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Hisao Niura (新浦 壽夫)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 176 lb.
- High School Shizuoka Shogyo High School
Niura was of Korean descent, so he was treated as a foreign player in the NPB draft. As a result, he was able to drop out of high school and sign with the Yomiuri Giants. This created conflict between the club and the Japan High School Baseball Federation. Shoulder and back problems kept him in the minors for a couple years. He debuted with the big club in 1971, going 4-3 with a 2.01 ERA. On June 1, he tossed his shutout, limited to six innings by rain. He was awful in limited work in 1972, with 9 runs and 7 hits in 3 2/3 IP.
Yomiuri started using Niura regularly in 1973 and he responded with a 3-3, 3.44 record and .207 opponent average. He did not pitch in the 1973 Japan Series, when the Giants won their record ninth straight Japan Series. The young lefty went 7-6 with a save, 2.63 ERA and .226 opponent average in 1974. He fell to 2-11, 3.33 in 1975.
Niura made his first Central League All-Star team in 1976 and finished with a 11-11, 3.10 record and five saves. He started 25 games and relieved in 25 more. He tied Kojiro Ikegaya, Senichi Hoshino and Hiroshi Matsuoka for the league lead in shutouts (3). He finished third in ERA behind Takamasa Suzuki and Shigeru Kobayashi. He tossed two innings in game two of the 1976 Japan Series, allowing four hits and one unearned run, as Yomiuri fell in seven games to the Hankyu Braves.
The next year, the 26-year-old went 11-3 with 9 saves, a 2.32 ERA and .220 opponent average. He won his first ERA title by a healthy .60 over runner-up Shigeru Kobayashi. He also tied Takamasa Suzuki and Kazuyuki Yamamoto for the most saves. In the 1977 Japan Series, Hisao appeared in games one, two, four and five while Yomiuri fell in five to Hankyu. Niura had a 0-1, 4.50 record, taking the defeat in the finale, but did go 1 for 2 with 2 RBI at the plate (for his career, he was a typical pitcher in terms of offensive performance). It would be the last Japan Series of his lengthy career.
The Yomiuri veteran both won and saved his most games (15-7, 15 Sv, 2.81) in 1978. His 63 appearances (9 starts) led the CL. He also led in saves, save points and ERA (.29 ahead of Takenori Emoto). He made his second All-Star team, won both Fireman of the Year and Middle Reliever of the Year as well as being named to the Best Nine as the CL's top pitcher. He did not take home the Sawamura Award as Japan's top hurler as that went to a CL starter, Matsuoka.
Niura went 15-11 with 5 saves, a 3.43 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 236 1/3 innings, finishing 7th in the CL in ERA and leading in whiffs. He made his third All-Star team. He was 3-4 with a save and a 3.78 ERA in 1980 because of elbow problems. His record was 0-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 1981 and 6-6, 4.08 in 1982. He went 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 1983 to end his 13-year run with Yomiuri.
Niura signed with Korea's Samsung Lions. He was 16-10 with 3 saves and a 2.27 ERA in 1984. His record was 25-6, 2.79 in 1985 and he tied Si-jin Kim for the KBO lead in wins. He finished up his time with Samsung by going 13-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 1986. As he was diagnosed with diabetes in '86 and he did not get along well with teammates due to the language barrier, he decided to return to Japan. While in South Korea, Niura added a screwball and changeup to his repertoire, which previously had a fastball and curveball.
Niura's third club as a pro was the Taiyo Whales. He won Comeback Player of the Year and made his third CL All-Star team, though his final numbers were mediocre (11-12, 4.26) for 1987. He was very similar at 10-11, 4.32 in 1988 and made his last All-Star team. His 77 earned runs allowed led the CL.
In 1989, Niura had two notable shutouts against his old Yomiuri mates. On June 30, he ended a 18-game Taiyo losing skid against the Giants. Then, on August 4, he set a Japanese record with a 13-hit shutout of Yomiuri, the most hits ever allowed by a pitcher in a shutout. Those were his only two shutouts of the year, which he finished 8-13 with a 3.39 ERA. He led the CL in walks (75) and losses (tied with Kazuhiko Daimon), his last time leading in any department.
Daiei and Yakult
Niura was 116-123 with 39 saves and a 3.45 ERA in 592 NPB games, with 1,706 strikeouts in 2,158 2/3 IP. In the KBO, he had a 54-20, 2.53 record with three saves.
Niura did not disclose his diabetes to his teammates. He would inject his insulin in private locations. When his syringes were discovered, rumors began circulating about drug use - it did not help that Hisao had lost weight since his diabetes had begun.
After ending his playing career, Niura was a commentator for NTV.