Tokuji Kawasaki

From BR Bullpen

TokujiKawasaki.jpg

Tokuji Kawasaki

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 151 lb.

Early career[edit]

Tokuji Kawasaki was a star pitcher for the Mujun Tanko industrial league team and helped them to a championship in 1940. That spurred the Nankai club into signing the young player, who went 1-4 with a 3.00 ERA late in the year for them. A regular member of the Nankai staff the next two seasons, he went 12-16, 2.32 and 15-17, 2.32. The ERAs were not particularly low for that era in Japan and he was not in the top 10 either season. In 1941 he allowed the most homers (7) in the Japanese Professional Baseball League. His repertoire consisted of a fastball, knuckle curve, sinker and shuuto.

World War II[edit]

In 1942 Kawasaki was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. He served in Burma and was captured during fighting there. Serving time in a POW camp, he wrote a memoir of the experiences of himself and other ballplayers during the war, Senso to Yakyu (War to Baseball).

The Yomiuri years[edit]

After being released from the POW camp, Kawasaki joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1946. In 1947 he went 24-16 with a 2.14 ERA, tying Tadashi Wakabayashi for the shutout lead with 10, and improved to 27-15, 2.31 in 1948. That year he led the JPBL in wins (tied with teammate Hiroshi Nakao) and shutouts (12). He was 19-9, 3.90 in 1949 and had a memorable day on April 26 when he became the first pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball to hit three home runs in a game. He drove in 9 runs, which was a Yomiuri team record for just over 57 years, until Tomohiro Nioka broke it on April 30, 2006. On the other hand, Kawasaki also allowed a NPB-record eight home runs in the same contest.

Pitching for Nishitetsu[edit]

In 1950 Kawasaki joined the Nishitetsu Clippers and went 12-15 with a 3.43 ERA. He made the Pacific League All-Star team the next year and was 12-9, 2.31, fourth-best in the league. In 1952 Tokuji went 13-11 with a 2.75 ERA; his four shutouts tied Eiji Shibata for the PL lead and he was fifth in the league in ERA. He again was an All-Star. A third All-Star selection followed in 1953, his best season. That year Kawasaki went 24-15 for Kintetsu with a league-leading 1.98 ERA. He led the PL in innings pitched (294 1/3) and wins as well that season. He was selected as the pitcher on the Pacific League Best Nine that year.

Kawasaki was 10-10, 2.38 in 1954 and 17-15, 2.39 a year later (10th in the league in ERA). At age 35, he fell to 2-3, 2.33 in 1956 and was 0-1, 1.42 in limited time the next year. He retired with a career record of 188-156, 2.53.

Coaching, managerial and administrative career[edit]

After he retired as a player, Kawasaki was hired as a bench coach for Osamu Mihara's Nishitetsu teams and then became the manager in 1960. The Nishitetsu Lions (the name had changed in 1951) went 70-60-6 his first year and 81-56-3 the next. While they finished third and did well both seasons, he did not return to the bench, moving to the front office of the team from 1962 through 1967. He became the Hanshin Tigers pitching coach in 1967.

Post-baseball life and death[edit]

Kawasaki went into the restaurant business after leaving baseball, running an udon noodle shop in Tokyo and later a coffee shop back in his hometown of Tosu. He died in 2006 of gall bladder cancer.

Source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland