Statistics are a way journalists and fans can measure the greatness of athletes in sports, especially baseball. In the major leagues in both Japan and the United States, four prestigious statistical clubs demonstrate a player’s greatness: the 3,000 hit and 300 home run clubs for batters and the 300 win and 3,000 strikeout clubs for pitchers.
In a series of articles, I will write stories on each Japanese player in these prestigious clubs. I want to focus on the distinguished players that played in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and highlight their contributions to the game. I am going to start this series by highlighting the NPB players in the 300 Home Run Club.
Next in my series is former Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers first baseman, third baseman and outfielder (and former coach of the Tigers) Katsumi Hirosawa.
Hirosawa is 39th on the all-time NPB 300 Home Run Club list with 306 career home runs. He was a versatile player who played in the infield and outfield with great success over an 18-year career with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers. Hirosawa had a career .275 batting average with 306 home runs and 1,736 career hits.
He was a hitting and scoring machine, leading the Central League in RBIs in 1991 and 1993. Hirosawa was named to the NPB All-Star game eight times and was named the 1991 NPB All-Star Game MVP. He was also a four-time winner of the Central League Best Nine Award. This award is given to the best player at each position in NPB.
American fans got their introduction to Hirosawa in the 1984 Summer Olympic games. Baseball was only a “Demonstration” sport back then, but he hit a three-run home run in the gold medal game to defeat the United States National Team 3-1 in Los Angeles. Team USA was led by future Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and future superstars Mark McGwire and Will Clark.
Hirosawa played in three Japan Series. He helped the Swallows defeat the Seibu Lions 4-3 in 1993 and had a key home run in a 4-2 win in Game 7 to clinch the title. In 1992, Hirosawa and the Swallows lost to the Lions 4-3, but he homered in a 6-1 loss to Seibu in Game 3. Hirosawa helped lead the Hanshin Tigers to the 2003 Japan Series but were bested by the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in seven games. Hirosawa homered in Game 7 of the series but the Tigers were defeated 6-2. He has a career total of three home runs in the Japan Series.
After retiring in 2003, Hirosawa returned to the Tigers to coach from 2007-08. Hirosawa was a productive hitter in home runs and RBIs during his NPB career. He also played well when the spotlight was on. Hirosawa’s three Japan Series home runs and home run in the 1984 Summer Olympics Gold Medal game will continue to live long in Japanese Baseball history.
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