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Sumio Hirota

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Sumio Hirota

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 4", Weight 140 lb.

Sumio Hirota was a three-time Pacific League All-Star.

Hirota played for Shikoku Bank in the industrial leagues after high school. The Lotte Orions picked him in the third round of the 1971 draft. Hirota debuted with the big club in 1972 and hit .283/.311/.380 in 71 games with 18 steals in 24 tries. He batted .295/.340/.433 as a starter in 1973 with 87 runs and 22 steals in 31 tries. The little outfielder cracked 13 homers, a career high. On July 11, he hit for the cycle. He placed 10th in the PL in average. He won a Diamond Glove Award for his fine play in the outfield.

Hirota hit .295/.340/.417 and stole 26 bases in 34 attempts in 1974. On August 28, he hit an inside-the-park grand slam, the third such feat in NPB annals. He made his first PL All-Star team. He finished sixth in the circuit in average, between Wes Parker and Atsushi Nagaike. He won another Diamond Glove as well. In the 1974 Japan Series, he batted .400/.423/.720 with two homers, six runs and seven RBI in six games to lead the Orions to their only Japan Series title; they became the first team other than the Yomiuri Giants to win in 10 years. Sumio was named the Japan Series MVP for his efforts.

The Kochi native improved to .301/.347/.432 in 1975 with just 25 strikeouts in 491 at-bats. He stole 35 bases in 47 attempts. He made his second All-Star team, won his third Diamond Glove and made his first Best Nine as one of the league's top three flyhawks (alongside Kyosuke Sasaki and Jinten Haku). He led the PL with 148 hits, tied for the lead with six triples and placed 5th in average.

Hirota fell a bit, to .285/.322/.360 in 1976 with 26 swipes in 35 attempts. He won a fourth straight Diamond Glove and joined Hiromitsu Kadota and Yutaka Fukumoto as the Best Nine picks in the outfield. In 1977, he slumped further, to .238/.285/.288 with 20 steals in 33 attempts. He was an All-Star and won his last Diamond Glove.

Sumio batted .245/.286/.305 and stole 25 bases in 34 tries in 1978. He improved to .285/.310/.385 with 28 doubles in 1979. In 1980, he hit .262/.336/.349 and stole a career-high 41 bases in 51 attempts. He was 13 swipes behind PL leader Fukumoto. His batting line in 1981 was .265/.303/.341 with 29 swipes in 35 tries. He hit one of the most famous outs in Japan when he hit what should have been a homer at Nishinomiya Stadium. Opposing outfielder Masafumi Yamamori scaled the fence, then backhanded Hirota's fly for the out on a play that made worldwide television replays for years.

Hirota batted .258/.295/.370 with 22 stolen bases in 31 attempts in 1982 and .245/.289/.290 in 1983, then was traded to the Hanshin Tigers. In 1984, he had a resurgence, hitting .313/.365/.443 for Hanshin. He was 9th in the Central League in average, right behind Ken Macha.

The old-timer put up a .296/.354/.399 line in a part-time role in 1985 as Hanshin won their first pennant in 18 years. He hit only .136/.130/.136 as Hanshin's DH in the 1985 Japan Series but they won the Series for the first time ever. Hirota fell to .241/.270/.282 in 1986 and was 1 for 7 in 1987, his final year as a player.

Overall, Hirota had batted .276/.320/.370 in 1,592 games in NPB with only 378 strikeouts in 5,466 AB. He stole 294 bases in 404 tries. Through 2009, he was 28th all-time in steals.

Hirota later coached for Hanshin, the Yokohama BayStars and Yomiuri Giants (where he feuded with Tuffy Rhodes).

Primary Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland

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