- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 9", Weight 156 lb.
- High School Kyoto Shogyo High School
Nakao debuted with the Tokyo Giants in 1939 and went 12-5 with a 2.61 ERA, .195 opponent average and a gaudy 174 walks in 224 innings. On November 3, he threw a no-hitter against the Tokyo Senators despite walking or hitting ten batters. He won the game, 1-0. Amazingly, he was over 100 walks shy of Japanese Professional Baseball League pacesetter Tadashi Kameda.
Hiroshi improved to 26-11, 1.76 with a .186 opponent average in 1940, with 212 walks in 347 innings. He was 61 walks behind leader Kameda, 12 wins behind leader Victor Starffin and didn't make the top 10 in ERA in a pitcher-friendly era. #18 was 26-9 with a 1.54 ERA, .158 opponent average and .81 WHIP despite 181 walks in 299 innings in 1941. He threw a second wild no-no, with 8 walks or hit batsmen, against Nagoya on July 16. He led the JPBL with 179 strikeouts, was 53 walks behind leader Isamu Fukushi, was four wins behind leader Kotaro Mori (possibly ranking second) and was 7th in ERA.
Hiroshi fell to 13-8, 1.87 with a .185 opponent average in 1942. The little lefty missed 1943-1945 due to World War II, serving in the Japanese Imperial Army. He returned in 1946 with a 11-10, 3.30 campaign for Tokyo. He was 9-14 with a 2.92 ERA and .212 opponent average in 1947.
Nakao had his best year in 1948. The 28-year-old southpaw turned in a 27-12, 1.84 record with a .202 opponent average; while still wild, his walk rate was lower (116 in 343 IP). He won the pitching Triple Crown (tying Tokuji Kawasaki for the win lead) and won the Sawamura Award as Japan's top hurler. One negative came on August 17, when he lost the first night game in Japanese history.
Hiroshi fell to 13-10, 3.65 in 1949 (with 99 walks, his first time under 100) and 12-11, 3.89 in 1950. He went 9-6 with a 3.04 ERA in 1951. In the 1951 Japan Series, allowing two runs in 2 1/3 IP in a loss to the Nankai Hawks in game four; Yomiuri swept the rest of the Series. The veteran was only 1-2 with a 4.04 ERA in 1952 but rebounded to 14-8, 2.72 in 1953, with a mere 40 walks in 181 2/3 innings. He was 8th in the Central League in ERA (between Ryohei Hasegawa and Takao Fujimura) and tossed six shutout innings in two relief stints in the 1953 Japan Series (while Yomiuri beat Nankai).
Nakao had a 15-5, 2.59 season in 1954 and made the top 10 in ERA. He was 16-9 with a 2.11 ERA in 1955; he would have ranked 9th in ERA had he qualified. In game three of the 1955 Japan Series, he lost a 2-0 duel to Nankai's Motoji Takuwa. He returned in game six with a strong relief win and had a 1-1, 1.10 record on the Series, which Yomiuri won in seven games. He also went 2 for 5 at the plate in the Series.
In reduced time, Nakao had a 5-7, 1.92 record in 1956. He allowed two runs (on a 420-foot homer by Futoshi Nakanishi) in 3 1/3 IP in the 1956 Japan Series, which Yomiuri lost to the Nishitetsu Lions. Nakao allowed two runs in 6 1/3 IP in 1957, his last season.
Overall, he threw 516 games in NPB, going 209-127 with a 2.48 ERA, .216 opponent average and more walks (1,597) than whiffs (1,436) in 3,057 innings. He completed 184 of 381 starts. He also hit .181/.284/.240. After his playing career ended, he was a minor league coach and manager for the Giants. He then worked as a scout for Yomiuri, eventually becoming the head of their scouting branch. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Through 2010, Nakao ranks among NPB's all-time leaders in wins (20th), complete games (tied with Choji Murata for 16th), shutouts (45, tied with Yutaka Enatsu for 12th), innings (24th), walks (3rd, behind Masaichi Kaneda and Tetsuya Yoneda) and ERA (15th).
- Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts
- Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland