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Latham's 1998 Guide to Japanese Baseball...
Yakult Swallows logoThe Yakult Swallows Home Plate1997 Japan Series Champions
Past Hawks Stars

Daiei (Japanese character)Because several of their all-time greatest stars played in the 1950s and 1960s, the Hawks were a dominant team in the Pacific League's first two decades.

Kazuto Tsuruoka (aka Kazuto Yamamoto c.1946-1958): A fairly decent player in his eight professional years with the Nankai franchise (1939, '46-52), Tsuruoka was probably elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame on the merit of his managing record.

Managing a record twenty-three consecutive seasons for a single team (1946-68), Tsuruoka led Nankai to two league championships and nine pennants. As Nankai skipper, he compiled a lifetime record of 1,807 wins and 1,158 losses (a .609 percentage).

Incidentally, Tsuruoka apparently changed names twice in his life. Leading the league with 10 homers in 1939, most record books list his home run crown under the name Kazuto Tsuruoka. Leaving the game during the war and returning to Nankai (then known as Kinki Great Ring) as player/manager in 1946, he won the league RBI title under the name Kazuto Yamamoto. No longer a player, the Hawks manager changed his name back to Tsuruoka after the 1958 season.

Retiring as a player in 1952 (with a career .295 average and 143 stolen bases) while still known as Yamamoto, most record books list his lifetime batting record under that name. Joining the Hall of Fame in 1965 and retiring as manager in 1968, however, while known as Kazuto Tsuruoka, most references to him as manager use that name.

Takehiko (Akita) Bessho: Although probably better know for the twelve years he played with the Yomiuri Giants (1949-1960), Takehiko Bessho pitched his first five seasons (1942-43, 46-48) with the Nankai franchise.

Leading the team to a league championship in 1947, Bessho won the first Sawamura Award with a 30-19 record, 191 strikeouts, and 1.86 ERA. Not relying on fastballs, Bessho survived that season after pitching in 55 games, completing 47 of them, for an amazing 448 1/3 innings.

On May 26, 1943, Bessho no-hit Daiwa (the team disbanded at the end of the season) while surrendering two walks and striking out seven.

Like Kazuto Tsuruoka (see above), Bessho changed his name midway through his career. Known as Akita Bessho when he won the 1947 Sawamura Award, he received the same honor in 1955 under the name Takehiko Bessho.

Katsuya Nomura: Currently the highly successful manager of the Yakult Swallows, five-time MVP Katsuya Nomura played from 1954 to 1980. The all-star catcher for the Hawks owns the career record for games played (3,017). Holding the Pacific League record with 657 lifetime home runs, only Giants slugger Sadaharu Oh has hit more. Nomura also places second with both 2,901 career hits and 1,988 RBIs.

Serving as the Hawks' main catcher from 1954 to 1977, Nomura played on seven Nankai championship teams, helping the club win two Japan Series titles. A five-time MVP, Nomura won the triple crown for batting in 1965, earned eight-straight home run crowns (1961-68) and six-straight RBI titles (1962-67).

From 1970-77, he also managed the team, leading the Hawks to one Pacific League pennant in 1973 while compiling a respectable record of 513 wins and 472 ties (a .521 percentage) as skipper.

Allegedly because his marital problems were gaining tabloid headlines (read Jim Allen's 1997 Guide to Japanese Baseball, page 97, for more details), the Hawks released Nomura after batting .213 in 1977. The catcher played three more seasons with Lotte and Seibu before retiring. Nomura was elected to Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, and has managed the Yakult Swallows to four pennants and three Japan Series titles since 1990.

Mutsuo Minagawa: Probably the most successful Nankai pitcher of all-time, Mutsuo Minagawa played his entire career with the Hawks from 1954-1971. Earning a lifetime 2.42 ERA with a 221-139 record (fourteenth on the all-time wins list), the right-handed pitcher played on six pennant-winning Nankai teams.

Tadashi Sugiura: Though perhaps not as successful in the long run as teammate Mutsuo Minagawa, Tadashi Sugiura burned more brightly for a shorter period of time.

Pitching for the Hawks from 1958-1970, the right-hander earned the MVP his sophomore year while leading the league with 38 wins, a 1.40 ERA and 336 strikeouts. That season, Sugiura pitched more than 370 innings.

The heavy workload enabled Sugiura to be very successful in his first few years, but probably caused his arm to burn out at an early age. In his first four seasons, the young pitcher earned 116 wins (an average of 29 a year), while in his remaining nine years he only won 71 games (roughly eight wins per season).

A perfect example of a good young pitcher ruined by overwork, Sugiura finally retired in 1970 with a career 187-106 record and a 2.39 ERA.

Joe Stanka: Earning the 1964 Pacific League MVP with a 26-7 record and 2.40 ERA, Joe Stanka led the Hawks to a second straight pennant and a Japan Series championship. It was the former Chicago White Sox hurler's finest year. Playing for Nankai from 1960 to 1965, Stanka pitched one final season for the Taiyo Whales in 1966 before finishing his career at age thirty-five. While in Japan, the Oklahoma native earned a lifetime 100-72 record with 887 strikeouts and a 3.03 ERA.

Hiromitsu Kadota: One of Japan's best sluggers, Hiromitsu Kadota hit 567 home runs (third on the all time list) from 1970-92.

Except for three seasons with Orix (1989-91), the outfielder played his first and last years with the Hawks, belting 503 home runs for the team. In his twenty-year career, the future Hall of Famer also batted .298 with 1,678 RBIs.

Earning his only MVP in 1988, Kadota led the Pacific League with 44 home runs and 125 RBIs. It was the aging player's finest season.

Fukuoka Daiei Hawks
Past Stars
1998 Outlook
Links: Turning the page . . .
Introduction: Popular, with an explosive line-up, the Hawks have represented Fukuoka since 1989.
Players: Kimiyasu Kudo, Hiroki Kokubo, Koji Akiyama, Luis Lopez, and other Hawks players.
Past Stars: (This page) PL home run king Katsuya Nomura and other past Hawks stars.
History: The most important events in Hawks history, including the "Curse of Nomura"
Manager: Home run King Sadaharu Oh brings prestige to the Hawks, but little else.
Ballpark: Without the removable lid, Fukuoka Dome would rank as Japan's dullest ballpark.
1998 Outlook: All-bats, no-arms, the Hawks have a great offense but the PL's worst pitching staff..
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