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Kihachi Enomoto

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Kihachi Enomoto

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 156 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Kihachi Enomoto made 12 All-Star teams and nine Best Nines in the Pacific League while taking home two batting titles in a stellar career.

Enomoto made his pro debut with a bang with the 1955 Mainichi Orions. Fresh from high school, he hit .298/.410/.473 with 87 walks (most in the league), 84 runs and 16 homers. He set a record of 97 BB+HBP for a Nippon Pro Baseball record and he claimed the Pacific League Rookie of the Year award. He also made his first All-Star team. He was 10th in the league in average.

Kihachi batted .282/.393/.454 in 1956 with 95 walks to 41 strikeouts. He smashed 15 home runs and legged out eight triples. The youngster again paced the PL in free passes and was an All-Star. He made his first Best Nine as the top first baseman in the Pacific League.

Turning 20 prior to the 1957 campaign, Enomoto faded slightly to .269/.367/.406 with 68 walks and 9 home runs. He still made his third All-Star team. In 1958, the Tokyo native hit .260/.340/.418 with 27 doubles; for the first time, he had more strikeouts (68) than walks (52).

In 1959, Enomoto's slugging percentage fell under .400 at .276/.368/.397. He was an All-Star and made his second Best Nine. He had a resurgence in 1960, hitting .344/.433/.506 with 37 doubles, 94 runs and 67 walks to 33 strikeouts. Never a successful base-stealer prior, he also stole 15 bases in 16 attempts. Enomoto was again an All-Star and Best Nine. He led the league in runs (one ahead of Kazuhiro Yamauchi), batting average (.027 ahead of runner-up Kenjiro Tamiya), doubles, hits (170) and times hit by pitch (12). As the Orions won the title, he likely was a serious MVP candidate; the award went to teammate Yamauchi. In the 1960 Japan Series, the 23-year-old star was just 3 for 15 as the Orions were swept by the Taiyo Whales, though he did hit a home run in game two.

Enomoto remained sharp in 1961, hitting .331/.389/.453 with 93 runs. He only struck out 22 times in 543 at-bats. He paced the PL with 180 hits, made his 7th All-Star team in seven seasons as a pro and made his third Best Nine in a row. He finished second in average, .005 behind Isao Harimoto.

In 1962, the Orions first sacker hit .331/.378/.503 with 17 home runs, his most to that point. He led the league with 160 hits, one more than Takao Katsuragi, while finishing fifth in average. He was again an All-Star and Best Nine selection.

Kihachi batted .318/.376/.466 with 18 homers in 1963, was an All-Star and a Best Nine pick. He was second in average, .017 behind Jack Bloomfield. In 1964, Enomoto fell under .300 at .298 but had an OBP over .400 for just the third time (.401) while slugging .443. He scored 83 runs, drove in 71, hit 17 homers, drew 86 walks, stole 17 bases in 23 tries and only struck out in 19 of 540 at-bats. He led the PL in walks (one ahead of Daryl Spencer) and times hit by pitch (11). He made his sixth straight Best Nine as the league's top first baseman and was chosen as an All-Star for the 10th time in 10 seasons as a pro. He finished 5th in the PL in average.

Enomoto missed out an All-Star team for the first time in 1965. For the year, he hit .268/.352/.406 with 16 steals in 25 tries and 30 doubles, not bad but not up to his usual pace. Takashi Takagi ended his run of six straight Best Nine nods.

Kihachi had perhaps his best overall season in 1966, hitting .351/.439/.571 with 68 walks, 20 strikeouts in 476 AB, 81 runs, 31 doubles, a career-high 24 home runs, 14 steals in 20 tries and 74 RBI. He made his 11th All-Star team and led the PL in hits (167), doubles, total bases (272), OBP (.030 over Katsuya Nomura), slugging (.003 ahead of Nomura) and average (.021 over Harimoto). He was three walks behind co-leaders Nomura and Spencer. He made the Best Nine but MVP honors went to Nomura.

Enomoto followed up his career year with a solid .290/.425/.452 season, 15 homers and 10 steals in 13 attempts in 1967. He led the league with 83 walks, his 4th and final time leading in free passes. In fact, it was the last time he led in any major department.

At age 31 in 1968, Kihachi's batting line read .306/.384/.499 with 31 doubles, 21 home runs and 70 runs. He was two doubles behind league leader George Altman and was 4th in the PL in average behind Harimoto, Altman and Masahiro Doi. He was named the top first baseman in the Pacific League for the 9th time, a record. He also made his 12th and last All-Star team. He handled 1,516 chances without an error from 1967-1968, setting a league record. Two other records he set in 1968 were 1,126 consecutive error-free chances and a .999 fielding percentage at first base.

Fading in 1969, the veteran still hit .273/.355/.477 with 21 long balls and 9 steals in 11 tries. He batted .284/.384/.465 in 1970 and just .244/.314/.433 in 45 games in 1971. In the 1970 Japan Series, he was 3 for 7 with a walk but the Orions fell to the Yomiuri Giants of Sadaharu Oh (who attended the same high school as Enomoto a couple years after him) and Shigeo Nagashima, leaving Enomoto without a Japan Series title.

After 17 seasons as a member of the Orions, Enomoto wrapped up in 61 games for the Nishitetsu Lions in 1972 and hit .233/.342/.288.

Overall, Enomoto batted .298/.386/.458 in 2,222 games in NPB with 1,169 runs, 2,314 hits, 409 doubles, 246 home runs, 979 RBI, 153 steals in 237 tries and 1,062 walks to 645 strikeouts in 7,763 AB and 9,002 plate appearances.

Through 2009, Kihachi ranks among the career NPB leaders in doubles (7th, between Nagashima and Tetsuharu Kawakami), hits (14th, between Koji Yamamoto and Tomoaki Kanemoto), average (27th), runs (19th), total bases (18th), walks (11th, between Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Yamauchi), times hit by pitch (18th, 90), sacrifice flies (67, tied for 18th), games (20th), at-bats (18th) and plate appearances (18th). His offensive rankings were not helped by the fact that he spent most of his career in a pitcher-friendly era.

Enomoto qualified for membership in the meikyukai but does not involve himself in their activities and is not deemed a member, which is very rare. Hiromitsu Ochiai is one other player who turned down membership.

After baseball, Enomoto worked for a parking garage management company and wrote about baseball. He died of colon cancer at age 75.

Primary Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland

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