Masaichi Kaneda

From BR Bullpen


Masaichi Kaneda (金田 正一) (Emperor, Giants Killer)
born Kim Kyung-Hong

BR Register page

Biographical Information[edit]

A Japanese-born Korean, Masaichi Kaneda struck out 4,490 and won a Japanese record 400 games in his career. His younger brother is Tomehiro Kaneda. He was called "Emperor Kaneda" for his domination in Nippon Pro Baseball.

Kaneda was signed by the Kokutetsu Swallows when he dropped out from high school at the age of 17. Although he was very young, Kaneda still went 8-12 with a 3.94 ERA in his rookie year. He set the NPB record for youngest player to blast a homer when he took Toshiaki Ogata deep. He became the youngest pitcher to complete a no-hitter when he threw one on September 5, 1951 against the Osaka Tigers. This record seemingly won't be broken because NPB now requires that players should graduate from high school before joining the league. Kaneda was 22-21 with a 2.83 ERA in 1951, and led the league in starts, complete games, shutouts, innings, walks and strikeouts. He ranked 3rd in wins (6 behind Shigeru Sugishita) and 6th in ERA (.81 behind Kiyoshi Matsuda), but also led the league in losses because the Swallows were very weak in that era.

The Aichi native was selected into the 1952 NPB All-Star Games, and he won't missed any All-Star Games in the next 14 years; he allowed 2 runs in 3 innings in Game 1. Kaneda ended up 24-25 with a 3.17 ERA in 1952, and led the league in strikeouts, appearances, shutouts, and walks again. He was still productive in 1953, and led the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive year with 229 Ks. He had a 23-13 record with a 2.37 ERA, and led the league in starts, shutouts, complete games, innings, walks, ranked 2nd in wins (4 behind Takumi Otomo) and 5th in ERA (.51 behind Otomo). He appeared in all 3 1953 NPB All-Star Games, pitched 2 1/3, 2 and 1 1/3 innings respectively and didn't allow any runs.

Kaneda attended 1954 NPB All-Star Game 2, but he allowed the walk-off hit to Kazuhiro Yamauchi and got the loss. He broke the NPB record when he struck out 7 straight batters on June 8. Kaneda ended up 23-23 with a 2.63 ERA, and led the league in starts and complete games. He ranked 3rd in wins (9 behind Sugishita), 8th in ERA (1.2 behind Sugishita) and 2nd in strikeouts (4 behind Sugishita). However, he also led the league in some negative records like losses, hits, homers and hits because the other pitchers of the Swallows were terrible and Kaneda thus ate lots of the innings.

The "Emperor" started his reign in 1955, and lowered his ERA under 2 for the first time in his career. He was 29-20 with a 1.78 ERA, and led the league in appearances, starts, complete games, shutouts, innings, and strikeouts. Kaneda was the first player to strike out 300 players in a season, and his 350 Ks in a year are still the third most in NPB history through 2022 (behind Yutaka Enatsu's 401 and Kazuhisa Inao's 353). He also completed the first immaculate inning of the Central League on June 22. (Takao Kajimoto collected the first in NPB the prior year). He ranked 2nd in wins (1 behind Ryohei Hasegawa and Otomo) and 8th in ERA (.45 behind Bessho). He also appeared in the 1955 NPB All-Star Games, pitching 3 shutout innings in Game 1 and collecting 1 2/3 shutout innings in Game 2. In the exhibition games against the 1955 New York Yankees, he struck out Mickey Mantle in all three at-bats.

Kaneda was still one of the best pitchers in NPB in 1956, and he finally won his first Sawamura Award. He was the first player born in the Showa era to win this award. Kaneda was 25-20 with a 1.74 ERA, and led the league in strikeouts again with 316. He ranked 3rd in wins (2 behind Bessho), 8th in ERA (.29 behind Shozo Watanabe), 2nd in complete games (2 behind Noboru Akiyama and Bessho]] and also led the league in appearances. In the 1956 NPB All-Star Games, he allowed a unearned run in 3 innings in Game 1 and pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings in Game 2.

The domination of Emperor Kaneda didn't end in 1957 as he won another Sawamura award and his first Best Nine. He was 28-16 with a 1.63 ERA, and led the league in shutouts, wins and ERA. Only Noboru Akiyama had more strikeouts than him, and he was 6 Ks shy from winning his first triple crown. Kaneda also completed the fourth perfect game in NPB history on August 1. No other left-handed pitcher had completed a perfect game as of2023. He also became the fist pitcher in NPB history to collect 2,000 strikeouts, and he had only pitched 8 seasons! That's the fastest in NPB history. Kaneda also attended both 1957 NPB All-Star Games. He allowed 2 runs in 2 innings and got the loss in Game 1, then pitched 3 shutout innings to notch the win in Game 2.

