- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 190 lb.
- High School Fuji High School
- Born September 16, 1941 in Shizuoka Prefecture Japan
- Died August 25, 2007 in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Japan
Watanabe started his career in the industrial leagues for Nihon Keikinzoku before being signed by the Yomiuri Giants prior to the 1963 season. He debuted with Yomiuri a year later, going 2-5 with a 5.16 ERA in 15 games. A year later, he only pitched 10 1/3 innings, allowing two runs. He became a regular member in 1966 and went 13-6 with a 2.34 ERA. In 154 1/3 IP, he only walked 20. That year, he became a submarine pitcher. He finished 8th in the Central League in ERA. In the 1966 Japan Series, he allowed two home runs in two innings in his lone appearance, but Yomiuri still won, part of their record run of 9 straight titles.
In 1967, the 25-year-old had a 13-6, 2.55 record and was 7th in the CL in ERA. During the 1967 Japan Series, he allowed one run in six innings, on a solo homer. He fell to 1-3, 4.41 in 1968 and bounced back to 10-8, 3.36 in 1969. He allowed one hit in 3 1/3 IP in the 1969 Japan Series but continued his home run trend in the Series, allowing his fourth solo homer.
Watanabe had possibly his best season in 1970. He had a 23-8, 2.53 record with 39 walks in 260 1/3 IP, though he led the CL with 14 hit batsmen. He threw a no-hitter against the Hiroshima Carp on May 18. Watanabe made his first All-Star team that year. He finished 8th in the league in ERA and two wins behind leader Masaji Hiramatsu. In the 1970 Japan Series, he struggled, allowing five runs in four innings.
In the 1971 season, he was 10-12 with a 3.26 ERA. He made his second All-Star squad and was part of a historic All-Star Game no-hitter, working innings 4 and 5 against the Pacific League All-Stars. He teamed with Yutaka Enatsu (3 innings), Kazumi Takahashi (1 inning), Hisanobu Mizutani (1/3 IP) and Tadakatsu Kotani (2 2/3 IP). Watanabe allowed three runs in 2 2/3 IP in the 1971 Japan Series, all unearned.
Watanabe had a 10-11, 3.17 record for the 1972 campaign. He led the CL with 13 batters hit by pitch. In the 1972 Japan Series, Watanabe allowed one run (a solo homer of course) in two innings of work.
Watanabe moved to the Nittaku Home Flyers in 1973, going 11-14 with a 3.62 ERA for his new club. The next year, he was 4-6 with a save and a 3.92 ERA, working more out of the bullpen than he had been previously.
In 1975, Watanabe went 5-8 with a 4.41 ERA and led the Pacific League with 17 batters hit by pitch. He did win his 100th game in NPB that year. Moving to the Taiyo Whales in 1976, Hidetake again had a 4.41 ERA; he won 3, lost 7 and saved one that year.
In 17 2/3 innings in 1977, Watanabe was rocked for 33 hits, 6 homers and 22 runs. He had a 10.42 ERA but somehow went 1-0.
Resurgence with Hiroshima
Joining his fifth team in 1979, the veteran moved to the Hiroshima Carp and had a great year, going 2-1 with 2 saves and a 2.22 ERA in 47 games. He had the lowest ERA on the Central League champions' pitching staff. He once again appeared on a Japan Series-winning team, allowing one hit (not a homer!) and one run in four games in the 1979 Japan Series.
In 1980, the old-timer began his third decade in NPB with a 3-1, 2 Sv, 2.90 campaign in 42 games. He allowed three hits and one run in 2/3 of an inning in the 1980 Japan Series but he still was on his 8th title-winning team in eight Series appearances.
In 606 games and 2,083 2/3 IP in Nippon Pro Baseball, Watanabe was 118-100 with 8 saves and a 3.35 ERA. He walked only 404 and struck out 1,041 while allowing 1,976 hits and 205 home runs. Through 2006, he is tied for 27th all-time in games pitched. He was the all-time leader in hit batsmen (144) before being passed by Osamu Higashio. Through 2006, he still ranks second all-time in Japan.
After retiring, Watanabe became a scout for Hiroshima. He died of pneumonia 25 years after his career ended.