Hiroyuki Watanabe (01)

From BR Bullpen

Hiroyuki Watanabe (渡辺 博之)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7", Weight 160 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Hiroyuki Watanabe was an All-Star outfielder in Japan in the 1950s.

Watanabe helped Doshisha win a Kansai Big Six University League. Nankai tried to sign him, but he refused. He served in the military in World War II. He turned pro in 1950 with his hometown Osaka Tigers; he allowed two hits, two walks and four runs (one earned) without retiring anyone. He then was converted to a 1B-outfielder and hit .301/.375/.513 with 47 runs, 11 home runs and 44 RBI. In 1951, he faded to .252/.318/.414 with 13 homers (10th in the Central League in that department).

In 1952, Watanabe only went deep five times, batting .260/.336/.346. He hit .287/.341/.436 with 22 doubles in 1953, missing the top 10 in average by .004. He had his best season in 1954, with a batting line of .353/.413/.456, 30 steals in 36 tries and 91 RBI. On May 26, he tied the league record with six hits in a game. He made the CL All-Star team and finished among the leaders in runs (68, tied for 5th with Shigeru Chiba and Michio Nishizawa), hits (170, tied for second with Nishizawa, two behind Wally Yonamine), RBI (tied for first with Satoru Sugiyama), steals (tied for third, behind Yoshio Yoshida and Jiro Kanayama), average (2nd, .008 behind Yonamine) and OBP (2nd to Yonamine). He made the Best Nine, joining Sugiyama and Yonamine as the CL outfielders chosen. 50 years later, another Hiroyuki Watanabe would be a CL Gold Glove winner.

Watanabe had another productive year in 1955, hitting .313/.358/.374 and making his other All-Star team. He was among the CL leaders in hits (144, 3rd, 3 behind Kawakami and Kazuo Yoshida), RBI (54, 8th), runs (56, 9th), sacrifice flies (9, 1st) and average (3rd behind Kawakami and Toshikazu Kodama). He, Yonamine and Yukihiko Machida were the CL's Best Nine outfield picks.

In 1956, Watanabe struggled, hitting only .227/.300/.306, though he still was among the league leaders in runs (48, 9th), RBI (47, 8th) and sacrifice flies (6, 1st). He hit .256/.316/.294 with a single home run in 1957. The Tigers then sold him to the Kintetsu Buffalo. He bombed there, eking out a .150/.216/.159 line in 40 games in 1958 and .214/.257/.270 in 1959 to end his playing career.

Overall, Watanabe batted .273/.335/.370 in 1,019 NPB games, with 383 runs and 453 RBI. He was a professor at his alma mater, Doshisha University, after his baseball career ended, and also was their baseball coach from 1961-1978. Battling health problems, he and his wife hung themselves in a double suicide in 1990.

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