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From BR Bullpen
Sachio Kinugasa (Tetsujin/Iron Man)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 160 lbs.
- High School Heian High School
- NPB Debut May 16, 1965
- Born January 18, 1947 in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto Japan
 Biographical Information
A longtime member of the Hiroshima Carp, Sachio Kinugasa played 2215 consecutive games between 1970 and 1987; unlike Cal Ripken Jr., he retired with his streak intact. Kinugasa also hit 504 career home runs in his long career from 1965 to 1987. The third baseman was a 13-time All-Star.
 Family background
Kinugasa's father was an African-American soldier who abandoned Kinugasa's family when he was young. Sachio would not discuss the topic and it was a policy of the Carp not to raise the issue, which was not mentionedi n either of his authorized biographies. Roommate Tatsuo Okitsu said that Kinugasa studied English at night, hoping his father would return and meet him. Even when Sachio broke Lou Gehrig's Most Consecutive Games Played record, though, his father did not contact him.
Kinugasa employed a batting style which employed long, aggressive swings. This was highly unusual in Nippon Pro Baseball as it was deemed an "American" type of swing and not authentically Japanese. Sachio's batting coach did not tamper with it, saying "Kinugasa wasn't really Japanese, so it couldn't be helped." Robert Whiting writes that "Kinugasa swung so hard that for many years he suffered from whiplash."
The subject of childhood insults due to his racial heritage, Kinugasa was an outsider as a youth. He took up judo but his middle school did not offer it, so he opted for baseball over rugby, a smart choice in retrospect. A star catcher in high school, he signed with Hiroshima for a 10-million-yen bonus and bought a Ford Galaxy with the money, starting his reputation as a guy who loved fancy cars. After an accident, though, the team made him give up his driver's license.
 1965-1967: Early pro struggles
In 1965, Sachio hit .159/.178/.250 in 28 games. As a backup first baseman in '66, he only managed a .147/.275/.294 line in 32 games. The next year, in 28 outings, he batted .250/.308/.417.
 1968-1970: Before the streak
Kinugasa became a regular at age 21 and produced at a .276/.377/.494 clip with 21 homers. A year later, he hit .250/.329/.383 with 15 long balls. He was caught stealing 15 times, the most in the Central League, while stealing 32. In '70, he batted .251/.333/.431 with 19 homers and led the league with 81 strikeouts. Known for his drinking, Kinugasa came back to the Carp dormitory after a game that year drunk. Coach Junzo Sekine was still there, waiting for his nightly batting practice with Sachio. Kinugasa took 100 swings and then collapsed to the ground in tears. For years afterwards, he made such practices part of his routine and would often vanish from a bar to go swing the bat.
Kinugasa's streak began at the very end of '70 on October 19. He had only missed a few games in each of the three years he had been a regular, but would never miss another contest in the next 17 years.
 1971-1974: Becoming a star
Kinugasa batted .285/.388/.509 in '71, becoming a star. He made his first All-Star team, swatted 27 homers, drove in 82, led the league with 15 times hit by pitch, had a streak of home runs in five straight contests and went yard three times in another game. In 1972, he hit .295/.368/.510 with 29 HR and 99 RBI, leading the loop with 147 hits. The next season, his batting line read .207/.310/.363 in a major off-year, though he still clubbed 19 homers. In 1974, the 27-year-old hit .253/.327/.482 with 32 home runs and was an All-Star once again.
 1975-1986: Mr. Consistency
While playing every day, Kinugasa hit 20 homers a year every season for the next 12 to extend his total run to 13. He hit .276/.340/.457 in 1975, made his third All-Star team and the first of three Best Nines (now that Shigeo Nagashima was gone, he had a chance). He hit only .130/.231/.261 in his first Japan Series as Hiroshima dropped the 1975 Series.
In '76, Sachio had a .299/.346/.506 batting line and led the league in times hit by pitch (10), times grounded into double play (19) and at-bats (522). He hit 26 homers and led the CL in both steals (31) and times caught (14) in the first of 2 20-20 campaigns. On July 7, he hit for the cycle in the only time in his career. He stole 28 in 1977, led with 15 times caught and had 582 plate appearances, most in the CL. Making his 4th straight All-Star squad, he hit .265/.340/.461 with 25 HR and 88 runs. On both October 4 and October 5, he led off the game with a home run.
