Hiroshi Ogawa (03)

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Hiroshi Ogawa (小川 博)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Hiroshi Ogawa was the third player with that name to appear in Nippon Pro Baseball; the other two were infielders, and the second Hiroshi Ogawa was still active when the pitcher made his debut at the top level in 1985. All six of his seasons where with the Lotte Orions of the Pacific League.

He was adopted at a young age and grew up in Gunma Prefecture where he was a star player in high school, taking part three times in the Koshien tournament. Coming out of university, he was taken in the second round of the 1984 NPB Draft by both Lotte and the Hankyu Braves, but Lotte won the draw for his negotiating rights.

Known for his excellent fastball and his sidearm delivery, Ogawa first came up as a reliever, as of his 21 appearances on the mound during his rookie season, only 2 were starts. He went 2-3, 4.67 with 4 saves, then spent most of 1986 in the minor leagues, only making 6 outings for the top club, with no decisions and an ERA of 7.11. He began to show some promise in 1987, when he was 3-5, 3.28 as a swingman, making 8 starts in 40 appearances and logging 98 2/3 innings, striking out 79 batters. He then had a career year in 1988 when he led the Pacific League in both strikeouts, with 204, and walks, with 91 He went 10-9, 3.40 in 31 games for Lotte, including 25 starts, and gave up just 144 hits in 203 2/3 innings. His strikeout total led all of NPB that year and he played in the NPB All-Star Game that year and struck out five consecutive batters.

He could not keep up at that level, however. In 1989, a shoulder injury limited him to 14 games, during which he was ineffective, going 3-8, 5.50. He was a bit better in 1990, going 3-1, 4.83with 1 save in 20 games, including 8 starts, and striking out 55 batters in 71 1/3 innings, It was his final professional season, however, as he battled shoulder injuries again in 1991 and 1992 and was unable to pitch either year. Some speculated that his injuries were because he had become "strikeout-happy" and tried to overpower every batter after his one great season. He announced his retirement at the end of the 1992 season. He worked for a while as a coach for the now Chiba Lotte Marines minor league team, and for the top team in 1995 and 1998.

He came back in the news on December 21, 2004, but for all the wrong reasons. That day, he was arrested for murder, the result of a robbery gone wrong. The victim was a 67-year-old woman named Kazuko Nishiuchi. A year later, he was handed a life sentence by the Saitama District Court. In spite of having had steady employment with his former club, he was heavily into gambling and made some bad business deals, losing most of his earnings, until his huge debts created problems and he was let go in 2002. He worked odd jobs but still had major debts, which pushed him to turn to criminality. The robbery took place at his then employer's home. He had contracted a debt from him and when he visited the home on the day of the murder, November 18th, he only found his housekeeper. He killed her when she refused to give him money, and dumped her body in a nearby river. He then robbed the home of a large sum of money. The body was found a couple of days later and he was arrested a month after that. He claimed that he had never planned to kill the housekeeper, but had lost his senses because of the pressure of his accumulated debuts, many contracted from black market lenders, and the need for him to find money urgently. Nonetheless, he was condemned to imprisonment in perpetuity in an affair that received intense media coverage and shook the Japanese baseball world badly. While former star players like him are normally treated with great respect, the case also brought out the fact that employment opportunities for them are often lacking and that there was no support system for those needing help.

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