The 1958 season was Kaneda's career year. In spring training, talented prospect Shigeo Nagashima said that he wanted to beat the legendary Kaneda in the opening game. The ace of the Swallows then greeted him with 4 straight strikeouts in that game. Kaneda collected his 20th win in this season on June 21; that's still the fastest in NPB history (and unlikely to change barring significant differences in how the game is played). He also set the NPB record for being the youngest to collect 200th career wins as he notched his 200th when he was 24 years old. Kaneda appeared in 1958 NPB All-Star Game 2, pitched 3 shutout innings but allowed one run in one inning in Game 2. He broke the NPB record for 64 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing any runs, and that's still the NPB record as of 2023. The ace of the Swallows ended up 31-14 with a 1.30 ERA, and led the league in wins, strikeouts, shutouts, ERA and WHIP. He was the only southpaw to win the triple crown in CL history, and his 1.30 ERA is still the NPB record for left-handed pitchers through 2022. He also became the first pitcher to win a Sawamura award for three straight years (it would be 65 years before Yoshinobu Yamamoto became the second), and took his second Best Nine award. While he had many fine years ahead, it was his last Sawamura Award.

Kaneda slumped a little in 1959 as he was only 21-19 with a 2.54 ERA. He still led the league in appearances and strikeouts, ranked 2nd in wins (6 behind Motoshi Fujita), 8th in complete games (10 behind Fujita) and 10th in ERA (1.35 behind Minoru Murayama). He was selected into the NPB All-Star Game for the ninth consecutive year, started in Game 2 but allowed 3 runs in 2 1/3 innings and ended up no-decision.

The Aichi native extended his solid performance in 1960 and made it onto the roster of the 1960 NPB All-Star Game; he allowed a run in Game 1 and got the loss, then pitched 2 shutout innings to close Game 2 to get the win over Masayuki Dobashi; he won the game MVP. Kaneda ended up 20-22 with a 2.58 ERA, and led the league with 284 strikeouts. He was 5th in wins (9 behind Ritsuo Horimoto) and 3rd in complete games (4 behind Horimoto). Kaneda bounced back in 1961 and pitched in 1961 NPB All-Star Game 2; he allowed a unearned run in 2 1/3 innings and got the loss. Kaneda ended up 20-16 with a 2.13 ERA, and ranked 5th in wins (15 behind Hiroshi Gondo), 6th in ERA (.43 behind Gondo) and 2nd in Ks (48 behind Gondo).

Kaneda had another productive season in 1962 as he went 22-17 with a 1.73 ERA and struck out 262 batters. He was 6th in wins (8 behind Gondo), 3rd in Ks (8 behind Masaaki Koyama) and 3rd in ERA (.53 behind Murayama). Kaneda was also selected for the 1962 NPB All-Star Games, allowed 2 runs in 2 innings in Game 1 and pitched a shutout inning in Game 2. He broke the NPB record for career wins (held by Bessho at 311) the next season, and went 30-17 with a 1.98 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts, complete games and wins, ranked 3rd in ERA (.28 behind Minoru Kakimoto) and 2nd in shutouts (1 behind Yoshiaki Ito). Kaneda also took his third Best Nine award, and ; he allowed 3 runs in 3 innings in 1963 NPB All-Star Game 2.

In 1964 NPB All-Star Game 2, Kaneda pitched 3 shutout innings and struck out 7 to win his second All-Star MVP. He was 27-12 with a 2.79 ERA in 1964, and led the league in strikeouts for the tenth time. No other pitcher has led the league in Ks for more than 10 times through 2023. He also led the league in complete games and WHIP, ranked 2nd in wins (2 behind Gene Bacque) and 7th in ERA (.91 behind Bacque). In Kaneda's 15-season-career with Swallows, he collected 65 games from the Yomiuri Giants and won the nickname "Giants Killer". No other pitchers in NPB history had more wins against the Giants then him.

After the 1965 season, Kaneda announced that he would become a free agent, and joined the Giants with a 20 million-yen-per-year contract with a 70-million-yen signing bonus. Kaneda was that same ace with the Giants in 1965, as he went 11-6 with a 1.84 ERA and won his third ERA title. He finally had his first Nippon Series appearance, in his 16th career season (the Swallows had never won a pennant with him), and he started in the opener of the 1965 Nippon Series. Kaneda completed the game with only 2 runs allowed to beat Tadashi Sugiura and the Nankai Hawks. He then started in Game 3, pitched 7 innings with only 3 runs allowed and got the win over Joe Stanka. The Giants beat the Hawks in 5 games, and Kaneda won his first title.

