Sunday, March 22, 2015

Card Of The Week March 22

Autographed copies of Rob Fitts' latest book (Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer") are now available from Rob's web site and unautographed versions can be pre-ordered from Amazon (the book goes live next week).  I was looking at Rob's Kickstarter page (for bringing Murakami to the US this summer for a book tour) and I couldn't help but wonder about something - the Nankai Hawks sent three players to the US in 1964 to play in the San Francisco farm system.  Murakami is the only one of the three to play in the majors.  Whatever happened to the other two?

The other two players were Hiroshi Takahashi and Tatsuhiko Tanaka.  While Murakami pitched for Fresno in the Class A California League, Takahashi and Tanaka played for Magic Valley (Idaho) Cowboys of the Rookie Class Pioneer League (curiously it looks like 1964 was the first year that the Pioneer League had a "Rookie" Classification and it looks like it was also the first year it was short season - in 1963 each team played around 127 games but they only played 66 in 1964).*

*FYI - the only future major leaguers on the Magic Valley team were Ken Henderson who had a 16 year career mostly with the Giants, White Sox, and Cubs and Bob Schroder who spent some time with the Giants over four seasons in the mid to late 1960's. 

Both Takahashi and Tanaka returned to Nankai in 1965 (given the controversy over the Giants exercising their option on Murakami, it would have been surprising if Nankai had allowed them to stay in the US).  Their paths diverged pretty quickly after their return to Japan - Tanaka (whose Japanese stats at Baseball Reference don't link to his minor league stats) only appeared in 26 games with the ichi-gun Hawks over two seasons (1965 & 66).  He switched to pitching (and changed his name to Tatsuhiko Yoshikawa) in 1968 but it didn't work out and he retired following the 1969 season (Source:  Japanese Wikipedia).

Takahashi, on the other hand, spent parts of 18 seasons playing at the top level in NPB - first for Nanaki, then for the Toei/Nittaku Home Flyers/Nippon Ham Fighters and finally for the Lotte Orions - before retiring after the 1982 season.  His primary claim to fame is that he was the first player in NPB history to play all nine positions in one game, pulling the stunt on September 29, 1974*  (Source:  Japanese Wikipedia).

*For the record the only other NPB player to play all nine positions in one game was Akihito Igarashi of the Orix Blue Wave on June 3, 2000.

As you might expect, there aren't a whole lot of cards of these two.  In fact, there are no cards that I'm aware of for Tanaka at all.  Takahashi has a grand total of four - two Takara cards from his final two seasons with Lotte in 1981-82, a card in the 2008 BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary set and a card in the 2010 BBM Memory Makers set.  (SportsCardForum.com's Inventory Manager lists a couple cards for him with the Swallows in the mid 00's but that's not the same Hiroshi Takahashi).

Here's the Memory Makers card of Takahashi (#029).  The back mentions the game that he played all nine positions in but I don't know if the picture is from the game - his normal position was catcher.


1 comment:

Anthony Burbatt said...

Takahashi says "eat your heart out, Will Ferrell!"