Sunday, October 6, 2019

RIP Masaichi Kaneda

Masaichi Kaneda, the winningest pitcher in Japanese baseball history, passed away today at age 86.  Kaneda dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the Kokutetsu Swallows midway through their inaugural season in 1950.  He ran off a string of 14 straight seasons where he won 20 games, including two seasons (1958 and 1963) where he won 30.  Of course, the Swallows were terrible during this time so he had six seasons during that same stretch where he LOST 20 games as well.  This isn't to knock him, it's just to show how bad the team he was on was.  It looks like he regularly got into about a third to half of all the Swallows games during this time.  At 18 years and 35 days, he was the youngest pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter when he victimized the Osaka Tigers on September 5th, 1951.  He also threw a perfect game against the Chunichi Dragons on August 21st, 1957.  He struck out Shigeo Nagashima four times in Nagashima's first NPB game in 1958 and struck out Sadaharu Oh twice in Oh's first NPB game the following season.

After 15 seasons with the Swallows he moved to the Yomiuri Giants.  I'm not entirely sure how he moved but it appears to be as a free agent - not that NPB had real free agency at the time.  I suspect it had something to do with Kokutetsu selling the team to Sankei after the 1964 season (although Sankei didn't officially take over the team until the 1965 season had already started).  He couldn't have joined the Giants at a better time - 1965 would be the first of nine straight Central League pennants and Nippon Series Championships for the Giants.  Kaneda's years of overwork with the Swallows caught up with him after he joined the Giants and he developed elbow issues that caused his workload to decrease quite a bit.  Of course, it helped that the Giants had other quality pitchers they could use as well.  He didn't win 20 games in any of his five seasons with the Giants - in fact he only made more than 20 STARTS in one of them (1967, probably his best season with Yomiuri).  He retired after getting his 400th win at the end of the 1969 season.

He lead the Central League in wins three times (1957, 1958 & 1963), ERA three times (1957, 1958 and 1965) and strikeouts 10 times (1951-1953, 1955, 1956, 1958-1960, 1963 and 1964).  He won three Sawamura Awards (1956-58), was named to the Best 9 team three times (1957, 1958 and 1963) and was selected for the All Star team 17 times (1951-1964, 1967-1969).  He holds the record for most career wins (400), loses (298), strikeouts (4490), complete games (365), innings pitched (5,526​2⁄3) and walks (1,808).  He is second only to Victor Starffin on the list of career shut outs (Straffin had 83, Kaneda had 82).  He also hit the most home runs of any pitcher - 36.  The Giants retired his uniform number (34) when he retired (the Swallows did not and it's been used almost every season since he left the team).  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1988.

After retiring Kaneda had two stints managing the Lotte Orions.  The first was from 1973 to 1978.  He led the Orions to victory in the 1974 Nippon Series over the Chunichi Dragons.  He returned to the team for the 1990 and 1991 seasons, the team's last two years in Kawasaki before moving across Tokyo Bay to Chiba and becoming the Chiba Lotte Marines. 

Some trivia about Kaneda - he was ethnically Korean although he became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1959.  He had three younger brothers who played professional baseball although only one of them (Tomehiro) ever played at the top level in NPB.  Tomehiro passed away a year ago this month.  Kaneda founded the Meikyukai in 1978 to honor players born in the Showa Era who had achieved 2000 hits or 200 wins in their NPB career.  He was also featured in a marketing campaign for Subaru in the US in the 1970's.

I thought I'd share a bunch of my cards of Kaneda.  First up a bunch of cards from when he was a player.  These are all from his time with Kokutetsu as his years with the Giants correspond to years between the end of menko in 1964 and Calbee's first year in 1973 where there were very few cards in Japan.

~1950 Uncataloged Menko

1958 Marusan JCM 42

1959 Doyusha Game Set (w/Takao Katsuragi on the left)

1959 Doyusha JCM 30b

1961 Marusan JCM 12c

1963 Marusho JCM 13c

1964 Fujiya Gum
Here's a couple cards from his first stint managing the Orions in the 1970's.  I will point out that there are not as many cards as you might expect of him with Lotte as Calbee resisted featuring Orions personnel at the time since Lotte was (and still is) a rival snack manufacturer.  The Calbee card below is "officially" a Shigeo Nagashima card.

1975 NST #113

1977 Calbee #
Kaneda's appearances in modern card sets had been somewhat random.  He's on my list to do a "Missing In Action" post at some point as he's not appeared in a number of sets that he would have been expected in.  Here's a handful of cards for him that commemorate his no-hitters, his career victory and strikeout records and his number being retired by the Giants:

2012 BBM No-Hitters #23

1994 BBM Perfect Pitching #P4

2013 BBM 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition #93

1995 BBM #326

2001 BBM #534
And here's just another couple random OB cards for him:

2013 "Giants OB Card" SGA card

2014 Epoch Giants V9 Glorious Victory #10
Despite the many sets he didn't show up in, BBM issued a box set dedicated to him in 2009 called "Masaichi Kaneda - Ultimate Southpaw".  It was the third in BBM's "Legend Series" of box sets after sets for Sadaharu Oh and Kazuhiro Kiyohara (who had both retired the previous season) but apparently the sets weren't particularly popular as BBM discontinued the Series after it (although they still did box sets dedicated to single players).  Here's a couple cards from the set - a posed photo when he was with the Swallows, his press conference announcing his signing with the Giants, his retirement ceremony with the Giants on April 2nd, 1970 and being tossed in the air after winning the Nippon Series with Lotte on October 23rd, 1974.  I think that's Giants founder Matsutaro Shoriki on the left on both of his cards with the Giants.

2009 BBM Ultimate Southpaw #07

2009 BBM Ultimate Southpaw #20

2009 BBM Ultimate Southpaw #29

2009 BBM Ultimate Southpaw #32

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