Friday, January 17, 2014

Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2014

     The Hall of Fame and Museum in Tokyo today announced that  Choichi Aida, Koji Akiyama, Hideo Nomo and Kazuhiro Sasaki were elected to the Hall of Fame as the Class of 2014.
     Akiyama played almost 20 years for the Seibu Lions and Daiei Hawks, compiling  437 home runs and 2157 hits.  He was a superstar in every way, leading the league in multiple hitting categories between 1981 and 2000, winning an MVP and winning almost a dozen gold gloves.  According to Japan Baseball Daily, Akiyama, in the twilight of his career, led off the 1999 Japan Series with a home run less than two months after being hit in the face by a Daisuke Matsusaka fastball. 
     In September, 2008, Sadaharu Oh stepped down as manager of the Softbank Hawks, ending his illustrius 50 year career in baseball, and handed over the reigns to his head coach, Koji Akiyama.  Still the manager of Hawks, Akiyama has guided them to one Pacific League pennant so far, and now joins his former boss as a Hall of Famer.
     Kazuhiro Sasaki and Hideo Nomo were both dominant pitchers in the Central and Pacific Leagues in Japan, the former a reliever and the latter a starter, before moving on to successful stints in the MLB.  Sasaki compiled 252 saves in Japan as well as 129 in the MLB, winning both an MVP (in Japan) and Rookie of the Year (for the Mariners, at age 37). 
Nomo became the first Japanese player to move to the MLB since Masanori Murakami played with the San Francisco Giants in 1964.  Murakami also made it on to the ballot for the first time, and in a fitting combination of firsts, Nomo, on the Japanese ballot for the first time, was also the first Japanese born player to appear on the US Hall of Fame ballot.  And, unlike so many before him, Nomo was elected on his first try.  Nomo's success (a 123-109 record in the MLB to go along with 78 wins and 1200 strikeouts with the Buffaloes in the Pacific League) paved the way for Sasaki, Ichiro, Matsui and others to excel on both sides of the Pacific. 
     Rounding out the group is Aida, a legend in Tokyo Big 6 baseball and a key figure in the amateur baseball system in Japan that allowed for all of the players listed above to become successful pros.  More to come on those who didn't make it in....


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