Due to a left elbow injury, Kaneda struggled in 1966 as he only went 4-6 with a 3.42 ERA. In the 1966 Nippon Series, Kaneda only started in Game 4, but he completed that game with only one run allowed to beat Mutsuo Minagawa and the Hawks. The Giants beat the Hawks in 5 games again. Kaneda bounced back in 1967 and returned to the All-Star Game; he started in Game 1 but allowed 3 runs in 2 innings. Kaneda ended up 16-5 with a 2.28 ERA, ranked 5th in wins (13 behind Kentaro Ogawa), 5th in Ks (93 behind Yutaka Enatsu) and 4th in ERA (.88 behind Masatoshi Gondo). He also set the CL record when he struck out 16 in a game on June 7. In the 1967 Nippon Series, Kaneda pitched 9 innings with only 3 runs allowed, to beat Tetsuya Yoneda and the Hankyu Braves in the opening game. He then started in Game 4, but struggled as he allowed 4 runs in just 1 1/3 innings and Mitsuhiro Adachi beat him with a complete game. In the last game of this series - Game 6 - Kaneda relieved Kunio Jonouchi and pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings and won his third Nippon Series title.

The 35-year-old Kaneda didn't pitch well in 1968 as he only went 11-10 with a 3.45 ERA, but he still managed to attend the 1968 NPB All-Star Games; he pitched 2 2/3 innings with a run allowed in Game 2. The Giants advanced to the Nippon Series again, and Kaneda started in the series opener. He allowed 4 runs in 6 1/3 innings, and Yoneda of the Braves beat him. He then relieved Akira Takahashi in game 3, pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings with 6 Ks and got the win. His next appearance was in Game 4 as he relieved Makoto Kurata and completed that game. He allowed only one run in 3 1/3 innings and got the win over Shigeo Ishii. Kaneda pitched in 3 consecutive games, but he allowed 3 runs in 1/3 inning in Game 5 and Takao Kajimoto beat him. The Giants still won the Series in the next game.

Kaneda was the opening day starter of the Giants in 1969, and he became the only pitcher in NPB history to start on opening day 14 times. He struggled in this season, as he only had a 5-4 record with a 4.23 ERA. Kaneda won his 400th career game on October 10, and decided to retire after this season. In the 1969 Nippon Series, Kaneda started in Game 2, pitched 3 shutout innings and ended up with a no-decision. He then relieved Kunio Jonouchi in Game 4, but allowed 2 hits and Tsuneo Horiuchi relieved him. The Giants beat the Braves in 6 games, and the "Emperor" left the mound after the Series. His number 34 was also retired by the Giants after this season.

After retiring, he managed the Lotte Orions from 1973 to 1978. He led the Orions to the Nippon Series title in 1974, and they had another two above-.500 seasons after that. However, Kaneda had a contentious relationship with star pitcher Soroku Yagisawa, and the Lotte even had a 15-game losing streak in the middle of the 1978 season. Thus, Kaneda left the team that year. He then became a broadcaster, and also founded the Meikyukai. He managed the Orions again in 1990, but he couldn't lead the Orions to a more-than-.450 winning percentage, and Lotte fired him after they only had a 48-77 record in 1991. Kaneda was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.

Overall, Kaneda was 400-298 with a 2.34 ERA and 4,490 strikeouts, pitched 5,526 2/3 innings in 20 seasons in NPB. He is the all-time NPB career records holder for wins (50 ahead of Yoneda), complete games (365, 15 ahead of Victor Starffin), losses (13 ahead of Yoneda), strikeouts (1,102 ahead of Yoneda), walks (328 ahead of Yoneda) and innings (390 2/3 ahead of Yoneda). He also ranked 2nd in shutouts (82, 1 behind Starffin), 10th in ERA (.44 behind Hideo Fujimoto) and 3rd in appearances (58 behind Hitoki Iwase). At the plate, Kaneda hit .198/.238/.287 with 38 homers and set the NPB record for most homers as a pitcher. He is obviously considered one of the best pitchers ever in Japanese baseball history.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ken Belson: "'Masaichi Kaneda, Japan’s ‘Emperor’ of Baseball, Dies at 86", The New York Times, October 11, 2019. [1]

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