Kazuhiko Kondo (近藤 和彦)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 173 lb.
Kazuhiko Kondo was a nine-time All-Star in Nippon Pro Baseball. He was second in the league in average four times, never winning a batting title.
Kondo debuted with the Taiyo Whales in 1958, hitting .270/.343/.414 with 13 home runs. As a rookie, he was 10th in the Central League in hits (113) and 9th in homers and walks (43). He had no shot at Rookie of the Year as Shigeo Nagashima was breaking in the same year. Kondo remained steady at .279/.333/.399 in 1959.
Kondo picked it up a notch in 1960, hitting .316/.387/.425 with 20 steals in 32 tries. He finished tied with Toshio Naka for second in the CL in hits, 6 behind Nagashima, was second to Nagashima in average (by 18 points) and won Best Nine honors as the top 1B. Taiyo won their only CL title. In the 1960 Japan Series, he was 6 for 15 with a double as Taiyo beat the Daimai Orions, but lost Series MVP honors to the Kondo playing 2B next to him for many years, Akihito Kondo. He also made his first CL All-Star team, an honor he would repeat for the next eight years.
The Meiji alumnus produced at a .316/.409/.442 clip with 72 runs, 74 walks and 35 steals in 45 tries for the 1961 Whales. On July 8, he hit for the cycle. He was second in the CL in average (a distant 37 points behind Nagashima, as close to 6th as 1st), hits (150, 8 behind Nagashima) and walks (14 shy of Nagashima) while leading in steals. He was again named to the Best Nine, this time in the outfield (joined by Katsuya Morinaga and Shinichi Eto).
In 1962, he fell to .293/.357/.367 and stole only 15 bases in 26 tries. He was still second in average once more, 14 points behind Morinaga this time. He was also first in sacrifice hits (15) and sacrifice flies (6), third in runs (after Sadaharu Oh and Eto) and fourth in hits (138, trailing Nagashima, Morinaga and Eto). He was a Best Nine selection in the outfield, picked with Morinaga and Teruo Namiki.
The Tokyo native hit .305/.399/.373 with 77 walks (to 34 strikeouts) and 19 steals (in 24 tries) in 1963. He finished fourth in average (after Nagashima, Takeshi Koba and Oh), 3rd in OBP (after Oh and Nagashima) and third in walks (46 behind Oh, also trailing Nagashima). He made his fourth Best Nine in a row, joining Eto and Eiji Fujii in the outfield. In 1964, #26 hit .263/.355/.371. He did not finish in the top 10 in average and his only appearance among the top 5 in the leaderboards was in doubles (25, 5th). He still was an All-Star and Best Nine (the other outfielders were Eto and Shozo Shigematsu).
Kondo batted .308/.375/.412 with 75 runs in 1965, getting caught in 13 of 28 steal attempts. He was third in average (after Eto and Oh), led in hits (152, 1 more than Nagashima), tied for second in runs (with Eto and Morimichi Takagi, a distant 29 behind Oh), was second in doubles (one behind Kazuyoshi Yamamoto), ranked 4th in walks (54) and was second in times caught stealing (8 fewer than Koba). He was a Best Nine outfield pick again, this time with Eto and Toshio Naka).
While an All-Star in 1966, he missed the Best Nine during a .301/.369/.382 campaign. He was 7th in average (between Takagi and Yamamoto) and third in hits (145, behind Nagashima and Naka). He stole 14 bases, his last time reaching double-digits in swipes. At age 31, he hit .327/.385/.419 in 1967. He was among the CL leaders in average (2nd, 16 points behind Naka) and hits (138, 4th after Taira Fujita, Goro Toi and Oh). He made his seventh and final Best Nine, picked with Naka and Isao Shibata.
An All-Star for the last time in 1968, the Whales veteran finished the year at .290/.351/.367. He was 9th in average, between Takao Katsuragi and Tatsuhiko Kimata. In 1969, he faded to .239/.316/.327, a far cry from his heyday. His batting line was up slightly, to .254/.329/.351 in 1970. He was a part-timer by 1971 and hitting even worse (.139/.237/.219); by 1972, he was 5 for 51 with four walks, two doubles and a homer, mostly just pinch-hitting. He moved to the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1973, going 11 for 54 with a double and five walks to end his career.
Overall, he had hit .285/.359/.382 in 1,789 NPB games, with 159 steals in 254 tries, 683 walks to 630 strikeouts, 220 doubles, 20 triples, 109 homers, 768 runs and 483 RBI. By 2010, he did not rank among NPB's top 30 in any offensive department. He later coached for Taiyo and the Nippon Ham Fighters.
- [https://sites.google.com/site/japanesebaseballdatabase/persons/k/kondo-kazuhiko Michael Eng's Japanese database
- japanbaseballdaily by Gary Garland
- Japanese Wikipedia entry