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Makoto Matsubara

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Makoto Matsubara

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 178 lb.

Makoto Matsubara was a 11-time All-Star in Nippon Pro Baseball. Primarily a corner infielder, he never won a Best Nine honor as he was a contemporary of Shigeo Nagashima (at 3B) and Sadaharu Oh (at 1B).

Matsubara signed with the Taiyo Whales after high school. He would spend 19 years with them, often hitting cleanup. He was 6 for 31 with four walks and a double in 1962 and 2 for 17 in 1963 for a rough start to his career. In 78 games in a backup role in 1964, the 20-year-old from Iino hit .265/.330/.392.

Makoto fell to .242/.296/.374 in 1965 while earning a regular role. He hit .294/.329/.432 with 32 doubles in 1966 and made the Central League All-Star team. He was 9th in the CL in batting average and led in two-baggers. He slipped to .247/.312/.418 with 28 doubles in 1967 and was an All-Star again.

Matsubara improved to .278/.338/.495 with 28 home runs, 81 runs and 86 RBI in 1968. He was an All-Star for the third straight season. Repeating as an All-Star in 1969, he belted 18 home runs and had a batting line of .254/.319/.414. It was his only season from 1968-1977 without 20 dingers.

Makoto batted .281/.358/.510 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI in 1970. He was 5th in the CL in average and made his fifth straight All-Star team. In 1971, he hit .245/.319/.439 with 23 circuit clouts and was chosen as an All-Star.

Matsubara hit .271/.330/.477 with 25 home runs for the Whales in 1972. He tied Taira Fujita and Koji Yamamoto for the CL lead with 27 doubles, made his 7th consecutive All-Star team and was involved in turning 146 double plays, a NPB record. He batted .278/.305/.467 with 24 homers in 1973 while failing to make the All-Star team.

The Taiyo slugger hit .317/.350/.504 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI in 1974; a free swinger, he only had 28 walks and 24 strikeouts in 535 plate appearances. On October 14, he hit his 200th home run. He led the league in at-bats (496), singles (108) and hits (157) and made his 8th All-Star squad. He was third in average behind Sadaharu Oh and Tatsuhiko Kimata.

He batted .280/.329/.469 with 23 home runs in 1975 and was MVP of the All-Star Game. He hit .289/.333/.556 with 33 homers and 85 RBI in 1976. He homered in four straight at-bats in early June, over a two-game span. He made his 10th and penultimate All-Star team.

In his 16th season, 1977, Matsubara hit .283/.342/.535 with 87 runs, 110 RBI and 34 home runs. He led the CL with 516 at-bats. He was 14 RBI behind Oh, the league leader, and 16 homers shy of Oh. In 1978, the veteran made his last All-Star team (he had hit .182 in his All-Star appearances) and batted .329/.376/.515 with a league-record 45 doubles and 91 RBI. He led the loop in hits (164). On July 6, he cracked his 300th NPB homer. He finished third in average behind Jitsuo Mizutani and Tsutomu Wakamatsu in his last big year.

Matsubara fell to .266/.326/.409 with 13 home runs in 19979. He hit .262/.294/.421 in 1980. From August 14 through October 12, he had hits in 7 straight pinch-hit at-bats and reached in eight straight pinch-hit appearances to set a NPB record. He got his 2,000th career hit on April 23, the 12th player in Japanese history to do so, earning him entry into the meikyukai.

Taiyo dealt Matsubara to the Yomiuri Giants in the off-season. Backing up Kiyoshi Nakahata at first, Makoto hit only .233/.299/.283 in 67 plate appearances. He played in his first Japan Series. In game one of the 1981 Japan Series, number 25 drilled a pinch-hit homer. He was only the second player in Japan Series history to homer, as a pinch-hitter, in their first at-bat in a Series. His team still lost the game, 6-5. He was retired in his only other at-bat in the Series, which Yomiuri would win in six games.

Overall, Matsubara had hit .276/.330/.465 in 2,190 NPB games with 991 runs, 405 doubles, 331 homers and 1,180 RBI. Through 2009, he ranks among the all-time leaders in doubles (9th, between Tetsuharu Kawakami and Tomoaki Kanemoto), hits (25th, two behind Atsuya Furuta), RBI (20th, between Shinichi Etoh and Hiroki Kokubo), total bases (20th, 3,523, between Hideji Kato and Michiyo Arito), sacrifice flies (tied for 13th with 70, even with Kanemoto and Tatsunori Hara), double play grounders (13th with 217), games played (tied with 23rd with Yoshinori Hirose), at-bats (24th, 7,579) and plate appearances (26th, 8,297).

Makoto later was a hitting coach for Taiyo (1982 to 1984, Yomiuri (1985 to 1991 and the Hiroshima Carp (2001).

Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland

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