Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yutaka Enatsu

I was on Twitter last night and I saw a tweet from @thehanshintiger mentioning that it was Yutaka Enatsu's 70th birthday.  I was a little disappointed because I didn't think I'd be able to do a post about it but then I realized his birthday was the 15th and it was still the 14th for me.  So now it's the 15th for me and I can still do the post (and we'll ignore the fact that it's now the 16th in Japan...).

Enatsu is a fascinating character.  He was the first round pick of the Tigers in the 1966 draft and was a star starting pitcher for them for a number of years.  He was traded to the Nankai Hawks after the 1975 season after some poor years with Hanshin and Nankai manager Katsuya Nomura converted him to a relief pitcher.  He got sold to the Carp after the Hawks fired Nomura after 1977 and excelled in a relief role for them.  He won the Central League MVP in 1979 when the Carp won the first of two consecutive Nippon Series over the Kintetsu Buffaloes (that's not meant to be ambiguous - the Carp beat the Buffaloes in both the 1979 and 1980 Nippon Series).  He got traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters after 1980 and led them to the Pacific League pennant in 1981 - their first since 1962.  He was named PL MVP that year, becoming the first player to ever be named MVP in both leagues.  He finished his NPB career with the Seibu Lions in 1984 and then wrangled a invitation to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1985.  He retired after not making the team.

Enatsu's career had many ups and downs.  He holds the single season strikeout record in NPB with 401 in 1968.  He combined with a couple other pitchers to throw a no-hitter in one of the All Star games in 1971 (in which he struck out all nine batters that he faced) and had the ultimate DIY performance ever by a pitcher when he threw 11 no-hit innings against the Chunichi Dragons in 1973 and hit a solo home run to win the game in the bottom of the 11th.  On the downside he was involved in the "Black Mist" scandal in the late 60's/early 70's although he was not suspended.  He was arrested for possession of stimulants in the 1990's and served several years in jail.  I believe that he renounced his meikyukai membership after he went to jail but I haven't found a reference for that.  He has not been elected to the Hall Of Fame.  (I heavily referenced the biography of Enatsu on @thehanshintiger's blog for this post.)

Here's a variety of cards from Enatsu, both from when he was playing and from OB cards after he retired.  He's a bit unpredictable in appearing in OB sets.  He hasn't appeared in a BBM one since 2013 but he's shown up in several Epoch sets since then.

2004 BBM Tigers70th Anniversary #73

1975/76 Calbee #196

1976 Yamakatsu JY1

2004 BBM Golden Arms #035

1978 Yamakatsu JY6

2015 Epoch Red Helmet 40th Anniversary #34

1981 Calbee #375

2003 BBM Fighters #107

1984 Calbee #78

2010 BBM The Premium Malts #04

7 comments:

Sean said...

He is a fascinating character.

I noticed that his cards from the 1975-76 Calbee set are among the most expensive, SCM lists "common" Enatsu cards at 3 times higher than what common Sadaharu Oh cards go for. I guess that is a testament to his popularity!

T-Ray said...

Fabulous. And thanks for referencing my blog!

SumoMenkoMan said...

Did he ever get a 1967 Kabaya-Leaf card? Interesting read...I want to go find out more about this "black mist" scandal you mentioned.

NPB Card Guy said...

@T-Ray - Thanks! Your biography of him was very helpful. Also thanks for the tweet that alerted me to his birthday!

@SumoMenoMan - He didn't have a card in the Kabaya-Leaf set. His first cataloged card is that great posed portrait of him and Koichi Tabuchi from the 1973 Calbee set. There's a good write up on the "Black Mist" Scandal on Wikipedia.

Alex Potts said...

There's also a baby-faced Enatsu in the 1968 Shonen Book Trump set (one of the coolest 60s sets, I think)! That whole Black Mist Scandal seems so ripe for a real quality book.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Alex - Ahh, that's what I get for not looking it up! Thanks for the information!

SumoMenkoMan said...

Great info!