Yoshiharu Wakana

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Wakana.jpg

Yoshiharu Wakana

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 195 lb.

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Yoshiharu Wakana played for four organizations in 18 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, making six All-Star teams.

He was a 4th-round pick of the Taiheiyo Club Lions in 1971. He spent 1973 with the Lodi Lions, a US-based minor league team of Taiheiyo. He hit .278/.369/.330 in 49 games in the California League. He made it to the Lions' NPB roster in 1974, going 0 for 5 with two runs. He was 0 for 4 in 12 games in 1975. Wakana hit .239/.308/.239 in 39 games in 1976.

Wakana batted .292/.323/.368 as a regular for the Lions in 1977. He made the Pacific League All-Star team. In 1978, the 24-year-old batted .213/.239/.277. Wakana was then traded with Akinobu Mayumi, Masashi Takenouchi, Masafumi Takeda and 20 million yen to the Seibu Lions for Koichi Tabuchi and Kenji Furusawa.

Wakana hit .303/.354/.404 in a fine first year with Hanshin in 1979. He had a couple rough instances; on May 29, he set up a NPB record with five strikeouts in a game. On the year, he had 17 passed balls, a new Central League record. Despite these fielding lapses, he still won a Diamond Glove Award for the only time, as the top defensive catcher in the circuit. He finished 10th in the CL in batting average. He also made his second All-Star team.

In 1980, #39 hit .256/.299/.320 and ground into a CL-high 32 double plays. He made his third All-Star team. He batted .281/.330/.353 in a resurgent 1981 and was picked for a 4th All-Star squad. He was intentionally walked 20 times, leading the CL; he only drew 7 unintentional walks by comparison.

Wakana batted .213/.257/.289 in 73 games in 1982, made his fifth All-Star roster. During the season, though, it became public that Wakana was having an affair with actress Kazuko Shirakawa; he promptly resigned amidst the scandal.

Wakana coached for the Tidewater Tides for part of 1983 and then signed with the Taiyo Whales, hitting .350/.435/.483 in 28 games. In 1984, the veteran backstop batted .271/.293/.373. During 1985, he hit .268/.296/.352 for Taiyo and led the league by grounding into 20 double plays. He set a CL record when he ground into three twin killings on May 29. He made his sixth All-Star team; overall, he hit .280 with 2 homers in 25 AB in All-Star play. Through 2008, he is one of six players to make the NPB All-Star Game for three different clubs.

Wakana (known as a dirty player during his career) hit .288/.328/.363 in 1986 and .301/.356/.415 in 1987. At age 34, he only played 74 games in 1988, hitting .237/.308/.301.

Wakana then moved on to the Nippon Ham Fighters. He batted .250/.284/.381 in 84 AB over 55 games in 1989 and .239/.286/.304 in 138 AB and 63 games in 1990. He finished his long career by batting .235/.244/.247 in 41 games and 84 plate appearances in 1991.

Overall, Wakana hit .267/.309/.348 in 1,387 games in NPB.

After retiring as a player, Yoshiharu coached for the Daiei Hawks from 1997 through 2001. During coaching days, he instructed and raised young catchers, especially Kenji Johjima. Late in his final year as battery coach, he was involved in one of Japan's major controversies. Tuffy Rhodes, chasing Daiei manager Sadaharu Oh's NPB record of 55 home runs, came to play against Daiei. The Hawks offered Rhodes few pitches; in one game, they threw him 16 balls in 18 pitches. Oh received much of the blame in the media, while Wakana said he was the one who ordered the club to pitch around Rhodes, saying "I didn't want a foreigner to break the record."

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