The ballot for the 2016 Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame election was released on December 1, and it includes nine new candidates for the Player division, as well as four new candidates for the Expert division. Along with the returning candidates, the new names on the Expert ballot include Ise Takao, Akio Saito, Takeshi Yamaguchi, and Akinobu Okada (right).
Okada may be best known as the former pennant winning manager of the Hanshin Tigers, but his playing career included a Koshien Tournament, Rookie of the Year award and Japan Series title. A star in the Tokyo Big Six with Waseda, he was drafted in the first round by the Tigers, where his skill with bat and glove caused new manager Don Blasingham trouble when he didn't immediately start the star rookie. Blasingham and fellow Gaijin Dave Hilton were let go, and Okada fulfilled expectations, fielding well at 2nd base while hitting 18 homers. He was part of the miracle 1985 Tigers team that took the Series for the first time in franchise history, playing alongside fellow 2016 candidate Randy Bass, whose presence contributed to the Curse of the Colonel. After several successful seasons with Hanshin, Okada finished out his career playing alongside Ichiro during his breakout season in 1994 on the Blue Wave, where he would eventually coach, then manage. First, however, he would return to the Tigers to lead them into the post season several times, including nearly winning it all in the 2005 Nippon Series.
The new Players division candidates include Naoyuki Omura, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Makoto Kosaka, Kazumi Saito, Shingo Takatsu, Koichi Hori, Arihito Murmatsu, Akihiro Yano, and Keeichi Yabu.
Kimiyau Kudo (left), a member of the Meikyukai as a pitcher, won it all last year in his first season as manager of the Softbank Hawks. After pitching a no-hitter in his only Koshien appearance, Kudoh signed with the Lions as a sixth round pick instead of his first choice, which was to play in the industrial leagues. Though not much of a hitter, Kudoh was a pro pitcher from 1982 through 2009, finishing his career 7th all time in strike outs, and becoming the first pitcher since Bozo Wakabayashi to win at least 20 games after his 41st birthday. However, in 27 pro seasons he never won a Sawamura Award. He pitched on 11 Series champions, earning MVP honors twice.
Yakyu Baka's post on the ballot announcement includes the number of votes each candidate received last year. On the Players ballot last year, only Masaki Saito came close to election, with Kazuyoshi Tatsunami a distant runner up. Kihachi Enomoto and Masaji Hiramatsu led the Expert ballot for most votes without election. ANAFN favorite Masayuki Dobashi took a dip last year, with only 19 votes.
The ballot results will be announced on Monday, January 18th, 2016.