Monday, September 26, 2022

RIP Masaaki Ikenaga

Former Nishitetsu Lions pitcher Masaaki Ikenaga passed away from cancer yesterday at age 76.  Ikenaga was a stand out pitcher for the Lions in the late 60's, with three 20 win seasons in his first four seasons but he is better known as one of the players who was banned for life for his participation in the "Black Mist Scandal" in 1970.  He is the only player of the nine who were banned who was ever reinstated - in fact he may be the only one of the players who attempted to be reinstated.  His reinstatement occurred in April of 2005, just after NPB passed a rule allowing banned players to petition for reinstatement.  (If this all sounds familiar, I just did posts about Ikenaga and the other banned players a few months ago.)

He was the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year in 1965, led the league in victories in 1967 and made the All Star team in each of the five full seasons he played (1965-69).  All before being banned at the age of 23.  After his reinstatement he was a baseball commentator both on the radio and in "Shukan Baseball" as well as a coach of the corporate league team Yamaguchi Hofu Baseball Club.

Ikenaga's career falls squarely in the empty time period between the end of menko in 1964 and the start of Calbee in 1973 where there were very few Japanese baseball cards produced.  As a result, there are only two known cards of him from his playing days:

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #353

1968 Shonen Book

(Note - I don't have the Kabaya-Leaf card - I swiped the image from the Trading Card Database.)

Ikenaga had several cards after he was reinstated.  The first of these commemorated him throwing out the first pitch at a Hawks game about two weeks after his reinstatement:

2005 BBM 2nd Version #815

The other cards came in various OB sets from both BBM and Epoch.  These are all that I have although I suspect there are others from some of Epoch's ultra high-end sets:

2008 BBM Lions Classic #11

2008 BBM Lions Memorial #16

2009 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation 15th Anniversary #69

2010 BBM Lions 60th Anniversary #19

2011 BBM Hometown Heroes #055

2013 Epoch Japan Baseball Promotion Association Rookie Of The Year #24

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