In the 1978 season, the third baseman batted .267/.372/.505 with 30 circuit clouts and 87 RBI. He went 9 for 10 in steals - that is, if you leave out a stretch where he was gunned down in 12 straight tries. He was plunked by 11 pitches, most in the CL. In '79, the 32-year-old veteran produced at a .278/.376/.485 clip with 20 homers and 15 steals in 19 tries. His streak was almost snapped in August when he was hit in the back by a pitch from Takashi Nishimoto and the doctors told him not to play; he had appeared in 1,123 contests in a row at that point. He appeared the next day, saying "If I had played and swung the bat, the pain in my shoulder would last only an instant. If I had to stay home and watch the game on TV, I'd hurt all over for three hours." Playing only part-time in the 1979 Japan Series, he went 2 for 14 and hit into two double plays as Hiroshima won the title.
1980 marked his 6th All-Star appearance, his second Best Nine and his first Diamond Glove Award. He improved to .294/.361/.526 with 31 homers, 16 steals (in 22 tries) and 85 RBI. He was hit by 10 pitches, most in the circuit. He hit .174/.267/.348 in the 1980 Japan Series as Hiroshima won again.
In '81, Kinugasa had a .271/.334/.507 batting line with 30 HR. He hit into a league-leading 16 double plays and made the All-Star squad. A year later, his 10 times hit by pitch led the league. He produced at a .280/.351/.505 clip, smacked 29 homers and stole 12 of 14 at age 35.
In 1983, he made his 4th straight and 8th All-Star team and hit .292/.359/.510 with 27 HR and 84 RBI. He reached 2,000 career hits and had a grand slam on Opening Day. He had three of his seven career grand slams that season. The '84 season saw him produce at a .329/.373/.573 rate for his best year. The veteran homered 31 times, drove in 102 and stole 11 in 12 attempts. He led the CL in RBI for the only time in his career, had the most sacrifice flies (7), won his second Diamond Glove, made his third and last Best Nine and his 9th All-Star team. He was honored with his only MVP award. In the 1984 Japan Series, he hit .200/.355/.600, scored six runs and homered three times as his poor contact in the post-season again was compensated for by power and walks.
In '85, Kinugasa hit .292/.354/.500 with 28 long balls and made the All-Star team. The next year, the 39-year-old infielder batted only .205/.266/.379 but still cracked 24 home runs and won his third award for being the top fielder at his spot. He led the league by getting hit by seven pitches, the sixth time he led in that category. He made his 12th All-Star roster. He only hit .129/.156/.129 as Hiroshima fell in a close 1986 Japan Series. He had only hit .155 in his five trips to the Series.
 1987: At the end of the line
In 1987, Kinugasa hit .249/.297/.432 with 17 homers. On June 13, he broke Gehrig's consecutive game streak; 55,000 fans showed up and there was a huge ceremony with lots of Japanese media coverage. Even while he was approaching the record, and at age 40, he maintained one of the hardest workout routines on the club. Rick Lancellotti said "He played hard and did all the drills that the younger kids did. The last week, we were all just hoping that he wouldn't get hurt...He would dive for a ball, and everybody would run over, 'Are you okay? Are you okay?'" On his final game, on October 22, he went out in style with a homer.
 Career totals
Overall, Kinugasa had a .270/.345/.476 batting line and his 23 seasons in the Central are a record. Through the end of the 2005 season, he ranks tied for 7th all-time in Nippon Pro Baseball in homers (even with Isao Harimoto), 15th in doubles (373), 5th in hits (2,543), 10th in RBI (1,448), 5th in runs (1,372), 5th in total bases (4,474), tied for 17th in walks (931), 3rd in times hit by pitch (161), second in double plays ground into (267), 4th in games (2,677), 3rd in at-bats (9,404) and third in strikeouts (1,587).