Riichi Kodama

From BR Bullpen

Kodama, Riichi (児玉 利一)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 165 lb.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Riichi Kodama played eight seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and made three All-Star teams. He was noted for his ability to hit curveballs.

After playing for Zen-Oita in the industrial leagues, Kodama signed with the Nagoya Dragons at age 32. He hit .277/.403/.386 as a backup corner infielder as a rookie in 1951; he also pitched four games (0-1, 3.18). Replacing veteran Tsuguhiro Hattori at 3B in 1952, he hit .265/.358/.341 with 62 BB to 39 K. He was 6th in the Central League in walks, between Nobuo Osawa and Shoji Arakawa.

Nagoya became the Chunichi Dragons in 1953 and Kodama batted .303/.397/.427. He made his first All-Star team. In 1953 NPB All-Star Game 2, he hit 5th in a 2-0 CL win over the Pacific League. He drew a walk from Susumu Yuki in the second before Fumio Fujimura replaced him. In Game 3, he went 1 for 3 with one of only four CL hits in a 4-0 loss; Wally Yonamine pinch-ran for him and Mitsuo Uno took over at third. He finished 6th in the CL in average (between Yonamine and Isamu Fujii), tied Michio Nishizawa and Yonamine for 7th in doubles (24), was 9th in OPS (between Satoru Sugiyama and Isamu Fujii) and ranked 4th in OBP (between Yonamine and Shigeru Chiba).

He hit .272/.369/.428 in 1954. He made the CL leaderboard in OBP (6th, between Tetsuharu Kawakami and Makoto Kozuru), homers (10, tied for 10th with Yonamine), walks (54, tied for 5th with Sugiyama and Tatsuro Hiroka), hit-by-pitch (5, tied for third with Jiro Kanayama) and sacrifice flies (8, 2nd, one behind Fujimura). Chunichi won its first CL pennant. In the 1954 Japan Series, he led the Dragons' offense (.362/.462/.636) as they beat the Nishitetsu Lions. He homered off Sadao Nishimura in the 8th inning of game 1 for the first home run in Chunichi's annals in the Japan Series. He did not win MVP honors for the Series, which went to staff ace Shigeru Sugishita.

The Oita native produced at a .315/.386/.454 clip in 1955. In the 1955 NPB All-Star Game 1, he pinch-hit for Hiroka and took over at 3B, going 0 for 1 with a walk in a 2-0 CL loss. In Game 2, a 9-4 win, he went 1 for 2 with a run and RBI after replacing Hiroka at 3B. He finished the season second in the league in average (.023 behind Kawakami), second in OBP (.039 behind Kawakami), in the top 10 in slugging and 4th in OPS (trailing only Kawakami, Yukihiko Machida and Yonamine). He was named to the Best Nine as the top third baseman in the CL.

In 1956, the veteran drew 73 walks to only 28 strikeouts while putting up a .275/.396/.342 batting line. He was 6th in average (between Shigeru Fujio and Noboru Inoue), second in OBP (.024 behind Yonamine), 8th in OPS (between Noboru Aota and Hiroji Okajima) and first in walks (10 more than Yonamine). He again was named the CL's top third baseman. In the 1956 NPB All-Star Game 1, he went 0 for 3 while hitting 6th and playing 3B in a 8-0 loss to the PL. In Game 2, a 2-0 win, he was 0 for 1 before Jun Hakota replaced him.

Moving to the Taiyo Whales in 1957, he hit .251/.329/.337. He tied Takao Sato for 5th in walks (46) but led the CL with 19 double-play grounders and 31 errors. He batted .275/.372/.428 in 1958 while moving to 1B, finishing 9th in average (between Nishizawa and Hiroshi Fujii), tied Yonamine for 9th in doubles (21), was 4th with 53 walks, was 4th in OBP (between Okajima and Yonamine) and was 6th in OBP (between Okajima and Hideshi Miyake), finishing his career on a solid note.

In 868 NPB games, he had hit .278/.373/.390 with 51 homers, 414 walks (250 K), 302 runs and 352 RBI. Despite playing in a low-offense era, he was still 59th in NPB history in OBP (through 2011), between Alonzo Powell and Tsutomu Wakamatsu.