Yasuo Yonekawa (米川 泰夫)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 154 lb.
Yasuo Yonekawa was a four-time All-Star in 11 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and won two strikeout titles.
Yonekawa left college in mid-1949 to sign with the Tokyu Flyers, going 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA in 1949. He was a workhorse in 1950, starting 36 games and relieving in 22 more; he went 23-23 with a 3.24 ERA. He set Pacific League records for errors by a pitcher (12) and runs allowed (182), both of which still stand. He led the new PL in complete games (27, 3 over Shigeaki Kuroo), games pitched (one more than Yoshio Tenbo), innings (363 2/3, 35 2/3 ahead of Tenbo), hits allowed (349, 27 more than Tenbo), homers allowed (27, one more than Giichiro Shiraki and Yoshimi Ebara), strikeouts (207, 43 more than #2 Mitsuro Sawafuji) and runs allowed (18 more than Tenbo). He was second in wins (3 behind Atsushi Aramaki), losses (1 behind Tenbo) and earned runs (131, 3 behind Tenbo), 4th in walks (96, between Kozo Goi and Yoshiharu Himeno), tied for 5th in hit batsmen (6, even with Ebara and Hayashi) and 7th in ERA (between Jiro Noguchi and Kuroo).
The right-hander had a somewhat lighter workload in 1951 (294 2/3 IP, 32 GS, 40 GP). He went 19-12 with a 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and .228 opponent average. He took the loss in the second NPB All-Star Game ever, game 2 of 1951. Relieving Susumu Yuki with a 2-0 lead entering the 7th, he allowed hits to Tetsuharu Kawakami, Fumio Fujimura, Akira Noguchi (scoring two) and Michio Nishizawa (a two-run homer) for a 4-run frame to take the loss. Shosei Go pinch-hit for him. On October 7, he allowed 19 hits to the Daiei Stars to set a PL record which still stands. He finished the year 5th in the circuit in ERA (between Tokuji Kawasaki and Aramaki), tied Yuki for second in wins (5 behind Haruyasu Eto), tied Himeno and Takeshi Nomura for 5th in losses, tied Hachiro Abe and Noburo Nakatani for third in games pitched, led in complete games (24, four over Hayashi), led in innings (26 more than Eto), led in hits allowed (248, 6 more than Abe), was second in runs allowed (94, 8 behind Abe), was second in earned runs (77, 2 shy of Abe), was 5th in walks (67, between Nakatani and Himeno), tied Eiji Shibata for third in hit batsmen (6) and was second in whiffs (135, 15 fewer than Abe). All that work in 1950-1951 must have taken a toll as he only pitched 5 games in 1952 (1-2, 2.28).
The Osaka native had a 16-21, 2.76 record in 1953, pitching 274 innings over 45 games (35 starts, 21 of them complete). He started for the PL in the third 1953 NPB All-Star Game and tossed 3 shutout innings (1 H, 2 K) but Shigeru Sugishita was tossing shutout ball for the Central League. He was relieved by Hayashi and the PL wound up winning, 3-0. He was on the PL leaderboard in wins (6th), losses (1st, 6 more than Junzo Sekine, Kawasaki and Fumio Takechi), games pitched (4th, behind Shigeki Ueno, Aramaki and Kawasaki), complete games (2nd, 5 behind Hayashi), shutouts (6, 1st), innings (4th, between Hayashi and Taketoshi Ogami), hits allowed (259, 3rd, behind Ueno and Hayashi), runs (105, 2nd, 9 behind Ueno), earned runs (84, tied for second with Hayashi, 22 behind Ueno), walks (60, 6th) and strikeouts (180, first by 38 over Jonas Gaines).
Yonekawa pitched for the PL in the second 1954 NPB All-Star Game, relieving Hisafumi Kawamura in the 6th with a 1-1 tie and tossing three shutout innings (1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) and striking out in his at-bat against Masaichi Kaneda. Takechi relieved him in the 9th and the PL went on to win in extra innings. He was 23-14 with a 2.44 ERA and .219 opponent average in the regular season for the Flyers (now the Toei Flyers) in 1954. He was 9th in the PL in ERA (between Aramaki and Sekine), 4th in wins (after Takechi, Motoji Takuwa and Kawamura), 3rd with 56 games pitched (only Kawamura and Takuwa had more), tied for 7th in complete games (15, even with Takuwa and Aramaki), 4th in IP (299 1/3, behind Takuwa, Kajimoto and Takechi), 6th in hits allowed (240, between Hayashi and Aramaki), 6th in runs allowed (105, between Yoshiharu Ogawa and Takechi), 6th in earned runs (81, between Ogawa and Hayashi), 6th in walks (86, between Kawamura and Ogawa), 4th in whiffs (204, behind Takuwa, Sadao Nishimura and Kajimoto) and tied for second in wild pitches (4).
