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Hideo Fujimoto

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Hideo Fujimoto
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Hideo Fujimoto changed last name to Nakagami in 1943

Hideo Fujimoto holds the Japanese records for lowest career ERA (1.90) and seasonal ERA (0.73). A Korean native, he moved to Japan when he was eight years old. In college he was 34-9 and he joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1942. He started his career in excellent form, winning his first 10 decisions and posting a 0.81 ERA, allowing just 64 hits in 111 innings. He would have led the Japanese Professional Baseball League in ERA but did not have innings to qualify. He continued to dominate in his second season, going 34-11 with his record-setting 0.73 ERA and threw 9 shutouts in one 12-game span, setting a record with six straight shutouts. He went 61 and 2/3 innings between runs, covering all of August and almost half of September. He went 100 innings between earned runs. Overall he threw a Japanese-record 19 shutouts that season. He led the league in wins, complete games (39), innings (432 2/3) and strikeouts (253) in one of the greatest seasons ever by a pitcher in Japan. He allowed just 212 hits.

In 1944 Fujimoto became a player-manager and went 10-8 with a 1.59 ERA and led the league with 153 strikeouts and 5 shutouts. He missed the ERA title by .03 behind Tadashi Wakabayashi and pitched the entire game in 17 of the Giants' 35 contests in the war-shortened season. When baseball returned to Japan in 1946 Hideo was 21-6 with a 2.11 ERA and led the league in shutouts (19 in 31 games) and ERA. In four seasons, he had won two ERA titles, missed another by a tiny margin and would have won another had he qualified inning-wise. Though the team had been 15-9-1 with Fujimoto at the helm, he was relieved of managerial duties on June 10.

Fujimoto had his worst year yet in 1947, going 17-15 with a 1.83 ERA for the Chunichi Dragons; he was still third in the league in ERA and missed the title there by .09. In '48 he was moved to the outfield when he returned to Yomiuri but injured his foot and returned to pitching. He was 8-5 with a 1.72 ERA that season and again would have led the league had he been among the qualifiers in innings. 1949 saw Fujimoto turn in a fine two-way season. He hit .284/.371/.431 and went 24-7 on the mound with a 1.94 ERA. As usual, he won the ERA title when he qualified. It was his third ERA title in five seasons as a qualifier, never having missed by more than .09. He became the third pitcher ever to win the Sawamura Award and made the Best Nine (which had not been around for most of his prime)

In 1950 Hideo hit .285/.366/.442 and hit 7 homers, a record for pitchers in Nippon Pro Baseball (overall he hit .249/.319/.327 during his career). He went 26-14 with a 2.44 ERA. On June 28, 1950 he pitched the first perfect game in Japanese baseball history. He led the new Central League with 33 complete games and finished second in ERA for the second time. He would never lead the league again in any statistic. '51 saw Fujimoto fall to 15-7 with a 3.13 ERA and was only 10th in ERA, clearly his worst finish to date. At age 32, he had finally finished lower than third. He made the All-Star club that year and would do so again in 1953.

In 1952 Fujimoto went 16-6 with a 2.36 ERA and was 7th in ERA. In '53 he was 17-6 with a 2.08 mark. He had his third 2nd-place finish in ERA. He had now had three first places, three second places and one third plus two other seasons in which he would have been first had he qualified. He declined drastically after that. At age 35, he was 1-2 with a 5.85 ERA. He appeared in one game in 1955, allowing just one hit in 5 innings and no runs and picked up his 200th win, this one out of the bullpen.

Overall Fujimoto had gone 200-87 and posted the best winning percentage in Japanese baseball history. He is 11th all-time with 227 complete games, 8th in shutouts (63) and tied for 23rd in wins. He was elected to Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

After he retired he coached for the Giants and managed in the Japanese minors, then managed in the industrial leagues. He later worked as the LA correspondent for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

Main source: japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland

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