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Taira Sumitomo

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Taira Sumitomo

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7", Weight 158 lb.

Taira Sumitomo played for the Hankyu Braves for a decade.

A third-round draft pick in 1965 out of college, Sumitomo hit .214/.282/.336 as a rookie in 1966 (he did steal 13 bases in 18 tries). His batting line was even worse (.205/.253/.318, 7 SB, 0 CS) in 1967. On July 30, he turned an unassisted triple play. He saw regular action in the 1967 Japan Series but was just 2 for 18 with four walks as Hankyu's second baseman; after not being caught stealing all year long, he was gunned down in his lone attempt in the Series. In 1968, he improved to .267/.308/.439 and went 8-for-10 in steal attempts. He was 4 for 17 with no runs produced in the 1968 Japan Series as Hankyu lost to the Yomiuri Giants for the second straight Japan Series; he was the starting second baseman for the Braves.

Sumitomo saw little action (95 plate appearances, 60 games) in 1969 and hit .200/.284/.271. He struck out in both at-bats in the 1969 Japan Series as Fujio Yamaguchi took his spot at second base. Hankyu lost once more to Yomiuri. As a part-timer in 1970, Taira stole 18 bases in 19 tries and hit a career-high .294/.333/.471. He batted .231/.345/.368 in 1971 while Yamaguchi and Jerry Adair were the main second basemen for Hankyu. He was 0 for 2 in the 1971 Japan Series, another one won by Yomiuri.

The veteran's line read .333/.380/.500 in 153 plate appearances in 1972. He started at second in the 1972 Japan Series and hit .267/.429/.467, homering in game two off of Tsuneo Horiuchi; Yomiuri beat Hankyu for the fifth time in six years. The 29-year-old saw his most action (559 plate appearances) in 1973, hitting .263/.377/.373 with 72 walks, 82 runs and 21 steals in 33 tries.

Sumitomo hit a career-high 12 home runs in 1974 with a final batting line of .239/.322/.408. He stole 13 bases in 19 tries. He struggled at .196/.292/.299 as a backup in 1975 and did not play in the 1975 Japan Series, as Hankyu finally took a title (against the Hiroshima Carp). By now, Bobby Marcano was their starter at second.

Overall, Sumitomo had batted .246/.325/.382 in 879 NPB games. He had stolen 96 bases in 131 tries. After his playing career ended, he coached for Hankyu and the Nippon Ham Fighters and was a minor league manager for the Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Source: Japan Baseball Daily

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