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50 years ago today, Yutaka Enatsu of the Hanshin Tigers was the starting pitcher for the Central League in Game One of the 1971 NPB All Star Series in Nishinomiya Stadium, home of the Hankyu Braves. This was his eighth appearance in an All Star game but just his second ever start. In his previous start, Game 2 of the 1970 Series, he pitched three innings and gave up a run on three hits and a walk. He struck out eight batters, including the last five that he faced. He got the win as well as the MVP Award for the game.
The Pacific League’s starting pitcher Tetsuya Yoneda of the Hankyu Braves had retired the Central League in order in the top half of the first so the game was scoreless as Enatsu took the mound in the bottom of the inning. Michio Arito from the Lotte Orions was the first batter. Enatsu struck him out on five pitches. Next up was Mitsuo Motoi of the Nishitetsu Lions. Enatsu struck him out on five pitches as well. The third batter was Atsushi Nagaike of the Braves. Enatsu only needed four pitches to dispatch the player who would win the Pacific League MVP that year as well, striking out the side on 14 pitches.
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Yoneda ran into issues in the top of the second. He issued back-to-back walks to Shigeo Nagashima of the Yomiuri Giants and Dave Roberts of the Yakult Atoms. It looked like he might escape without any damage though when he struck out Koichi Tabuchi of the Tigers and got Kenichi Yazawa of the Chunichi Dragons to fly out to right field. But Shiro Takegami of the Atoms hit a single which brought Nagashima in with the first run of the game. This brought Enatsu up with two on and two out. Enatsu hit a shot to right field that carried into the stands for a three run home run before Shigeru Takada grounded out to end both the inning and Yoneda’s evening.
With a 4-0 lead, Enatsu took the mound again for the bottom of the second. The first batter was the PL’s cleanup hitter, Shinichi Eto, a batter he was familiar with from Eto’s time with the Chunichi Dragons. Eto would lead the Pacific League in batting in 1971 but Enatsu struck him out on five pitches. Masahiro Doi of the Kintetsu Buffaloes was next and went down quickly on three strikes. The Lions’ Masayoshi Higashida followed and extended his at bat to six pitches before Enatsu struck him out as well. Just like the first inning, Enatsu struck out the side in the second on 14 pitches.
Keishi Suzuki of the Buffaloes came into pitch for the PL in the top of third. PL manager Wataru Nonin of the Lotte Orions pulled a double switch, having Suzuki replace Eto in the cleanup spot in the lineup with Hideji Kato of the Braves taking over at first and going into Yoneda’s ninth spot. Suzuki held the CL scoreless in the inning, despite giving up a double to Nagashima.
Hankyu’s Toshizo Sakamoto was the first batter in the bottom of the third. Like Higashide, he extended his at bat to six pitches before striking out. Enatsu retired the next batter, Koji Okumura of Hankyu, on three strikes before completing his evening by striking Kato out on four pitches. He again had struck out the side, this time on 13 pitches. He’d faced nine batters and struck all nine out.
Suzuki gave up a single to Tabuchi to lead off the top of the fourth but then proceeded to show the crowd of 28,160 that Pacific League pitchers could strike out batters as well. He struck out in succession Yazawa, Takegami and Yukinobu Kuroe of the Giants who was pinch hitting for Enatsu to get out of the inning unscathed.
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The new Central League pitcher was Hidetake Watanabe from Yomiuri but the Pacific League’s luck did not improve. Watanabe struck out Arito for the tenth straight strikeout of a PL batter before Motoi finally put a ball in play. Unfortunately for him and his team, it was groundout to Takagami at second for the second out of the inning. Nagaike followed with a flyout to Roberts in right and the PL went down in order for the fourth time in four innings.
Suzuki got his fourth straight strikeout by retiring Yomiuri’s Shigeru Takada to lead off the top of the fifth. It was his fifth overall as he had struck out Sadaharu Oh of the Giants in the third. He went on to get Taira Fujita of the Tigers to ground out and Oh to fly out to retire the side in order.
