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Isami Okamoto

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Isami Okamoto (岡本 伊三美)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Isami Okamoto played 13 years and won a MVP in the Nippon Pro Baseball.

Okamoto was signed by the Nankai Hawks in 1949, but he couldn't get many chances in the first two years of his career, only playing 88 games combined. Okamoto secured the starting second base spot in 1952, and hit .299/.347/.477 with 11 homers. He won the Best Nine award as a second baseman, ranked 9th in batting (.037 behind Shigeya Iijima) and 7th in steals (22 behind Chusuke Kizuka). In the 1952 Nippon Series, Okamoto went 5-for-21 but the Hawks were beaten by the Yomiuri Giants in 6 games.

1953 was Okamoto's career year. He was selected for the 1953 NPB All-Star Games, and went 2-for-8 with a run scored. He ended up batting .318/.372/.502 with 19 homers, and won his only batting title. He was the first player who was born in the Showa era (12/25/26-1/7/89) to win a batting title. Okamoto also won his second Best Nine, ranked 3rd in homers (17 behind Futoshi Nakanishi) and 3rd in RBI (9 behind Nakanishi). He had a 6-for-27 record in the 1953 Nippon Series, but the Hawks were beaten by the Giants again in 7 games.

Okamoto slumped to .252/.309/.420 with 19 homers in 1954, and he had a .253/.310/.422 batting line in 1955. He won his third Best Nine award in 1955, and also attended the 1955 NPB All-Star Game. He went 0-for-6 in two games. 1B Okamoto and his teammates SS Chusuke Kizuka, 2B Tokuji Iida and 3B Kazuo Kageyama composed a young talented infielder combination, and people even called them the Million Dollar Infielders.

The Osaka native's batting line declined to .231/.313/.348 in 1956, but he bounced back soon, hitting .273/.344/.489 with 19 homers and winning his fourth Best Nine award in 1957. He was 4th in homers (11 behind Katsuya Nomura) and 10th in RBI (44 behind Nakanishi). Okamoto only hit .247/.317/.372 in 1958, then bounced back again with a .261/.323/.411 batting line and won his fifth Best Nine in 1959. He also attended the 1959 NPB All-Star Games, and went 1-for-4. Okamoto shined in the 1959 Nippon Series, blasting two homers in back-to-back at-bats off Takehiko Bessho in Game 1, and went 6-for-15 with 4 RBI overall. The Giants still swept the Hawks.

Okamoto struggled in 1960, as he hit .168/.279/.264 and Carlton Hanta took his spot. The veteran batted .258/.320/.349 as a backup infielder in 1961, and only got 70 at-bats in 1962. He announced his retirement after the 1962 season, and became a coach. He was the hitting coach for the Hawks in 1964 and from 1968 to 1969, for the Sankei Swallows from 1966 to 1967, for the Hanshin Tigers in 1973, and for the Kintetsu Buffaloes from 1982 to 1983. He also managed the Hawks' minor league team from 1970 to 1972. The Buffaloes hired Okamoto as their manager in 1984. He led them had a 66-52 record in 1986, but was still 2.5 wins shy from winning the pennant. He was fired after the Buffaloes went 52-69 and ranked the least in the Pacific League.

Overall, Okamoto had hit .257/.321/.410 with 1,018 hits and 125 homers in 13 seasons in NPB. He was 239-242 as a manager.

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