The undisputed, all-time Japanese baseball home run
leader is, of course, Sadaharu Oh, who dominate professional Japanese
record books with his 868 total round-trippers…including many grand
as "Sayonara" home runs.Click to
view a video highlighting Mr.
Oh's landmark home runs.
As of the end of the 2010
season, there were eight
players who hit more than 500 home runs during their Japanese league
Sadaharu Oh “The Japanese Babe Ruth”
Japanese baseball player of all-time, Sadaharu Oh compiled a .301
lifetime average while setting records for home runs (868) and RBIs
1,967 and winning two consecutive triple crowns in 1973 and 1974. In 22
seasons, from 1959-80, he was a nine-time Most Valuable Player. Oh also
holds the Japanese single-season home run record (55 in 1964).
Oh was famous for the unique batting stance, which was designed
for him by Tokyo Giants’ hitting coach Hiroshi Arakawa in 1962. The
Giants' hitting coach, Arakawa was also a swordsman of some repute. He
taught Oh to hit using principles applied by swordsmen. It involved Oh
raising his leg toward the plate but required tremendous practice and
discipline to perfect.
Don’t forget that Japanese pitchers of Oh’s time didn’t throw as
hard as U.S. major leaguers. That means Oh was generating more of his
own power to propel the balls that far than he would have to against
major league pitching.
Oh wasn’t blooping fly balls over short fences, either. 191 of
Oh’s homers were hit 394 feet or more, which would have put them out
over the fence in straightaway right in almost every major league park
of Oh’s time, much less down the right field line. Another 286 were hit
361-393 feet, which means many to straightaway right would have gone
out, and virtually all down the right field line would have been out of
every major league park. Another 289 would have gone out of most major
league parks if they had been pulled to the right field corner (361-393
feet). Only 102 were less than 328 feet, and even a few of those would
have gone out down the right field line in some major league parks, like
The dispute waged over what kind of success Oh would have had in
the United States, but major leaguers who toured Japan for exhibition
games in the '60s and '70s felt he would certainly have been a major
star in the US, despite pitching that was likely much better here.
Oh ended his career with 868 homers in 22 seasons. Unlike Aaron,
he became a big league manager, taking over his former team, the Giants
when the 1980 season began. He continues to be one of the most
influential and popular figures in Japanese baseball. In 2006 Oh
solidified his legendary status by leading his Japanese national team to
the first ever championship in The World Baseball Classic (see Oh World
The greatest catcher in the history of Japanese baseball, Nomura
holds the world record for most games played by a catcher with 2918 over
his 27 year career; he also has hit more home runs than any catcher in
history with 657 (a total that ranks second to Sadaharu Oh in Japan).
Nomura won nine home run championships (8 in a row), six consecutive RBI
titles, and one batting average title. That came in 1965 when he won
the Triple Crown with 42 homers, 110 RBIs, and a .320 batting average.
He retired in 1980 and is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of
In 1971, his 2nd year at the Nankai Hawks, he batted third and
achieved a splendid record:.300 BA, 31 HR, and 120 RBI (1st in the P.L.)
Though the powerful hitter was sidelined with a severed Achilles tendon
in 1979, he made a comeback in 1980 with 41 HR and in the following
year he was a co-leader in home runs with 44. He was the solo leader in
HR in 1983 with 40. His best year was 1988 when he appeared in all of
the games batting .311 and led the P.L. in RBI (125) and HR (44). This
was the best performance for a player aged 40 or more, and he deservedly
won the MVP and the Shoriki Award. He also played for the Orix BlueWave
(1989-90) and the Daiei Hawks (1991-92).
His career record: 23 seasons (outfielder, DH), 2,571 games, 8,868
AB, 2,566 H, 1,678 RBI, 567 HR (the 3rd in career record, following Oh
and Nomura), and .289 BA. He has the P.L. record in most career BB
(1,273), most season bases-loaded HR (4; 1983) and most BB in a game (5;
1988), and led in OBA in 1981, ’87, and ’88. He appeared 14 times in
the All-Star Games and 7 times in the Best Nine and 8 times in the Top
Ten in BA. He throws and bats left.
Hiromitsu Kadota ranks 3rd all-time in Nippon Pro Baseball in home
runs (567), behind only Sadaharu Oh and Katsuya Nomura. His 11 grand
slams are tied for 6th. He is 12th with 383 doubles, 4th with 2,566
hits, 3rd with 1,678 RBI, 8th with 1,319 runs, 4th with 4,688 total
bases, 4th with 1,273 walks (the all-time Pacific League leader) and 6th
with 2,571 games. He hit 133 homers after his 40th birthday. Kadota's
career line in NPB was .289/.379/.529. He made 14 All-Star teams.
