Saturday, December 26, 2015

Masahiro Yamamoto

Rounding out the list of players who retired at the end of the 2015 season is Masahiro Yamamoto, long time pitcher for the Chunichi Dragons.  Yamamoto was drafted in the fifth round of the fall 1983 draft - yes, you read that right - 1983.  He debuted with the Dragons in late 1986 but his big break came when the team sent him to play for Vero Beach in the Dodgers organization in 1988.  He went 13-7 with a 2.00 ERA in 25 games in Florida, finishing second in the league in ERA and making the official post-season all star team.  He returned to Japan and moved into the Dragons rotation during the last month of the season, going 5-0 as the Dragons locked up the 1988 Central League pennant.  He topped off his whirlwind of a season by starting (and losing) Game Three of the Nippon Series against the Lions.

He would become a fixture in the Dragons starting rotation for most of the following 20 years, only failing to start at least 20 games three times during that span.  His best seasons came between 1993 and 1997.  Injuries and age started taking their toll on him following the 2008 season as he only made 48 appearances with the ichi-gun Dragons in the seven seasons since then - he missed the 2011 season completely due to an ankle injury.

He lead the league in wins three times (1993, 1994 and 1997), ERA once (1993) and strikeouts once (1997).  He won the Sawamura Award in 1994 and was named to the CL Best 9 team in 1994 and 1997.  He was named to the All Star team in 1989, 1992-94, 1997 and 2004.  He won his 200th game in 2008 which made him eligible for the Meikyukai.  He finished his career with 219 wins and 2310 strikeouts, making him the all time leader in those categories with the Dragons.  He made appearances in five Nippon Series (1988, 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2010), going 0-4 (injuries prevented him from taking part in the 2007 and 2011 Nippon Series).  He became the oldest NPB pitcher to throw a no-hitter which he victimized the Tigers on September 16, 2006.  He set several "oldest" records in the past couple years, including oldest pitcher to get a victory and oldest pitcher to appear in a game.  He was 50 years and 57 days old when he made his final appearance on October 7 of the this year.

Yamamoto's first baseball cards are actually minor league cards from his time at Vero Beach in 1988.  He appears in two sets from Star - the Vero Beach team set and the Florida State League All Stars.

1988 Star Vero Beach Dodgers #26
His first card in Japan was from the 1989 Takara Dragons team set.  His first Calbee card was #64 in the 1990 set and his first BBM card was #67 in their inaugural set in 1991.

I don't have his 1989 card but I have at least one card of his from every year since then:

1990 Calbee #64

1991 Takara Dragons #34

1992 BBM All Stars #A64

1993 BBM #199

1994 BBM #271

1995 BBM #73

1996 BBM #93

1997 BBM All Stars #A43

1998 BBM #525

1999 BBM #71

2000 Konami Field Of 9 #FON00T-033

2001 Upper Deck Victory #008

2002 Calbee #040

2003 Chunichi Sports #34

2004 BBM 1st Version #225

2005 BBM Dragons #D20

2006 Konami Baseball Heroes 2 Black Edition #B06B147

2007 BBM Draft Story #117

2008 BBM 2nd Version #557

2009 BBM 1st Version #473

2010 BBM Nippon Series #S42

2011 BBM 1st Version #170

2012 BBM No-Hitters #79

2013 Calbee #168

2014 BBM Dragons Legends #80

2015 BBM 25th Anniversary #189

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