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Morimichi Takagi

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Morimichi Takagi (Ibushigin, Muttsuriumon)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Known for his fine combination of speed, defense and power, Morimichi Takagi is one of the top second basemen in the history of Nippon Pro Baseball. Gene Martin said "Morimichi was as slick a second baseman as I've ever seen...Oh boy, he could hit!...and he could run." Not known for his personality, Takagi was once reputedly offered a million yen if he would smile more on the field.

He began his career with the Chunichi Dragons in 1960, hitting only .192/.238/.323 though he did become only the fourth NPB player to homer in his first at-bat when he went deep against Kazuyoshi Miyamoto. He muddled along over the next few years with lines of .212/.262/.302; .280/.295/.381 and .254/.294/.375. By that last season, '63, Takagi tied Tsuneo Takabayashi and Shigeo Nagashima for the Central League lead with six triples and his 50 steals (in 62 tries) led the league. He made the first of many Best Nine selections at second.

In 1964, Morimichi had a .293/.329/.417 line with 42 SB in 56 attempts and on May 8, he stole five bases in a game. He made his second Best Nine. He was so honored again in '65 when he produced at a .302/.344/.414 rate and swiped 44 of 55 to lead the league. He was fourth in the CL in average that season.

At age 24/25, Takagi had a .306/.337/.479 line with 17 homers and 20 steals in 29 tries. He was third in the Central with 82 runs, sixth in average, fourth in steals and made his fourth Best Nine. He also made his first All-Star team. An All-Star and Best Nine in '67, Morimichi had a .292/.327/.477 season with 19 homers. In 1968, he fell to .239/.303/.399 and was seriously injured when Tsuneo Horiuchi hit him in the face with a pitch.

Rebounding somewhat in '69, Morimichi batted .251/.298/.442 with a career-high 24 homers and stole 20. He had a .258/.282/.376 season the next year but hit into 17 double plays, the most in the league. In 1971, Takagi hit .239/.294/.339 and stole 28, but only hit eight homers. In '72, the 30/31-year-old hit .251/.282/.383.

The 1973 season had Takagi only hitting five homers, though his 28 steals led the league, the third time he had paced in that department. He hit .273/.322/.358 and made his third All-Star team. In '74, the veteran infielder produced at a .276/.320/.432 rate with 15 homers and made his 6th Best Nine. He won the Diamond Glove Award at second that year and Chunichi broke the Yomiuri Giants' run of 9 straight CL pennants. In the 1974 Japan Series, Takagi hit .364/.364/.545 but the Dragons lost to the Lotte Orions. Morimichi won the Fighting Spirit Award as the top performer on the losing entry.

In '75, the second baseman had a .294/.329/.460 batting line and followed with a .265/.289/.436 season. He made his 7th Best Nine in 1977, tying Shigeru Chiba's record for the position; it has not been broken as of 2006. He had a .291/.323/.470 line with 20 homers and won another Diamond Glove.

The year he turned 37, Takagi batted .283/.309/.468 and he followed with a .300/.344/.428 year in which he made his fourth and last All-Star appearance. He also led the CL with 18 sacrifice bunts and was again honored as the top fielder at second in the league. In 1980, he wrapped up his career with a .233/.288/.329 year.

Overall, Morimichi had hit .272/.310/.411, stolen 369 bases in 508 tries and homered 236 times. Through 2005, he was tied for 24th all-time in NPB with 55 triples, 26th in doubles (346), 14th in hits (2,274), 18th in runs (1,120), 22nd in total bases (3,438), 11th in steals, 26th in sacrifice bunts (200), tied for 26th with 121 double plays ground into, 11th in games (2,282) and 8th in hits (8,367).

After retiring as a player, Takagi coached for Chunichi and managed in their minor leagues. He went 29-35-4 as an interim manager in 1986 and replaced Senichi Hoshino at the helm in 1992, when they went 60-70 but finished last. In '93, the club was 73-57-2 and was in second and they repeated there the next year at 69-61, only one game out of first. In 1995, Chunichi slipped to a 13-26 start and Takagi was axed in June. Hoshino eventually got the job back the next year.

Takagi was voted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. Takagi returned to manage Chunichi in 2012, replacing Hiromitsu Ochiai. The team was 75-53-16 his first year at the helm but fell to 64-77 in 2013 and he was canned in favor of Motonobu Tanishige.

Sources: Remembering Japanese Baseball by Rob Fitts, Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland

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