One chapter in the book was devoted to something I had never known had happened: in 1972 Nagayoshi Nakamura, the owner of the Lotte Orions, bought the Lodi franchise in the Class A California League with the intent to send some players there to play in the US. The team name was changed to the Lodi Orions and would officially be affiliated with the Orioles (they were a San Diego farm team in 1971 and called the Lodi Padres). The team would be managed by Jimmie Schaefer but the team's GM was Ichizo Aoki, who was a longtime scout for the Orions (Obojski describes Aoki as having played the infield for the Hanshin Tigers after being a college star - actually Aoki moved directly into scouting for the then-Osaka Tigers after graduating from Kansai University in 1952 - he was a farm team coach for the Tigers from 1950-52 while still attending college). Lotte sent four players there that season - infielder Yukihiro Ikeda, catcher Masaji Ishizuka and pitchers Junji Nakamura and Masao Sato.
Masao Sato was the only one of the four players to have a long career. He was taken by Lotte in the fifth round of the 1969 draft and debuted with the Orions in 1971. He spent the entire 1972 season in Lodi going 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 29 games. He pitched again for Lotte in 1973 before being traded to the Chunichi Dragons midway through the season. He moved to the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in 1981, returned to Lotte for the 1985 season and retired after 1987.
Yukihiro Ikeda was signed by Lotte outside the draft in 1971. He only played in 19 games with Lodi in 1972 but he hit .317. He appeared in 3 games with the Orions in 1973 and 1974 before retiring.
Masaji Ishizuka had an interesting background - after playing at Nihon University and then Mitsubishi in the industrial leagues, he (like Hidehiko Koga) was a member of the Tokyo Dragons of the ill-fated Global League in 1969. He signed outside the draft with the Yakult Atoms in 1970 (I think he was an ikusei player if they had them at the time) and was released by them at the end of the season. He signed with Lotte before the 1971 season and appeared in 2 games with them that season. He appeared in 24 games with Lodi in 1972 and hit .161. He spent 1973 with Lotte's farm team and retired after that.
Junji Nakamura was a third round pick of the Orions in the 1970 draft. He spent all of 1971 with the Orions farm team and all of 1972 in Lodi, going 5-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 28 games. He retired after the 1972 season without ever having played for the ichi-gun Orions.
The 1972-73 off season was an interesting one for Nakamura. He apparently bought into the Nishitetsu Lions and had to sell his interest in the Orions. The Lodi team must have been owned by him personally because the team was renamed the Lodi Lions for 1973 and stocked with six players from the Nishitetsu Lions (who would be renamed the Taiheiyo Club Lions that season) - infielders Haruki Ihara and Akinobu Mayumi, outfielder Fumio Takahashi, catcher Yoshiharu Wakana and pitchers Akira Kawahara and Keisuke Nakajima.
Akinobu Mayumi is easily the most famous of this group of players. He was the third round pick of the Lions in the fall 1972 draft and debuted with the ichi-gun team in May of 1973. He was sent to Lodi in July and got into 25 games, hitting only .183. By 1978, however, he had established himself as the Lions' star shortstop and was named to the All Star team and the post season Best 9 team for the first time. After the season, however, he was traded to the Hanshin Tigers in a five-player trade that brought Koichi Tabuchi to the Lions (which had just been bought by Seibu). He continued as a star for the Tigers, making the All Star team eight more times and the Best 9 team two more times and winning a batting crown in 1983. He retired following the 1995 season. Mayumi went on to manage the Tigers for three seasons from 2009 to 2011. His best showing was a second place finish in 2010 but the Tigers were swept by the third place Giants in the First Stage of the Climax Series.
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Akira Kawahara had already had five seasons with the Lions under his belt before being sent to Lodi. He was Nishitetsu's first round pick in the fall 1967 draft and was worked pretty hard in those five seasons, appearing in more than 40 games in four of them. He lead the Pacific League in several categories in the early 70's, all of them bad for a pitcher. He lead the league in losses and hit by pitches in both 1970 and 1971 and walks in 1970. He split 1973 between Lodi and the ichi-gun Lions, going 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 games in California and 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in six games back in Japan. After a 5-10 season in 1974 he was traded to the Taiyo Whales for the mentioned Shinichi Etoh. He retired after an injury-marred single season with the Whales in 1975.
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One of the more interesting tidbits of trivia of all this is that the man who Nakamura hired to be the business manager for the Lodi team was Marty Kuehnert. Kuehnert would move to Japan to become the Lions director of sales and promotions and would go onto do a great many things over the next few decades - he opened the first sports bar in Japan; had a consulting firm called International Sports Management and Consulting (ISMAC); hosted a TV sports talk show; wrote columns for the Daily Yomiuri and Japan Times; co-owned the Birmingham Barons of the Class AA Southern League with Suntory in the early 1990's and was the first GM of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2005). He would also play a major role in the creation of the modern Japanese baseball card hobby.
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