Shigeru Sugishita

From BR Bullpen


Shigeru Sugishita (杉下 茂) (The God of Forkball)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 156 lbs.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Shigeru Sugishita threw the first forkball in Japanese baseball, and won three Sawamura Awards in Nippon Pro Baseball.

Sugishita served in China during World War II, strengthening his arm by throwing grenades. He was in a POW camp when the war ended and was repatriated in 1946. He played for Isuzu motors in the Industrial League. The Chunichi Dragons signed him in 1949, and he soon joined the rotation. Sugishita was 8-12 with a 3.66 ERA in 15 starts in his rookie year. He improved to 27-15 with a 3.20 ERA in 55 appearances in 1950. He led the Central League in strikeouts with 209, ranked 2nd in wins (12 behind Juzo Sanada) and 9th in ERA (1.17 behind Nobuo Oshima).

The right-hander was 28-13 with a 2.35 ERA in 1951, led the league in wins and shutouts, ranked 2nd in strikeouts (86 behind Masaichi Kaneda) and 2nd in ERA (.34 behind Kiyoshi Matsuda). He won his first Sawamura Award and also was part of the first NPB All-Star Game. In the 1951 NPB All-Star Games, Sugishita allowed a run in 3 innings in Game 1, then recorded 3 shutout innings with 3 strikeouts to get the win in Game 2. The Tokyo native was selected to the 1952 NPB All-Star Game. He pitched 4 shutout innings with 5 strikeouts in the historic 21-inning Game 1, then allowed 3 runs in a inning in Game 2. He ended up having a career-high 32 wins with a 2.33 ERA, and won his second Sawamura Award. He was 2nd in wins (1 behind Takehiko Bessho), 5th in ERA (.62 behind Tadayoshi Kajioka) and 2nd in strikeouts (109 behind Kaneda). The ace of Chunichi was still productive in 1953, had a 23-9 record with a 2.83 ERA. In 1953 NPB All-Star Game 1, Sugishita allowed 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings and got the loss. He started in Game 3, pitched 3 innings, whiffed 4 and ended up with a no-decision.

The Tokyo native dominated the whole league with his forkball in 1954. He was 32-12 with a 2.39 ERA and a career-high 273 strikeouts. He led the league in appearances, shutouts, wins, winning percentage, innings, strikeouts, and ERA. The Tokyo native won his third Sawamura Award - the first pitcher to win 3 or more, his first Best Nine and the Central League MVP. No one else had ever won two Sawamura Awards prior to him; Masaichi Kaneda would later join him as a three-time winner. He also attended the 1954 NPB All-Star Game; he appeared in Game 1 but allowed 2 runs in 2 innings. The Dragons won their first pennant this year, and Sugishita shined in the 1954 Nippon Series. He started in Game 1, Game 4, Game 5 and Game 7, and he completed them all. That's the NPB record, and it likely will never be broken. Sugishita allowed a run and struck out 12 to win Game 1, allowed 3 runs and get the loss in Game 4, struck out 7 with 2 earned runs in Game 5 and shutout the Nishitetsu Lions in Game 7. He won his first Nippon Series title, and also collected his only Nippon Series Most Valuable Player.

Sugishita threw a no-hitter on May 10 in 1955, and attended the 1955 NPB All-Star Game. He pitched a inning and allowed a run in Game 1. Sugishita ended up 26-12 with a 1.56 ERA and 247 strikeouts. He was 4th in wins (4 behind Ryohei Hasegawa and Takumi Otomo), 4th in ERA (.47 behind Takehiko Bessho) and 3rd in strikeouts (103 behind Kaneda). Sugishita still had a solid 2.00 ERA in 1956, but he only collected 14 wins. He got the 200th win in his career on October 23 in the next season, but ended up 10-7 with a 1.75 ERA in 1957. He was 11-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 1958, then he became the Dragons' manager in 1959. The Dragons were 127-127 in Sugishita's 2-year managing career, then he transferred to the Daimai Orions in 1961. The 36-year-old veteran had a 2.44 ERA in 32 appearances as a reliever, then announced his retirement to become a full-time coach. He was the bench coach for the Hanshin Tigers from 1964 to 1965, and managed them in 1966. He also managed the Dragons in 1968, but the Dragons fired him after he only had a .362 winning percentage in 59 games. He them served as pitching coach for the Yomiuri Giants from 1976 to 1980 and for the Seibu Lions from 1993 to 1994. Sugishita was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Overall, Sugishita was 215-123 with a 2.23 ERA, struck out 1,761 and pitched 2,841 2/3 innings in 11 seasons in NPB.