Hiroshi Takahashi (01)
Hiroshi Takahashi (高橋 博士)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Miyazaki Commercial High School
Hiroshi Takahashi played 18 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and one in the US minors, making one All-Star team but figuring into two historical notes.
Takahashi signed with the Nankai Hawks out of high school. He was one of three players Nankai shipped to the US in 1964 in a player development deal with the San Francisco Giants; the others were Masanori Murakami and Tatsuhico Tanaka. Murakami would go on to be the first Japanese player in the majors, while Takahashi spent the summer with the Magic Valley Cowboys. he hit .250/.394/.329 in 28 games, fielding .987 and tying for the team lead with 24 games caught.
Returning to Nankai in 1965, he got his first at-bat in NPB as a pinch-hitter for Kohei Sugiyama and singled off Mitsuhiro Adachi; he went 2 for 4 with a RBI in 10 games that year. He was a defensive sub in the outfield primarily in 1966, going 1 for 3 with a RBI. He played all six games of the 1966 Japan Series but did not bat once; Nankai lost to the Yomiuri Giants. It would be his lone Japan Series. He was only 2-for-21 with two walks and nine whiffs in 1967. Backing up Katsuya Nomura again at C and Marty Keough at 1B, he hit .255/.310/.373 in 60 plate appearances and 41 games in 1968.
A backup again in 1969, he saw increased time as Nomura missed some action, as did 1B Lee Thomas. Takahashi batted .255/.307/.323 in 88 games and stole 5 bases in 5 tries, showing good speed for a C-1B. Making the odd move from catcher to shortstop in his 7th season as a pro, he hit .264/.298/.360 in 79 games in 1970, backing up Kenji Koike at SS and also playing 2B, 1B and the outfield.
In 1971, the Miyazaki native was used very regularly at 3B and saw action at short as well; he hit .265/.316/.399 with a career-high 59 runs and went deep nine times. He tied Yutaka Fukumoto for the Pacific League lead in triples (5), tied Jerry Adair and Teruhide Sakurai for 10th in double play grounders (13), tied for 3rd in hit-by-pitch (9) and tied Michiyo Arito for the most errors, regardless of position (24). He also made his only PL All-Star team. In 1971 NPB All-Star Game 1, he replaced Arito at 3B in the middle of a 4-0 historic no-hitter loss to the Central League, being retired by Kazumi Takahashi and Tadakatsu Kotani. He started Game 2 at SS and moved to 3B when Toshizu Sakamoto entered at short, going 0 for 4 in a 4-0 PL win. In Game 3, he started at 3B and went 0 for 4 with a run and an error, moving to second to replace Tsuyoshi Oshita when Arito entered; the PL won 3-2.
Takahashi was then traded to the Toei Flyers for Takenori Emoto and Yoshiyuki Sano. He batted .242/.321/.345 as Toei's main third baseman in 1972. The team became the Nittaku Home Flyers in 1973; Hiroshi slumped to .214/.268/.274 in a utility role as Sakamoto moved from SS to 3B. The Flyers became the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1974 and Takahashi rebounded to .283/.331/.469 with 7 HR in 145 AB, mainly as a back-up catcher. On September 29, he became the first player in NPB history to man all nine positions during a game. He opened at 1B, moved to C (throwing out Ikuo Shimano stealing) in the second, played third in the third, moved to SS in the 4th, took second base in the 5th, left field in the 6th, CF in the 7th and RF in the 8th. He then moved in to pitch and retired pitcher Tsuneo Nozaki before Hidetake Watanabe relieved. He had a putout and two assists in his historic game. The next NPB player to turn the feat would be Akihito Igarashi in 2000.
In 1975, Takahashi finally became a regular at his original position, catcher. He hit .269/.305/.389 with a career-high 12 home runs and 40 RBI. He was back on the bench in 1976 when Toshio Kato became the starting catcher; Takahashi did well in that role (.276/.337/.391).
Moving to the Lotte Orions as a free agent, he hit .294/.325/.416 as a backup C-1B in 1977, playing 99 games and setting a career high in average. He was Lotte's primary catcher in 1978 and produced at a .263/.297/.358 clip. He struggled (.161/.286/.258) in 1979 but became the 208th NPB player to 1,000 games. He rebounded to .248/.316/.335 in 1980 and hit .246/.295/.297 in 1981. In his final season, 1982, he batted only .159/.270/.190 with two runs and three RBI in 76 plate appearances, backing up Hidetoshi Hakamada.
Overall, Takahashi had hit .254/.308/.357 in 1,288 NPB games, with 318 runs and 314 RBI. He stole 37 bases in 64 tries and hit 60 home runs. He played 690 games at catcher, 173 at 3B, 100 at 1B, 88 at SS and 22 at 2B.