With Suzuki due to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Nonin went to his bench for a pinch hitter and selected perhaps the most unlikely All Star on his roster. Kohei Shimamoto was a 19 year old rookie with the Nankai Hawks. He’d been the ace pitcher and cleanup hitter for Minoshima High School and had led them to victory in the 1970 Spring Koshien tournament. The school also played in the Summer Koshien tournament a few months later but was knocked out in the second round. He was regarded highly enough to be Nankai’s first pick in the 1970 draft and popular enough that he was elected to the All Star team despite barely playing for the Hawks’ ichi-gun squad. He would only get into seven games all season and had just two hits in eight at bats - although those two hits were a pair of solo home runs in one game against the Buffaloes. He spent most of his time with Nankai on their farm team before getting traded to Kintetsu in the middle of the 1975 season with whom he had some decent years later on (and made the All Star team two more times).
Shimamoto fared no better than the rest of his team this evening as Watanabe struck him out to start the inning. He was the eleventh PL batter to strike out. Doi became the twelfth one to strike out for the second out in the inning. Higashide then hit a ground ball to Takegami at second who was unable to make the play on him. The PL had their first base runner of the evening on an error but left him stranded at first when Sakamoto popped out to Takegami to end the inning.
The new Pacific League pitcher was Koji Ohta of the Buffaloes. He had little trouble with the Central League in the top of the sixth, retiring Nagashima on a ground out and striking out Roberts before issuing a walk to pinch hitter Isao Shibata from the Giants. Shibata stole second but Akihiko Ohya of Yakult flew out to end the inning.
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In the bottom of the sixth, Watanabe gave way to his Giants teammate Kazumi Takahashi. Takahashi got pinch hitter George Altman to ground out to first for the first out but then gave up a walk to Katsuya Nomura, only the PL’s second base runner in the game. But again the runner was left stranded when Hiroshi Takahashi of the Hawks, pinch hitting for Arito, grounded out to shortstop for the second out and Motoi flew out to left to finish the inning. The positive thing for the Pacific League was that this was the first inning of the game in which no PL batter struck out.
Yasuhiro Kunisada of the Carp led off in the top of the seventh by singling off of Ohta. Kunio Fukutomi of the Atoms pinch hit for Takahashi and struck out. Ohta then got Takada to fly out for the second out but Fujita hit a double to bring in Kunisada with the fifth run of the game. The Carp’s Sachio Kinugasa then pinch hit for Oh and flew out to left field for the final out.
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The next pitcher for the Central League was Hisanobu Mizutani from the Chunichi Dragons. He retired the only batter he faced - Nagaike - on a ground ball back to the pitcher.
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Mizutani then gave way to the Taiyo Whale’s Tadakatsu Kotani. Kotani finished the seventh inning by striking out both pinch hitter Takenori Ikebe from Lotte and Doi - it was Doi’s third strikeout of the game.
The new Pacific League pitcher was another rookie, Yasuo Minagawa from the Toei Flyers. He had an uneventful top of the eighth inning, retiring Makoto Matsubara of the Whales, Jitsuo Mizutani of the Carp and Shibata in order. Similarly, Kotani retired the Pacific League in order in the bottom of the eighth, getting Higashide and Sakamoto to line out to second and striking out Takeo Daigo of the Orions.
Lotte’s Choji Murata was the next pitcher for the PL. He pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, just giving up a walk to Kunisada.
Nomura led off the bottom of the ninth and went down on strikes for the first out. Kotani then got Takahashi to pop out to the second baseman Kunisada. Isao Harimoto of the Flyers came in as a pinch hitter for Motoi and lined out to shortstop Fujita for the final out of the Central League’s 5-0 victory.
The five Central League pitchers had combined to no-hit the Pacific League All Stars. They combined for 16 total strikeouts - nine from Enatsu, three from Takahashi and four from Kotani. It will probably come as no surprise that after striking out all nine batters he faced AND hitting a three run home run, Enatsu was named MVP of the game.
Here's a brief video clip showing some of Enatsu's performance. This includes the strikeouts of Nagaike, Eto, Doi and Kato as well as his three run home run:
Enatsu's next All Star appearance would come three days later in Game Three of the 1971 games. He entered the game at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo in the sixth inning and struck out the first batter he faced, Shinichi Eto. That ran his streak of consecutive strikeouts in an All Star game to 15, going back to Game Two from 1970. Nomura then broke the streak by grounding out. Enatsu would strike out the side in the seventh inning, giving him 13 strikeouts in five innings pitched in the 1971 All Star games. Since he gave up no hits and walked no one in those five innings, he struck out 13 of the 15 batters he faced.
The Pacific League may have gotten no-hit but they had the last laugh as they beat the Central League in both Game Two and Game Three to win the All Star series.
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