which laid the groundwork for future controversial 'tell-all's' like Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Brosnan's writing talents were know by the time of his tour of Japan, and he was approached by Bob Creamer of Sports Illustrated to write a series of articles about the goodwill tour. When Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post Dispatch learned of the agreement, he offered Jim 100 dollars each for a series of articles on the same topic.

He wrote, they published, and the teams continued to play. Coming soon in Part II of "Specializing in Terrific Shoots", more on the Brosnan articles and the stars from the Central League.
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