Sad news broke earlier this week - longtime Chunichi Dragons and Nippon-Ham Fighters player Yasunori Ohshima passed away on June 30th after a four year battle with colon cancer. Oshima was the Dragons' third round pick in the 1968 draft out of Nakatsu Technical High School in his hometown of Nakatsu, Oita prefecture. He was originally a pitcher but the Dragons converted him to a fielder during his first season with the team. He made his ichi-gun debut in 1971 and was pretty much up to stay starting in the following season. He spent most of the next few years in a backup and pinch hitter role - he set the record for most pinch hit home runs in a season with seven in 1976 - before finally establishing himself as the Dragons starting third baseman in 1977. He had arguably his best season in 1979, hitting .317 with 36 home runs and 103 RBIs and leading the Central League with 159 hits in 130 games. He hit 36 home runs again in 1983 which led the league that year. He made the All Star team four times during his time with the Dragons - 1977, 1979, 1983 and 1984 - and played in two Nippon Series - 1974 and 1982.
He was traded to the Nippon-Ham Fighters after the 1987 season and was a regular with them for a few years before moving back into a backup and pinch hitter role. He joined the Meikyukai in 1990 when he got his 2000th career hit. He retired after the 1994 season and spent a few years as a baseball commentator on NHK before becoming manager of the Fighters for the 2000 season. He lead the team to a third place finish that season but they dropped to last place for 2001 and only reached fifth in 2002. He was let go after the 2002 season and replaced with Trey Hillman. Ohshima's last stint in uniform was as the batting coach for the 2006 Japanese WBC team.
The earliest known cards of Ohshima are from the 1974-75 Calbee set and he appeared fairly consistently in Calbee sets after that throughout the rest of his career. He also showed up often in Yamakatsu's sets from1976-80 and Takara sets starting in 1979. He also had a card in each of BBM's first four flagship sets. He's appeared fairly regularly in various OB sets from both BBM and Epoch over the last 15 years as well. Here's a handful of his cards:
|1977 Calbee "Grey Back" #170|
|1978 Yamakatsu JY6|
|1980 Calbee "Large" #14|
|1989 Lotte #26|
|1994 BBM #384|
|2001 Upper Deck #141|