Minoru Yamashita

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Minoru Yamashita

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Biographical Information[edit]

Minoru Yamashita is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yamashita was a high school and college star. In the fall of 1929, he led the Tokyo Big Six University League in average. He was part of the Japanese team that faced MLB All-Stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in their 1934 tour of Japan. He played for the Manchu club in the industrial leagues.

When the Japanese Professional Baseball League was founded, Yamashita played for Hankyu. In the 1936 spring season, he hit .391/.506/.638 and hit the first sayonara home run in Japanese pro baseball history. He led the new circuit in average, runs (16, tied), hits (27, tied) and home runs (4). That fall, he batted .321/.426/.431 and tied for the league lead with 2 homers. In the spring of 1937, Yamashita hit .247/.375/.409 and he followed with a .257/.451/.457 fall with 29 RBI in 39 games.

In 1938, the 31-year-old 1B-OF hit .269/.372/.358 in the spring and .333/.455/.508 in the fall. That year, he also became the first player-manager in the history of Japanese pro baseball. In 1939, Yamashita batted .264/.382/.389 and was replaced as manager mid-season.

During 1940, the veteran struggled, going just 9 for 72 with 12 walks; 6 of his 9 hits went for extra bases. He did not play in 1941 and returned to hit .135/.229/.176 in 1942 to conclude his playing career with a batting line of .261/.388/.401 with 142 RBI in 798 AB.

Yamashita served in the Japanese army during World War II.

After the War ended, Yamashita returned as an umpire in 1952. He was involved in a major brawl on July 23 during a Hanshin Tigers-Yomiuri Giants game. Yamashita ruled that Masayusa Kaneda had interfered with a throw by Shigeru Chiba, ending a Hanshin rally. The Tigers fans pelted the field with debris while Kaneda and Chiba exchanged punches. After order was restored, Hanshin got two on with two outs in the 9th with a 5-2 deficit. Kaneda then hit what could have been a game-tying homer; in the darkness (it was about 9:20 PM) Yamashita ruled that Yomiuri OF Wally Yonamine had caught it when in fact it had bounced off the fence. Fans stormed the field and Yamashita had to seek refuge in an office in the stadium. Police eventually rescued him. Right afterwards, Yamashita retired from his job as umpire.

In 1987, he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.


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