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Hiromitsu Kadota

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Hiromitsu Kadota

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A very consistent slugger for the Nankai Hawks, Orix Braves and Daiei Hawks, Hiromitsu Kadota put up lines around .300/.370/.500 for much of his Nippon Pro Baseball career. He led the Pacific League with 120 RBI in his second season in 1971, topped the league in doubles (25) in 1976 and made three Best Nines in the '70s ('71, '76 and '77) as an outfielder.

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). That was the first season his OBP topped .400 for the first time - he would reach the .400 level or higher 8 of 10 seasons from '81 to '91. 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 - even though the last week saw no regular-season games (it was All-Star game time). In '83, he hit 4 grand slams, a Pacific League record.

In 1987 Kadota led the league in OBP (.428) for the second time. '88 was an amazing season - at the age of 40 he won his only MVP award after hitting .311/.429/.633 in Nankai's final season. He homered 44 times, drove in 125 runs in 130 games and drew 98 walks. He won his 3rd home run title, his 3rd OBP title, his 3rd slugging crown and was named to the Best Nine for the sixth time. He led the circuit in homers and walks. He set a new world record for home runs for homers by a player 40 or older (Darrell Evans had the old record with 34). He also won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award that year.

Kadota refused to follow the Hawks to Fukuoka after the club was bought by Daiei and instead went to the Orix Braves. In 1989, for an encore performance, Kadota became the oldest player to that point to win an RBI title (93 RBI) - his second RBI lead, but 18 years had separated the two! It was the last time he would lead the league in anything. He was named to the Best Nine for a 7th and final time.

Kadota wasn't done yet - he hit .280/.478/.536 (31 HR) at the age of 42 in '90 and .264/.358/.462 (18 HR) at age 43 (now back with the Hawks). In the second All-Star Game of 1991, Kadota smashed a pinch-hit homer. He was the oldest player in the history of NPB All-Star Games to have homered. In '92, Kadota hit .258/.341/.432 in 65 games and the diminutive slugger called it a career (and a fine one at that).

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.

While small in stature, Kadota was described by Boomer Wells as "one of the strongest men I've ever known." Wells said first basemen hat no time to react with how quickly the ball flew off of Kadota's bat.

He worked as an announcer after retiring. In 2006 he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sources: japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland, "Remembering Japanese Baseball" by Rob Fitts

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