- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 173 lbs.
- High School Minoshima High School
- NPB Debut April 13, 1969
- Born May 18, 1950 in Arita-gun, Wakayama Japan
Higashio was a first-round pick in 1968. He debuted with the Nishitetsu Lions in 1969, going 0-2 with a 8.40 ERA and 14 walks in 15 innings. He was 11-18 with a 5.14 ERA in 1970, becoming a regularly used hurler at age 20.
Osamu pitched 221 1/3 IP over 51 games in 1971, going 8-16 with a 3.74 ERA. He led the Pacific League in walks (118), losses (tied with Akira Kawahara) and appearances (tied with Toshio Kanbe and Tamehiro Kaneda).
A true workhorse in 1972, the youngster was 18-25 with a 3.66 ERA in 309 2/3 IP over 55 games. He set the all-time PL league record for losses (unbroken). He also paced the loop in innings, hits allowed (313), homers surrendered (37, tied with Fumio Narita), runs allowed (152) and earned runs allowed (126). He made the PL All-Star team for the first time. While his record appears poor, the Lions were 29-55 when other pitchers got the decision, a far worse rate.
Osamu went over .500 in 1973 at 15-14, 3.29; he again made the All-Star team. He led the PL in hits allowed (250), walks (91, tied with Keishi Suzuki), hit batsmen (13), wild pitches (6), runs allowed (107) and earned runs allowed (94).
Higashio fell to 6-? with a 3.44 ERA in 1974 while pitching 123 innings, his lowest total between his rookie season and his last year. He was 23-15 with 7 saves and a 2.38 ERA in 1975, working 317 2/3 IP over 54 games in one of his busiest years. He made the All-Star team again. Higashio led the PL in games pitched, innings, wins, losses, batters faced (1,281), hits allowed (287), strikeouts (154), complete games (14), shutouts (4, tied with Hiroaki Fukushi, Takashi Yamaguchi and Shinichi Yamauchi) and runs allowed (101). He was third in ERA behind Choji Murata and Keishi Suzuki.
The Wakayama native was 13-11 with five saves and a 3.18 ERA in 243 1/3 IP in 1976. He made his fourth All-Star team and led the league in hits allowed (256), runs allowed (97) and earned runs allowed (97).
Higashio fell to 11-20 with 4 saves and a 3.87 ERA in 1977. He led the Pacific League in losses, hits allowed (259), homers (30), runs allowed (119) and earned runs allowed (104). He was 23-14 with a save and a 2.94 ERA in 1978, making his fifth All-Star squad. He led the PL in innings (303 1/3), batters faced (1,225), hits allowed (299), hit batsmen (16) and runs allowed (110). He was 8th in the league in ERA and two wins behind pace-setter Keishi Suzuki.
In 1979, Higashio had an off-year at 6-13, 4.53. He was 17-13 with a 3.79 ERA in 1980, and led in hits allowed (258), his 5th and last time leading in that category. He had a 8-11, 3.83 record in 1981, his 13th season.
Higashio was 10-11 with a save and a 3.28 ERA in 1982 and made his sixth All-Star team. He finished 9th in the league in ERA. After joining a horrible Lions club, he now was with the team (now the Seibu Lions) as they became a dynasty. In the 1982 Japan Series, he allowed 7 hits and 1 unearned run in 13 2/3 IP, defeating the Chunichi Dragons in games one and five and losing game three while saving game six, the finale. He was named Japan Series MVP for his efforts.
Higashio went 18-9 with two saves and a 2.92 ERA in 1983. He did not make the All-Star team but did lead his league in wins (tied with Kazuhiro Yamauchi), shutouts (tied for the lead with 3) and ERA. He won his first Diamond Glove Award, made the Best Nine as the circuit's top pitcher and took home the Pacific League MVP Award. In the 1983 Japan Series, he saved game one, lost game 3 to the Yomiuri Giants but came back to win game 7 in relief to give Seibu its second pennant. He had a 3.38 ERA for the tournament.
Higashio fell to 14-14 with a 3.32 ERA in 1984 and led the league in innings (241 1/3), losses for the fifth time, batters faced (986) and complete games (20) while also taking home his second straight Diamond Glove. he made his 7th All-Star team. He finished third in the loop in ERA behind Yutaro Imai and Hisashi Yamada. That year, he lost on Opening Day for the sixth straight time, a Pacific League record.
Osamu had his best record in 1985 when the old-timer went 17-3 with a save and a 3.30 ERA. He led the league with 3 shutouts, won the Diamond Glove and made the Best Nine again. He was again an All-Star. He was 4th in the PL in ERA. In the 1985 Japan Series, he had a 1.04 ERA, winning game 3 and saving game four, but Seibu fell to the Hanshin Tigers.
He fell to 12-11 with two saves and a 4.22 ERA in 1986. He made his 9th All-Star team and won his 4th straight Diamond Glove. That year, he was badly bruised when Dick Davis charged the mound and attacked him after Higashio plunked him on the elbow. Davis said his lone regret was that Higashio didn't get hurt enough to leave the game. He had a 1.77 ERA in 3 games in the 1986 Japan Series but got no decisions as Seibu beat the Hiroshima Carp for his third Japan Series title as a player.
In 1987, the old-timer was 15-9 with a 2.59 ERA. He made his 10th and final All-Star team. He won his fifth straight Diamond Glove and also was named the PL MVP for the second time. He was second in ERA behind Kimiyasu Kudoh, his young teammate who would also go on to a stellar career. He lost game one of the 1987 Japan Series to Yomiuri and then won game five as Seibu took the title. He had a 3.21 ERA for the Series.
He was 251-247 with 23 saves and a 3.50 ERA in 4,086 innings over 697 games. He was the all-time PL leader with 165 hit batsmen. Through 2009, he was 10th in Nippon Pro Baseball history in wins, 4th in losses (behind Masaichi Kaneda, Tetsuya Yoneda and Takao Kajimoto), 10th in complete games (247), 14th in games pitched, 8th in innings, 13th in walks (1,102), 3rd in hits (4,095, behind Yoneda and Kaneda), 3rd in homers allowed (412, behind Keishi Suzuki and Yamada), 2nd in runs (1,817, behind Yoneda) and tied for 2nd in earned runs (1,588, behind Yoneda).
Higashio was an announcer for Asahi TV after finishing his playing career. He became Seibu's manager in 1995, replacing Masahiko Mori. His club was 67-57-6 to finish third his first year, then went 62-64-4 in 1996, again placing third in the PL; it was his only managerial season under .500.
Higashio's Lions were 76-56-3 in 1997 and won the PL title, but the club lost the 1997 Japan Series to the Yakult Swallows. Seibu was 70-61-4 and won the PL pennant in 1998 but lost the 1998 Japan Series to the Yokohama BayStars.
In 1999, Higashio's Lions were 75-59-1, finishing second, four games behind the Daiei Hawks. Seibu was 69-61-5 in 2000, second place, two and a half games behind Daiei. The Lions were 73-67 and in third place in 2001, Higashio's last year at the reigns. Haruki Ihara replaced him as manager.
Higashio was voted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
His daughter is Riko Higashio, a women's pro golfer.