Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Former Pirates pitcher Masumi Kuwata again on Japanese Hall of Fame ballot.


Via Kyodo Photo.

On November 28 the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame announced its ballot for the Class of 2018, and former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Masumi Kuwata (桑田真澄) again made the list. Kuwata, the first Japanese player in Pirates history, pitched briefly for Pittsburgh in 2007 as a 39-year-old rookie. He accumulated 173 wins in Japan, 106 of which came before an elbow injury in 1995 that kept him out for almost two seasons. Results of the Hall of Fame voting will be announced on January 15.

Tracing his career on his Baseball-Reference.com wiki page, it follows a trajectory common among Pittsburgh Pirates free agents of that era:
"1987-1994: The Glory Years," "1995-1996: Injury," "1997-2002: Post-Injury," "2003-2006: Further decline," "To the USA."
He pitched 19 games in relief in 2007 but was demoted to Triple A in August, two days after his family arrived in Pittsburgh to see him play against the Giants. He retired the following spring:
Kuwata, a baseball superstar in his native Japan, formally announced his retirement after the Pirates' 7-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon, a game in which manager John Russell asked him to pitch one final time as a show of respect. But he declined.

"He told us he's pitched thousands of innings, that we should use that time to look at pitchers for our future," Russell said. "He's a class act, a true professional and a great human being. We wish him the best of luck in everything he does."

The ritual at the mound was meant to symbolize a farewell to the game. And, although Kuwata's impact in Pittsburgh was negligible, some in the assembled Japanese media were saying that this farewell would top their nation's news for the day.

"He's a legend in our country," said reporter Yasuko Yanagita, who broke the story of Kuwata's retirement for the Hochi Shimbun sports daily. "Everyone will want to know about this, and everyone will be surprised."

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