Noriyoshi Sano (佐野 仙好) (Kakefu no Kagemusha)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 8", Weight 171 lb.
Noriyoshi Sano played over 1,500 games in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Sano was the first-round pick of the Hanshin Tigers in 1974. He debuted in NPB as a pinch-hitter for Kazuaki Goto, singling off Kojiro Yokoyama his first trip up. He got his first homer off Hiroshi Matsuoka. He finished the year with a batting line of .238/.276/.315 in 152 plate appearances over 61 games, backing up Goto and Masayuki Kakefu at 3B. As Kakefu's backup in 1975, he hit only .201/.268/.341 in 198 plate appearances. He batted .241/.310/.384 in 126 plate appearances and 71 games as a utility man in 1976. Moved to the corner outfield, he hit .305/.379/.468 in 228 plate appearances and 67 games in 1977. On April 29, he was knocked unconscious and fractured his skull when running into the Kawasaki Stadium wall while chasing a fly ball from Hiroyoshi Shimizu. That prompted NPB to start padding walls.
The Chuo alumnus hit .226/.294/.365 as a semi-regular in 1978. Moving to first base for one year, he hit .300/.346/.436 in 1979. He missed the top 10 in average in the Central League by .003. Returning to the outfield in 1980, he batted .268/.336/.413 and smacked 15 home runs. He was 9th in the CL with 49 walks. He hit .296/.339/.397 in 1981. In 1982, #9 batted .271/.313/.396 with 15 home runs and stole 10 bases in 11 tries. He drove in a career-high 65. His 8 sacrifice flies tied Jim Lyttle for the CL lead.
Sano hit .279/.328/.400 with 13 home runs in 1983. At age 32/33 in 1984, he arguably had his career year: .305/.347/.440, 15 HR, 61 R. He reached both 100 career home runs (the 100th coming off Yoshihisa Shiratake) and 1,000 hits (Yujiro Miyako being victimized). He was .005 shy of the 10th (Yasushi Tao) in the CL in average, tied Kiyoshi Nakahata for 9th in hits (145) and tied Akinobu Okada and Sachio Kinugasa for the most sacrifice flies (7). He hit .288/.330/.445 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI in 1985. On May 20, he hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Hiromi Makihara. His sacrifice fly October 16 won the game to give Hanshin its first CL pennant in 18 years. He wound up leading the CL in sacrifice flies for the third time, his 9 being one ahead of Warren Cromartie and Tatsunori Hara. In the 1985 Japan Series, he went 0 for 11 but Akinobu Mayumi, Randy Bass, Rich Gale and Chikafusa Ikeda played very well and led Hanshin to the title over the Seibu Lions. Through 2013, it remains the lone Japan Series title for the Tigers.
Sano batted .268/.317/.431 with 14 HR in 1986 and .240/.275/.357 with 10 long balls in 1987. Satoru Nakano replaced him as a starter in 1988; used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter, Sano went 16 for 65 (all singles) with 5 walks and 6 RBI. He was 4 for 23 with a walk in a similar role in 1989.
In 1,549 NPB games, Sano had batted .273/.323/.403 with 144 home runs, 491 runs and 564 RBI in 5,286 plate appearances. Through 2011, he was tied for 42nd in NPB history with 53 sacrifice flies (even with Yasuo Fujii, Yoshinori Hirose, Takao Katsuragi and Morimichi Takagi) and tied for 84th with 124 double play grounders (tied with Koichi Hori, Kakefu and Toshihisa Nishi). He finished with six sayonara hits and a sayonara sacrifice fly.
He later was a coach and scout for Hanshin.