TOKYO, Japan-Players Hideki Matsui, Tomoaki Kanemoto and managers Tatsunori Hara, Masao Taki were inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday.
Hideki Matsui (cover pictures by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) was inducted in his first year of eligibility. A Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) superstar (3 times MVP of the Central League and 9 times All Star) while playing for the Yomiuri Giants, he moved to Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2003 and earned a World Series ring in 2009 with the Yankees, together with MVP honors. He played also for the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland A’S and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tomoaki Kanemoto was also in his first year of eligibility. Of Korean descent, he played 11 seasons for Hiroshima Toyo Carp and 10 for the Hanshin Tigers. As a Tiger, he earned Central League MVP Honors in 2005. He is a 10 time All Star and has 476 career home runs. He played 1,492 consecutive games without missing an inning. His streak ended on 18 April, 2010. He is currently managing the Hanshin Tigers.
Only 4 other players were inducted in their first year of eligibility: Victor Starffin (“the blue-eyed Japanese”, he was an ethnic russian), Sadaharu Oh, Hideo Nomo and Kimiyasu Kudo.
Tatsunori Hara narrowly missed selection as a player (he was a gold glove third baseman for the Yomiuri Giants and the 1981 Rookie of the Year) and was inducted in his second year of eligibility as a manager. As their skipper, he led the Giants to 3 Japan Series (2002, 2009 and 2012). As the Samurai Japan Manager he won the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Masao Taki’s induction happened posthumous, since he died in 2012. He was a long-time manager at the High School and University levels. He led Chukyo University to 28 league titles, including 11 in a row.