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Kazumasa Kono

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Kazumasa Kono

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.

Infielder Kazumasa Kono played 16 years for the Yomiuri Giants.

Kono was a 6th-round pick of the Giants in 1969. In 1971, he led the Eastern League in RBI and was 0 for 3 in his Central League debut. He played 7 games in 1972, was caught stealing once, scored one run and did not bat. He was 2 for 23 with a walk, 2 steals, 3 runs and a homer in 1973 as the backup to Yukinobu Kuroe.

In 1974, the Ehime native became a regular and hit .195/.255/.386 with 10 steals in 11 tries. He led the Central League with 7 triples and 82 strikeouts and won the Diamond Glove Award at shortstop. He batted .227/.296/.359 in 1975 and .244/.314/.341 in 1976, going 10-for-11 in steals. He was 4 for 19 with no runs produced and 8 strikeouts in the 1976 Japan Series, which Yomiuri lost.

Kono improved to .294/.377/.479 in 1977 and was named to his only Best Nine as the CL's top shortstop. He also made his first All-Star team. He was 5 for 14 with two walks and a homer in the 1977 Japan Series; Yomiuri fell in 5 games to the Hankyu Braves but Kono took the Fighting Spirit of the MVP of the losing squad.

Kazumasa hit .291/.354/.427 with 23 steals in 25 tries in 1978. He was 9 swipes behind CL leader Isao Shibata, a teammate. Yoshihiko Takahashi was named to the Best Nine instead, though Kono was an All-Star pick. He also led the league in times hit by pitch.

Kono slipped to .228/.283/.385 in 1979 while making his third All-Star team. He stole 21 bases while only being caught once and launched 15 home runs. He hit .230/.298/.335 in an off-year in 1980.

In 1981, Kono's batting line read .264/.333/.396. He scored 73 runs, hit a career-high 16 homers and stole 27 bases in 34 tries. He was 7 steals behind leader Minoru Aoki. He dazzled in the Japan Series, hitting .429/.586/.762 with 6 walks in six games and homers in games four and six (the finale) as Yomiuri beat the Nippon Ham Fighters. He led Yomiuri's offense but the Series MVP went to hurler Takashi Nishimoto.

Kono hit .271/.344/.416 with 15 steals in 1982 then .242/.333/.335 in 1983; despite his decline, he made his 4th and last All-Star team. He homered in game one of the 1983 Japan Series but went 0 for 12 otherwise in the Series as Yomiuri fell to the Seibu Lions.

Kono hit .258/.318/.445 with 13 homers in 299 AB in 1984 and .252/.338/.435 with six long balls in 115 AB in a backup role in 1985. In 1986, he was just 12 for 59 with 3 doubles, a homer and five walks.

Overall, he had batted .251/.320/.392 in 1,430 games for Yomiuri with 115 homers and 153 steals while only being thrown out running 44 times. He later scouted for the Giants.

Clyde Wright said he thought Kono could have been a major leaguer and that he "would just make the plays day in and day out."

Sources: Japanbaseballdaily.com, Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts

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