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Tatsuhiko Kimata

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Tatsuhiko Kimata

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 165 lb.

Tatsuhiko Kimata played for the Chunichi Dragons for 19 years. He made eight All-Star teams and five Best Nine teams.

Kimata won one batting title and MVP award while in college, but dropped out in 1964 and signed with Chunichi. He hit .212/.239/.265 in 56 games as a rookie, failing to go deep. As a full-time player in 1965, he showed little progress, at .212/.257/.310, though he did hit 10 home runs. That off-season, Wally Yonamine took him along with Morimichi Takagi and Tasumi Yanahaka to the Florida Instructional League to work out for several weeks with the Washington Senators. He batted .248/.301/.372 in 1966 and .224/.286/.489 with 15 homers in 219 AB as a part-timer in 1967. Kimata's progress continued as he put up a .289/.351/.501 line with 21 long balls in 1968.

Tatsuhiko launched 33 dingers in 1969 while hitting .268/.330/.578. He won Best Nine honors as the Central League's top catcher, ending a run of eight straight Best Nines by Masaaki Mori. Kimata was just the third Nippon Pro Baseball catcher with 30 home runs in a season. In 1970, #23 batted .283/.350/.515 with another 30 home runs. He made his first CL All-Star team and again was the Best Nine catcher. He finished fourth in the league in average behind Sadaharu Oh, Motoo Ando and Goro Toi. Of the top 10 in average, only Oh (47) and Makoto Matsubara (also 30) had as many homers as Kimata.

The Chunichi catcher fell to 27 homers in 1971 but improved his batting line to .280/.364/.517, won another Best Nine pick and was an All-Star again. He was 6th in average, between Akira Ejiri and Yukinobu Kuroe. He faded to .268/.331/.444 with 21 homers in 1972 (Koichi Tabuchi succeeded him as the Best Nine catcher) and .251/.340/.366 with 9 long balls in 1973.

In 1974, Kimata had his best season in terms of average - .322/.379/.507 with 18 home runs. He opened the season in dramatic form. With his club down 5-4 in the opener against the Hiroshima Carp, he drilled a 3-run, 7th-inning homer that proved to be the winner. He finished second in average, 10 points behind Oh, but lost the Best Nine to Tabuchi, who hit 45 homers that year. Kimata made his third All-Star team. He played on his first CL pennant winner. In the 1974 Japan Series, he was just 4 for 19 with two walks, a double, no runs and two RBI in six games as Chunichi fell to the Lotte Orions. Tatsuhiko hit .279/.320/.346 with a mere three homers in 1975 but still was an All-Star for the fourth time.

Kimata rebounded to .302/.347/.463 in 1976 and became the 24th NPB player to 200 career home runs. He hit .310/.355/.453 in 1977 and made his fifth All-Star team and fourth Best Nine. He was at .294/.358/.455 with 16 homers in 1978, when he was an All-Star yet again. He made his seventh All-Star team and fifth and final Best Nine in 1979, hitting .312/.354/.458 with 17 homers and 72 RBI. He was 5th in average, between John Sipin and Mike Reinbach.

An All-Star for the last time in 1980, Kimata clubbed 18 circuit clouts and had a batting line of .298/.346/.455. He was 10th in average. At age 36/37, the veteran batted .276/.331/.448 in 1981 then was 9 for 53 with two walks and a homer in 1982, his last year. He was now a backup to Takayoshi Nakao. In the 1982 Japan Series, Kimata was 0 for 3 with a walk as Chunichi fell to the Seibu Lions.

Kimata played 2,142 games in NPB, with 1,876 hits, 277 doubles, 285 homers and 872 RBI. His batting line was .277/.335/.447. Through 2010, he was 28th in NPB history in games (between Shigeo Nagashima and Shinichi Etoh) and was tied for 27th in intentional walks (73, even with Akihiko Oya). Kimata was third among NPB catchers in career homers, behind Nomura and presumably Tabuchi.

Kimata later was a Dragons coach and an announcer.

Sources: Japanbaseballdaily, Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts

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