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Kent Hadley

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Kent William Hadley

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Free-swinging 1B Kent Hadley played three years in the major leagues, alongside Roger Maris both in Kansas City and in New York.

He led the Southern Association with 34 home runs in 1958. At the time the 23-year old prospect was playing for the Little Rock Travelers.

A year later he was the starting first baseman for the Kansas City A's. That December he was part of the trade that sent Roger Maris from Kansas City to the New York Yankees. After spending the 1960 season on the Yankee bench, Hadley played for the San Diego Padres in 1961 then went to Japan.

Hadley became the first foreigner to homer in his first at-bat in Japan. For the Nankai Hawks, Kent went deep off of Junichi Nakajima on May 1, 1962 in Heiwadai Stadium. Overall, Kent had an unimpressive season at the plate, hitting just .266/.296/.414. The Hawks brought him back in 1963 and he improved drastically, cranking out 30 long balls and batting .295/.341/.517 with 84 RBI. He made the Pacific League All-Star team and had his best season in Japan.

In 1964 Hadley hit .263/.328/.470 with 29 home runs and a league-high 99 strikeouts. He hit a dramatic game-ending game-winning home run in game 4 of the Japan Series that year, taking Minoru Murayama deep. The blow and his colleague Joe Stanka's stellar pitching helped the Hawks to a 4-3 Series win over the Hanshin Tigers - it would be the last Japan Series title for Nankai.

As Nankai's 1B in 1965 Kent batted .239/.274/.492, again cracking 29 home runs and driving in 86 runners. His power began to fade the next season but he picked up his average as his line read .279/.340/.443 with 18 HR. In his final season for the Hawks, Hadley hit just .213/.266/.341 with 14 homers. Inn the opening game, he hit one homer that made him the first foreigner to hit 100 career home runs in Nippon Pro Baseball. At his final game, he was celebrated by his teammate with doage (tossing a person in the air for a few times), which was rather unusual for non-Japanese players.

Hadley said one of the proudest parts of his career was playing for Rod Dedeaux, Casey Stengel and Kazuto Tsuruoka, a famous trio of managers in different settings.

Sources include japanbaseballdaily.com and Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database

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