Note: This page discusses Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and manager Masaaki (Masahiko) Mori. For the 1996 Olympic pitcher Masahiko Mori, click here.
Masaaki Mori (also known as Masahiko Mori)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 8", Weight 185 lb.
Masaaki Mori holds the Nippon Pro Baseball record for most pennant-winning teams involved with; the clubs he played for won 16 pennants, he coached for three titlists and he managed teams to the pennant eight times, for a grand total of 27 first-place finishes.
When Mori's family's business was destroyed by American bombers in World War II, they moved to Gifu. He joined the Yomiuri Giants at age 18 in 1955 but did not play regularly until 1959, when he hit only .228/.289/.283. The next year, he was little better at .197/.238/.254. In 1960 he made the first of 11 consecutive All-Star teams, despite hitting only .197/.238/.254 on the year. He did throw out five would-be base-stealers in a single contest.
In 1961 Masaaki improved to .223/.265/.313, making the first of 8 consecutive Best Nines, and then he posted a .247/.297/.341 line in '62, though he led the Central League by hitting into 15 double plays. The 1963 season saw the Yomiuri backstop backslide to .198/.244/.260 but he remained an All-Star and Best Nine pick. In 1964 Mori set career highs in homers (12), RBI (65) and slugging (.270/.314/.399) and he hit .277/.305/.355 the next year. From 1965-1974, Mori's clubs won the Japan Series everywhere, establishing themselves as the greatest NPB dynasty ever.
The 1966 season was one in which Mori batted .242/.277/.318 and then he followed that up with a .278/.326/.363 line. He hit .227/.250/.364 in the Japan Series that year but won the Series MVP Award, thanks to a game-winning homer in game 3 against Kimihiro Sato. His 8th and last Best Nine came after a .228/.267/.330 campaign in 1968; the 8 Best Nines were a CL record, tied by Atsuya Furuta in 2001.
Mori hit .256/.313/.365 in 1969 and .210/.277/.251 in 1970, his last year as an All-Star. After a few similar seasons (.215/.285/.309, .210/.274/.275, .220/.268/.283 and .243/.271/.315), Mori retired with a career line of .236/.283/.318.
Working as a broadcaster for three years, Masahiko got a job as a coach for the Yakult Swallows. He was with that team in 1978-1979, then coached with the Seibu Lions from 1982 through 1984. When Tatsuro Hirooka was fired after 1985, Seibu hired Mori as their manager and he led the team to one of the greatest runs in Pacific League history, taking 8 pennants and six Japan Series in nine years.
Known for his focus on defense, Mori tried to be more open to his players and more supportive of them than Hirooka, known for his old-style, antagonistic and rigorous style.
In 1994 Mori completed his time as the Seibu manager. Six years later he was brought back to run the Yokohama Bay Stars. They went 69-67-4 his first season there, but then he had his only sub-.500 year as a manager in 2001 when the team fell to last place at 43-78-5. Fired after the season, he was replaced by Daisuke Yamashita. Mori finished his managerial career with a 785-583-68 record. As of 2005, he is 15th all-time in NPB in managerial victories. In 2005 he was elected into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mori has expressed the opinion that Japan does not have as knowledgeable and enthusiastic a baseball culture as the US, South Korea and Taiwan. He also has said that the Japanese sports press is not as informed about the game as their American counterparts.