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Toshiharu Ueda

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Toshiharu Ueda

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Toshiharu Ueda was a classic Japanese manager who won three consecutive Japan Series titles between 1975-77. In all, he won five pennants managing the Hankyu Braves.

Ueda was a catcher during his playing days; in college, he formed a battery with Minoru Murayama. He hit .230/.298/.273 for the Hiroshima Carp in 1959, playing a career-high 66 games. He was 11 for 53 with two doubles, a homer and a walk in 1960 and 7 for 39 with 3 walks, a triple and a homer in 1961 to end his playing career. Overall, he played 121 games in Nippon Pro Baseball, batting .218/.274/.284.

Ueda was later a coach then became manager of the Hankyu Braves. He was absolutely dominant in his first stint with the club, finishing second in 1974 and first the next four years, including the team's only three Japan Series titles. After having gone 348-238-40 over those five years, he was replaced by Takao Kajimoto, only to get the job back after two years off.

In Game 7 of the 1978 Nippon Series, Ueda protested a call made by umpire Yuichi Tanimura. Complaining that the home run hit by Katsuo Osugi was foul, Ueda argued for 79 minutes before Commissioner Kaneko was called on to rule on the matter. The home run was ruled fair, and in his next at-bat, Osugi hit another home run that there was no doubt about.

Ueda's second stint with Hankyu lasted from 1981 to 1990. He led the team to their last Japan Series trip in 1984 and finished second five other times. Overall, he was 595-515-60 during this stretch. He had his first losing season in 1988 at 60-68-62; it was his only losing campaign in his 15 seasons guiding the Braves. He then served two years as a baseball commentator, with Shozo Doi replaced him as Braves manager.

Boomer Wells called Ueda "the best manager of all time to play for", leaving foreign players alone, something uncommon for a Japanese skipper. Brad Lesley recalled him as a "pretty gutsy manager" who created a good atmosphere for his players.

Ueda was directly responsible for the early retirement of Yutaka Fukumoto. While announcing the retirement of Hisashi Yamada, Ueda accidentally announced that Fukumoto was also retiring. Fukumoto decided to go ahead and leave since it had already been announced even though he was intending on coming back for another season.

Ueda was given his third managerial job in 1995 with the Nippon Ham Fighters. In 1996, Ueda asked for a leave of absence a month before the end of the season for family matters. It was later revealed that his wife and daughter had become involved with the Moonies. With the Fighters, he had records of 59-68-3 in 1995, 62-50-3 in 1996, 63-71-1 in 1997, 67-65-3 in 1998 and 59-72-1 in 1999. He succeeded Keiji Osawa as Fighters skipper and was replaced by Yasunori Oshima. In one game in 1996, Ueda attacked an umpire over a home run call (the ball had hit a railing and fallen back on the field), with Ueda convincing the umpires to switch it to a double. His Seibu Lions counterpart, Osamu Higashio, then also attacked an umpire over the reversal. Neither was ejected. Overall, he had gone 1,322-1,136-116 as a manager in NPB. He then returned to the role of baseball commentator.

Ueda was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. As of 2010, he was 7th in NPB history in wins, between Yukio Nishimoto and Sadaharu Oh. He was second in ties, between Nishimoto and Osamu Mihara. In losses, he ranked 7th (in between Kazuto Tsuruoka and Shigeru Mizuhara). In games managed, he was 7th, between Nishimoto and Oh.

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