Yasuo had his last good year in 1955 (22-21, 2.27). In his final All-Star selection, he pitched in both of the 1955 NPB All-Star Games. In game one, he relieved Takuwa in the third and pitched 3 shutout innings (1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) to get the win. He was retired by Kaneda at the plate. He was relieved by Kawamura in the combined PL shutout as a hometown hero. In game two, things were far worse. Relieving Nishimura in the 6th with a 5-4 deficit, he was smacked around for 4 runs in 1 1/3 IP before Aramaki took his place. He was 6th in the PL in ERA (between Isao Wada and Kawamura), 3rd in wins (after Takuwa and Taisei Nakamura), tied for first in losses with Victor Starfin, tied for 4th in games pitched (55, even with Mamoru Otsu and Noboru Yamashita), 1st in complete games (25, 6 more than Hayashi and Kajimoto), tied for 6th in shutouts (4, even with Nakamura and Takuwa), 1st in innings (353 1/3, 60 ahead of runner-up Yamashita), the easily leader in hits allowed (321, 79 more than Yamashita), second in runs allowed despite his huge inning lead (110, 4 behind Yamashita), tied with Sekine for second in earned runs allowed (83), 7th in walks (83) and 5th in strikeouts (185, between Nishimura and Yamashita).
Still only 28, Yonekawa was now on the downhill turn, presumably due to the heavy inning load he had been carrying. He fell to 10-21, 3.12 in 1956 and failed to make the PL All-Star team for the first time when healthy. He was on the leaderboard still in many counting stats but not anymore in ERA or wins. He led in losses (one ahead of Yoshihiko Taki), tied Aramaki for 5th in complete games (11), was third with 36 starts (behind Yukio Shimabara and Takao Nakano), allowed 249 hits (second to Kajimoto, 35 shy), was 5th in innings (265, between Shiro Ito and Aramaki), was first with 113 runs allowed (3 ahead of Kajimoto and Nakano), led in earned runs allowed (92, one more than Kajimoto), tied for 5th in homers allowed (13) and tied Kazuhisa Inao for 4th with 182 Ks.
Yonekawa was 9-11 with a 2.73 ERA in 1957 and 5-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 1958. With the Nishitetsu Lions in 1959, he ended his career with a 1-5, 5.23 campaign in which opponents hit .296 against the former star.
Yonekawa finished his career at 132-142, 2.81 with a 2.43 opponent average and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 1,346 in 2,274 1/3 IP and walked 536. He pitched 403 games in NPB, 242 of them starts; he completed over half the starts (139). He hit .162/.199/.213 with 6 homers, 43 runs and 45 RBI. Through 2011, he was among the NPB career leaders in complete games (32nd, between Tadayoshi Kajioka and Hayashi), extra-inning games (21, tied for 19th with Masayuki Dobashi), shutouts (18, tied for 79th with 15 others), no-walk complete games (15, tied for 56th), wins (tied for 62nd with Kiyohiro Miura and Koichiro Sasaki), losses (tied for 32nd with Shinichi Yamauchi and Kimiyasu Kudoh), batters faced (9,324, 62nd, between Takao Obana and Takashi Eda), innings (59th, between Miura and Tomoo Wako), runs allowed (898, 71st, between Dobashi and Jun Misawa), hits allowed (2,077, 60th, between Miura and Masatoshi Gondo), strikeouts (1,346, 67th, between Sasaki and Tsuyoshi Wada), WHIP (48th, between Hidetoshi Ikeda and Suguru Egawa), lowest walk rate (66th, between Kentaro Ogawa and Takumi Otomo) and ERA (91st, between Tadao Wako and Ritsuo Horimoto).
- Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland
- Michael Eng database