In 1979 he severed his Achilles tendon and the next year saw three
changes - he moved to DH, changed his uniform number to 44 to honor his
mother (who had just died at 44) and his production improved
drastically. He went from a good hitter to a great one, homering 40 or
more times 3 of the next 4 seasons and slugging over .600 the same 3
years. He won HR, walk and slugging crowns in 1981 and 1983 and an OBP
title in 1981 (.434). He made Best Nine in '81 and '83. In '81, he
homered 16 times in July, setting a new record for long balls in a
month. In '83, he hit 4 grand slams, a Pacific League record.
Yamamoto holds the Japanese All-Star game record with 14 homers. A
career .290/.381/.542 hitter, he retired third all-time with 536 homers
- he is now 4th behind Sadaharu Oh, Katsuya Nomura and Hiromitsu
Kadota. His 11 grand slams are tied for 6th all-time. He also had 2,339
hits (11th all-time), 372 doubles (16th), 1,475 RBI (8th), 13,65 runs
(6th), 4,361 total bases (7th), 1,168 walks (8th), 79 sacrifice flies
(tied for 10th) and played in 2,284 games (10th) and 8,052 AB (11th).
In 1977 Yamamoto started a stretch of five straight 40-HR seasons -
the typical year in this span was about .320/.420/.670. He led the
league in runs three times, homers three times, RBI three times, total
bases three times, slugging three times and walks once. He won another
MVP in '80, the Carp won both their Japan Series in this time, and each
year in the 5-year span Yamamoto led the league in at least once major
Kazuhiro Kiyohara has been one of Japan's greatest sluggers for
two decades. As a rookie with the Seibu Lions, Kiyohara made an
immediate impact, hitting .304/.392/.584 with 31 home runs. He won
Rookie of the Year honors in the Pacific League that year - the 31 HR
matched the best by a Japanese Rookie of the Year and might be a rookie
record. He was selected to the first of 17 All-Star teams.
With 514 career homers, Kiyohara has moved up to 5th all-time in
NPB despite having never led his league. Now in his 18th season, he
needs 22 more to tie for 4th Koji Yamamoto, but 3rd place would seem to
be out of reach (Hiromitsu Kadota with 567). Kiyohara is second all-time
with 10 sayanora homers, 1 behind Katsuya Nomura. He is in the top 10
in RBI, total bases.
the greatest hitter in the Pacific League since Katsuya Nomura, perhaps
the best ever. His career line was .311/.422/.564. Ochiai didn't become
an everyday player in Nippon Pro Baseball till 1981, at age 28 - but he
did more after his 28th birthday than basically anybody did in a whole
career. Despite his late start, he is 6th all-time in HR (510), in the
top 20 in doubles (371), 9th in hits (2,371), tied for 6th in average,
5th in RBI (1,564), 7th in runs (1,335), 8th in total bases (4,302), 2nd
in walks (1,475, trailing only Sadaharu Oh) and 13th in games (2,236).
Presumably he is in the top 5 in OBP and slugging as well. Ochiai
refused entry in the Meikyukai due to their arbitrary statistical
He also made the first of 15 All-Star appearances. In '85, he won
his second Triple Crown - .367/.481/.763. He set new Pacific League
records for RBI (146), total bases (351), runs (118) and slugging and
tied the HR record (52). He won his fourth batting title, led the league
in walks (101) and OBP, was an All-Star and Best Nine (at 3B). He also
won his second MVP. After retiring, Ochiai became a baseball
commentator. In 2004 Ochiai was hired to manage the Dragons. He scaled
back Japan's intensive practices and was very successful (just like
Bobby Valentine, another opponent of Japan's training who was having
success with Chiba Lotte). The Dragons went to the Japan Series in
Ochiai's first year at the helm.
Isao Harimoto is the only player in the history of Nippon Pro
Baseball to reach 3,000 career hits. An 18-time All-Star, Harimoto is
the only player in NPB history with both 500 homers and 300 steals. He
is tied for 7th all-time in Japan in homers (504), is 9th in triples
(72), 5th in doubles (420), tied for second in average for players with
4,000+ AB, fourth in RBI (1,676), 3rd in runs (1,523) and 3rd in total
bases (5,161), His career OBP was .399 and he slugged .534 overall.
In 1990 Harimoto was voted into Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame and
in 2000 he won a higher honor when he was voted onto Japan's All-Century
Team, one of only three players from pre-1965 who made the squad as
voters favored newer players. The other two outfielders (Ichiro Suzuki
and Hideki Matsui) were still active; only Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo
Nagashima joined Harimoto as old-timers still with enough fame to join
the team loaded with active or recent players.
A longtime member of the Hiroshima Carp, Sachio Kinugasa played
2215 consecutive games between 1970 and 1987, unlike Cal Ripken Jr., he
retired with his streak intact. Kinugasa also hit 504 career home runs
in his long career. The third baseman was aKen 13 time all star.