- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 171 lb.
- High School Izumi High School
Sotokoba pitched for Den Den Kyushu in the industrial leagues after high school. He debuted with Hiroshima in 1965, going 2-1 with a 1.41 ERA, allowing only 30 hits (1 homer) in 51 1/3 IP. His first career win came on October 2, in his second start and 11th game as a pro; it was a no-hitter against the Hanshin Tigers. At the time, it was the earliest in someone's career in NPB that they threw a no-hitter.
Yoshiro finally saw regularly duty in 1968, when he was 21-14 with a 1.94 ERA. In 302 1/3 innings, he allowed only 198 hits while whiffing 260. On September 14, he struck out 16 to set a new Central League record; that day, he threw a perfect game against the Taiyo Whales, the 7th perfecto in CL annals. He led the league in ERA by .13 over Sohachi Aniya - it would be his lone ERA title. He also made his first CL All-Star team.
Sotokoba fell to 11-20 in 1969 but had a 2.69 ERA and had nearly as many strikeouts (223) as hits allowed (226) in his 304 1/3 innings. His Hiroshima club was last in the loop. He led the league in innings, losses, batters faced (1,216) and earned runs allowed (91) and made the All-Star team. He missed the top 10 in ERA by .01.
In 1970, the 24/25-year-old went 13-14 with a 2.64 ERA. He made his third All-Star team. Yoshiro had a 9-12, 3.89 record in 1971, then 11-15 with a 3.35 ERA in 1972. 1972 was not all bad, though. On April 29, he no-hit the Yomiuri Giants (who would win the 1972 Japan Series). His third no-hitter tied him with the legendary Eiji Sawamura for the all-time record in NPB (unbroken through 2008). He also became the 44th pitcher in NPB history to fan 1,000 batters, when he got John Sipin on August 14.
Sotokoba had a 12-19, 2.64 record in 1973, missing the top 10 in ERA by .06. He led the league in losses for a second time. He was a workhorse once more in 1974, pitching 310 1/3 innings in 46 games, going 18-16 with 3 saves and a 2.82 ERA, allowing 259 hits. He led the CL in innings, complete games (21), shutouts (4, tied with Kenji Furusawa and Hiroshi Matsuoka), hits allowed, batters faced (1,236) and losses (tied with Masaji Hiramatsu). He ranked 7th in the circuit in ERA, again trying to lead a last-place team while only finishing two wins shy of the CL lead. He made his 4th All-Star team.
Hiroshima did a 180-degree turnaround in 1975 and Sotokoba finally got some support. He went 20-13 with a 2.95 ERA, allowing 240 hits in 287 innings. He made his fifth All-Star team and led the CL in almost everything - innings, wins, complete games (17), shutouts (3, tied with Senichi Hoshino and Kazushi Saeki), batters faced (1,174), strikeouts, walks (89), runs allowed (105) and earned runs allowed (94). He was 8th in ERA, an amazingly high finish for someone who led the league in earned runs allowed, just going to show exactly how many innings Sotokoba worked. He won the Best Nine as the top pitcher in the CL and the Sawamura Award as the best hurler in all of Japan. In the 1975 Japan Series, Sotokoba led Hiroshima's staff as they got swept by the Hankyu Braves; he had a 3.00 ERA and no decisions in 21 1/3 innings over two long starts, fanning 19. He pitched 13 innings in a game four tie.
Sotokoba's workload fell to 144 1/3 innings in 1976, when he went 10-5 with a 3.94 ERA. He only pitched six games in 1977, going 1-2 with a 5.57 ERA. He was 1-3 with a 5.87 ERA in 1978 and retired all three batters he faced in 1979.
In 445 games in NPB, Sotokoba was 131-138 with 3 saves and a 2.88 ERA, allowing only 1,926 hits in 2,419 1/3 innings. Had he played for better teams, he likely would not have had a losing record. Through 2008, he is 29th in NPB history in ERA.