Makoto Kozuru

From BR Bullpen

Makoto Kozuru (Wasei DiMaggio; The Japanese DiMaggio)

An umimpressive player before World War II, Makoto Kozuru served in the Navy during the war, then returned to become a star in Japan. He had his first great season in 1949, hitting .361/.445/.589. He led the league in hitting and made his first Best Nine, as an outfielder. A year later he had his greatest season - he became the first 50-homer man in Nippon Pro Baseball history; for the Shochiku Robins he hit .355/.450/.729. He led the Central League in slugging, total bases (376), runs (143) and RBI (161); the latter three marks still stand as NPB records. He was named to his second Best Nine in the outfield and also won his only MVP award. He lost the batting title to Fumia Fujimara (.362). The Robins played in the first Japan Series that year but Kozuru let them down, going just 4 for 23 with no homers as they lost 4 of 6 games to the Mainichi Orions. His stats fell drastically after '50 - he never hit .300 in his final 8 seasons, slugged .500 once, hit 20 homers once and led the league in one category once (doubles in 1953 with 32). He would still make three All-Star teams but faded quickly. He suffered a herniated disk which resulted from his intense practice routine. In 1953 2,000 Hiroshima Carp fans raised the money needed to acquire Kozuru. After retiring, he became a scout. In 1980 he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.