Victor Starffin

From BR Bullpen


Victor Starffin (須田 博) (Blue-eyed Japanese)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 3", Weight 198 lbs.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Starfin after his 300th win.

Victor Starfin was Nippon Pro Baseball's first 300-game-winner. He ended his career with a 303-177 record. Tragically, he was killed after driving drunk and hitting a train.

Starfin's family fled Russia after the revolution and he lived part of his childhood on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. When a MLB All-Star team toured Japan in 1934, he pitched one inning against them. He walked Lou Gehrig, struck out Jimmie Foxx, walked Earl Averill then got Bing Miller to hit into a double play. A big man who was well over six feet tall, his size gave him an advantage playing in Japan in the early days of professional baseball, starting in 1936. Starffin planned to go to Waseda University after high school, but the owner of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants - Matsutaro Shoriki - found that Starffin's father was in jail due to involuntary manslaughter, and he threatened Starffin that if he refused to play for him, he would publicize the details of his father's case. Therefore, Starffin signed with the Giants in 1936.

The Russian only went 1-2 in his rookie year, and he soon became the ace of Yomiuri in 1937. He completed the second no-hitter in NPB history on July 3, and led the Japanese Professional Baseball League with 15 wins in fall season. He extended his domination in the spring of 1938, went 14-3 with a 2.04 ERA, led the league in wins and shutouts, and ranked 2nd in ERA (.51 behind Yukio Nishimura). He won a triple crown in the fall season with his 19 wins and 1.42 ERA, and also led the league in shutouts, complete games and winning percentage. He was the second player in NPB history to lead the league in those six categories, behind fellow legend Eiji Sawamura.

Starffin had one of the most incredible seasons in NPB history in 1939. He collected 42 wins with a 1.73 ERA, and won the JPBL MVP award. He broke the NPB record with 282 strikeouts, and his 42 wins in a season are still the NPB record as of 2023, unlikely to be broken barring major changes. In fact, he relieved Hiroshi Nakao in two games when the team had a lead and Nakao pitched more than 5 innings, so Starffin should got a save instead of a win. However, the recorder listed Starffin as winning pitcher at that time, and the league admitted his 42-win record. Starffin was the fastest pitcher to reach 100 career wins in NPB history, as he only used 165 games. He also set a batting record as he collected 4 walk-off hits in a season (broken by Katsuo Osugi in 1969).

The ace of the Giants had another solid season in 1940. He was 38-12 with a 0.97 ERA, and led the league in wins again. Starffin also led the league in shutouts with 16, ranked 2nd in ERA (.04 behind Jiro Noguchi), 4th in strikeouts (52 behind Tadashi Kameda) and 2nd in complete games (2 behind Kameda). He won the JPBL MVP again, and he was the first player to win back-to-back MVPs in NPB history. He was also the only player to lead the league in wins for 5 straight seasons. Because the "Nomonhan Incident" exploded in 1940, the relationship between Russia and Japan worsened, so Starffin was forced to change his name to "Hiroshi Suda" in 1941 through he didn't had the Japan citizenship. He still had a 15-3 record with a 1.20 ERA in this season, but he left the field on July 14 due to pleurisy and missed the rest of the season.

Starffin came back in 1942, and he dominated the league again as he had a 26-8 record with a 1.12 ERA. He ranked 3rd in wins (14 behind Noguchi), 3rd in ERA (.31 behind Hideo Fujimoto) and 6th in Ks (154 behind Noguchi). However, with World War II getting fiercer, Starffin's career was also influenced because he was a foreigner. He had a 10-5 record with a 1.19 ERA in 1943, then went 6-0 with a 0.68 ERA in 1944. Since Russia was Japan's enemy in the war, Starffin was placed in a detention camp at Karuizawa and left pro baseball.

When the war ended, Starffin came back to the JPBL and joined the Pacific club. His shoulder was injured during the war, and he couldn't use his fastball to deal with batters. As a substitute, Starffin used his command and elite curve to retire hitters. He only pitched 5 games in 1946, then had a 8-10 record with a 2.05 ERA in 1947. He jumped to the Kinsei Stars in 1948, and recorded a 2.17 ERA with 17 wins. The veteran led the league in wins for the 6th and the last time in 1949 as he had a 27-17 record with a 2.61 ERA. He also led the league in starts, appearances, complete games, shutouts and innings, ranked 2nd in strikeouts (20 behind Shisho Takesue) and 3rd in ERA (.67 behind Fujimoto).

Starffin never had another productive season like 1949 in the rest of his career. He slumped to 11-15 with a 3.96 ERA in 1950, and went 6-6 with a 2.68 ERA in 1951. The 1953 season was his last 10-win season as he was 11-9 with a 2.68 ERA, then he jumped to the Takahashi Unions after this season. He was 8-13 with a 3.73 ERA in 1954, and he became the first pitcher ever in NPB history to win 300 games, reaching that mark in 1955. However, his record was 7-21 with a 3.89 ERA, and he led the Pacific League in losses. He was released after this season, and his career ended. Starffin was killed after driving drunk and hitting a train, and he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1960. The Asahikawa Stadium was renamed as "Victor Starffin Stadium" to honor this legend.

Overall, Starffin was 303-176 with a 2.09 ERA and 1,960 strikeouts, pitched 4,175 1/3 innings in 19 seasons in NPB. Through 2023, he is the all-time NPB career records holder for shutouts (1 ahead of Masaichi Kaneda), ranked 6th in wins (97 behind Kaneda), 5th in ERA (.18 behind Fujimoto), 2nd in complete games (15 behind Kaneda), 7th in innings (1,351 behind Kaneda), 27th in strikeouts (2,530 behind Kaneda) and 7th in hits allowed (1,331 behind Tetsuya Yoneda).

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