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Eiji Sawamura

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Eiji Sawamura

[edit] Biographical Information

Eiji Sawamura lost a 1-0 game to a group of major league stars on November 11, 1934, at the age of 17. He struck out Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig in order at one point and allowed just one hit, a solo homer to Gehrig. The next year Sawamura was part of a Japanese team that went on a tour of the US, winning 93 of 102 contests. The Pittsburgh Pirates tried to sign Sawamura by giving him a contract and asking for his signature; Sawamura saw through the ruse and showed it to a team official, who helped turn aside the scout. Another version of the story indicates that Sawamura signed, thinking they merely wanted an autograph, and that a team official told him otherwise, forcing the Pirates scout to leave in a huff. Connie Mack also inquired into Sawamura's services in 1934.

He went 15-3 in 1936 for the Yomiuri Giants in the first pro season in Japan (which was then divided into fall and spring seasons). On September 25, 1936, he pitched the first no-hitter in Japanese baseball history. He led the Japanese Professional Baseball League in wins, shutouts and complete games in the fall season.

In 1937, Sawamura dazzled in the spring season, going 24-4 with a 0.81 ERA, again leading the league in wins, shutout and complete games. In addition he also led in ERA and strikeouts and was named MVP. He pitched his second no-hitter that spring. In the fall he faded to 9-6, 2.38.

In January 1938 he was drafted into the military and served three tours of duty, ruining his shoulder. He went 16-9 in parts of three seasons in the 1940s and pitched a third no-hitter, but was not nearly as dominant as he had once been.

In 1944, he was on a transport ship that was sunk by American warships in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Taiwan and died at the age of 27.

In 1947, Nippon Pro Baseball began issuing a Sawamura Award in his honor to the top pitcher in Japan.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Robert K. Fitts: "Babe Ruth and Eiji Sawamura", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 41, Number 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 70-77.
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