Itsuro Honda (本多 逸郎)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 9", Weight 147 lb.
- High School Inuyama High School
Itsuro Honda began his career as a pitcher but wound up primarily as an outfielder, once leading the Central League in steals.
Honda signed with the Chunichi Dragons; as a rookie in 1950, the teenager tossed 8 2/3 IP with no earned runs (2 R), 5 hits, 3 walks and 4 whiffs. He was 0 for 2 at the plate. The team became the Nagoya Dragons in 1951 and he had a 7.23 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in 17 games; he did go 6 for 24, showing more skill at the plate than on the mound. As a result, he became an outfielder in 1952, though he was just 4 for 36 with a walk that year.
In 1953, Honda became a starter and batted .244/.288/.301 with 15 steals in 20 tries. He improved to .297/.325/.375 with 8 triples, 66 runs and 20 swipes (in 30 attempts) in 1954 when the team returned to the Chunichi name. He was 10th in the CL in average, 10th in hits (134, between Makoto Kozuru and Yuko Minamimura), 9th in runs, tied Tetsuharu Kawakami for second in triples, tied for 10th in steals and tied Masayasu Kaneda for 7th in caught stealing. The Dragons won their only pre-1974 pennant. In the 1954 Japan Series, Honda hit .241/.241/.345 with a team-high 3 doubles; he had 2 runs and one RBI as Chunichi beat the Nishitetsu Lions in 7 games.
The Aichi native produced at a .254/.301/.330 clip in 1955 and pilfered 42 bases but was gunned down 22 times. He tied for 4th in the CL in triples (5), led in steals (one over Jiro Kanayama) and led in times caught (two more than Yoshio Yoshida). He only had two errors in 130 outfield games. He slumped to .202/.248/.245 with 15-for-24 in steals in 1956. Rebounding somewhat in 1957, he batted .224/.269/.283, stole 25 and was caught 12 times. He tied Yoshida for 5th in the league in steals and was 4th in times caught.
In 1958, Honda hit .261/.317/.324 and stole 22 bases in 38 tries. He tied Tatsuro Hiroka for 7th in stolen bases and tied Hideshi Miyake for second in caught stealing. He batted .260/.296/.344 with 19 steals in 29 tries in 1959. He was 8th in the CL in steals (between Shigeo Nagashima and Hiroka), tied for 7th in caught stealing and tied for 5th with 7 three-baggers. His playing time dropped the next few years: .188/.211/.272 in 91 games in 1960 and 3-for-31 with 5 walks and 2 doubles in 1961. He became the 64th Nippon Pro Baseball player to appear in 1,000 games. After not appearing for a couple years, he was 3 for 18 in 1964 and 2 for 18 with five walks in 1965.
In 1,053 games in NPB, Honda had hit .241/.284/.307 with 34 triples, 170 steals in 264 tries, 339 runs and 201 RBI. He had 34 errors. On the mound, he had a 5.89 ERA in 22 games. Through 2011, he was still tied for 90th in NPB history in steals (even with Hiroyoshi Tsukamoto and Naofumi Yasui) and tied for 51st in caught stealing (with Hiromi Matsunaga).
He later was a minor league manager for the Dragons and coached for them as well. In 1968, he took over managerial reigns mid-season for Shigeru Sugishita and went 29-43-3, better than Sugishita had done. Just an interim appointee, he was not given the full-time job. He survived a stroke in 1983 but died of liver cancer in 2005.