Sunday, October 25, 2015

Western Managers In NPB

With Alex Ramirez being named manager of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars last week, NPB has its first Western manager since 2010.  I thought I'd quickly do a run down of the seven Westerners who previously have managed in Japan.

The first Westerner to manage in Japan was Joe Lutz*.  Lutz had been hitting coach for the Carp in 1974 and moved into the managerial job in 1975.  He only lasted 15 games, however, before resigning due to some difficulties with the umpires.  The Carp went on to win their first Central League pennant that year under new manager Takeshi Koba.  This is the only card I know of depicting Lutz with the Carp and it shows him as hitting coach in 1974:

1974 Broder Carp #64
*I want to clarify something here quickly - Lutz was the first Westerner to manage in Japan but he was not the first American - Wally Yonamine became manager of the Dragons in 1972.  Yonamine was a second generation Japanese-American (nisei) born in Hawaii.

The next Westerner to manage in Japan was Don Blasingame*.  Blasingame (aka "Blazer") had played for the Nankai Hawks for a few years in the late 60's and was head coach for Katsuya Nomura when Nomura was player-manager for the Hawks in the 1970's.  He left the Hawks when Nomura was fired following the 1977 season and spent 1978 as a coach for the Carp.  The Tigers hired him to manage their team in 1979.  He resigned 26 games into the 1980 season after a dispute about playing time between Dave Hilton and Akinobu Okada.  He was then picked up by Nankai and managed the Hawks for the 1981-82 seasons.

1979 TCMA #80

2013 BBM Hawks 75th Anniversary #31
*One odd little tid-bit of historical trivia is that the second Western manager in NPB history was very nearly Leo Durocher.  Durocher was hired to manage the Taiheiyo Club Lions in 1976 but he resigned due to health reasons before the season began.  

The next Western manager was Bobby Valentine, who was hired by the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995.  Valentine had a very successful year, leading the Marines to a second place finish which was their highest finish in ten years, but was let go at the end of the season due to some front office intrigue.  He returned to the Marines in 2004 (after having managed the Mets from 1996 to 2002) and lead them to a Nippon Series championship in 2005.  He was the first Western manager to win a Nippon Series* and the only manager to ever lead a team to both the World Series and the Nippon Series.  He was fired by Lotte following the 2009 season, again for reasons involving front office intrigue.

2005 BBM Nippon Series #01
*He was not the first American manager to lead a team to the Nippon Series - the afore-mentioned Wally Yonamine lead the Dragons to the Series in 1974 before losing to the Lotte Orions.

Trey Hillman became the fourth Westerner to manage in Japan when he was hired by the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2003.  He lead the Fighers to back-to-back Nippon Series appearances against the Dragons in 2006 and 2007 - winning it all in 2006.  He resigned following the 2007 season to become manager of the Kansas City Royals.

2006 BBM Nippon Series #S01
Leon Lee spent 10 years playing in Japan for Lotte, Taiyo and Yakult between 1978 and 1987.  He was hired by the Orix Blue Wave as hitting coach for the 2003 season.  When Orix fired manager Hiromichi Ishige a month into the season, they named Lee manager.  He managed the team the remainder of the season but the team brought in Haruki Ihara to manage for the 2004 season and Lee returned to the US.

2003 BBM 2nd Version #774
31 years after hiring Joe Lutz, the Carp hired their second Western manager - Marty Brown, who had played three seasons with the Carp in the early 1990's.  Brown managed the team for four seasons from 2006 to 2009 and had one fourth place finish to go with three fifth place finishes.  After being let go by the Carp, he was hired by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the 2010 season.  He was fired after he finished last in his one season with the team.

2007 BBM 1st Version #145

2010 BBM 1st Version #253
The seventh and final (until Rami-chan) Western manager in NPB was Terry Collins.  Collins was hired by Orix prior to the 2007 season.  He resigned abruptly during the 2008 season due to a dispute with the team's front office.  He managed the Chinese team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic before being hired by the Mets organization in 2010 and becoming the team's manager for the 2011 season.

2007 BBM Rookie Edition #113


Ralph said...

I believe the first American to manage in Japan was Chikayoshi Honda, for the 1941/2 Nagoya team (later became the Dragons). His two year record was 40 and 59. The second American to manage was Henry "Bozo" Wakabayashi for the Tigers from 1942-49, then the Orions for 1953. Bozo's record was 390 and 324 with 26 ties. Bozo was the first American to manage in the modern two-league era. Both men were second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) from Hawaii.

NPB Card Guy said...

Thanks Ralph! I should have thought of Wakabayashi.