Taira Fujita

From BR Bullpen

Taira Fujita

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 178 lb.

BR NPB page

Biographical Information[edit]

Taira Fujita played 19 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers and was a Best Nine pick on seven occasions.

Fujita was Hanshin's second-round pick in 1965. He hit .235/.278/.327 in 68 games as a rookie in 1966. Taira improved to .291/.325/.475 with 30 doubles, 10 triples and 16 homers as a starter in 1967. He led the Central League in hits (154), doubles and triples despite being just a 19-year-old. He was 9th in average, between Morimichi Takagi and Shozo Doi. He was named to the Best Nine as the league's best shortstop and made his first All-Star team as well.

Taira produced at only a .240/.287/.378 rate in 1968, though he again had 30 doubles to lead the CL. The Wakayama native went deep 19 times in 1969, when his batting line was .293/.327/.460 at year's end. He led the league with 526 at-bats and was 7th in average, between Yukinobu Kuroe and Toshio Naka. He was an All-Star and was again picked to the Best Nine at short. In 1970, the youngster batted .275/.322/.409 with 26 doubles. He was 6th in average, between Makoto Matsubara and Naka and was again both a Best Nine pick at short.

Fujita hit .272/.336/.496 with a career-high 28 homers in 1971. He made his third All-Star squad. He was 11th in average and again was the Best Nine selection at shortstop. Of those with a higher average, only corner infielders Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima went deep more often. In 1972, the 24-year-old produced at a .276/.347/.446 rate with 27 doubles and 18 dingers. He led the CL in at-bats (522) and plate appearances (580). He tied Matsubara and Koji Yamamoto for the league lead in two-baggers. He got his fifth Best Nine nod.

The Hanshin infielder batted .281/.329/.439 with 27 doubles, 17 homers and 73 runs in 1973. He led the league in at-bats (519) and plate appearances (569). He was two doubles behind Tsutomu Wakamatsu. He was picked to the Best Nine for the sixth time and also won the second Diamond Glove Award given out to the best defensive shortstop in the CL. He made the All-Star team. Fujita's batting line rose to .302/.363/.497 with 16 homers in 1974, with only 20 strikeouts in 374 at-bats. He was picked as an All-Star again. He won his last Best Nine at short; Toshiyuki Mimura would unseat him the next year.

Fujita hit .290/.336/.422 with a league-high 9 sacrifice flies in 1975. He placed 9th in average, between Wakamatsu and Oh. He was an All-Star again and won his second Diamond Glove. In 1976, he made his 7th All-Star team and had a batting line of .278/.329/.435. The veteran batted .300/.351/.431 in 1977, his 12th pro season.

Moving to first base in 1978, Fujita hit .301/.352/.441 with 77 runs and only 18 strikeouts in 522 at-bats. He set a CL record by going 208 at-bats without striking out, from April 30 through July 5. He was just 11 for 40 with two walks in 1979, while being sidelined by injury. Taira hit .304/.361/.407 in 1980.

In 1981, the 33-year-old put up an impressive .358/.407/.512 line with 70 RBI. He won the batting title by .001 over Toshio Shinozuka, won the Diamond Glove at first, made his last All-Star team, was named Comeback Player of the Year and won his only Best Nine selection at first base.

Fujita faded to .290/.342/.397 in 1982 (the year he had the controversial foul and the winning homer in the Violent Tiger Incident) and .275/.318/.343 as a part-timer in 1983. On May 3, 1983, he became the 15th NPB player and first Hanshin player with 2,000 career hits. He was a pinch-hitter in his last season, 1984, and hit only .171/.244/.268 in 46 plate appearances.

Fujita's career batting line was .286/.336/.435 with 854 runs, 355 doubles, 207 home runs and 802 RBI in 2,010 games. Through 2010, he was tied with Wakamatsu for 26th all-time in doubles and was 28th in hits (2,064, between Hiroyuki Yamazaki and Kenichi Yazawa). One negative part of his career was that he never played in a Japan Series, joining Hanshin two years after their 1964 Japan Series appearance and retiring one year before their 1985 Japan Series title.

Fujita later worked as a baseball commentator for Asahi Broadcasting. In 1994, he managed in the minors for Hanshin. He became the big club's skipper partway through 1995, succeeding Katsuhiro Nakamura and going 17-36 the rest of the way. After a 48-69 start in 1996, he was let go in favor of Takeshi Shibata. In addition to his poor work record-wise, he did not get along well with some players - Tsuyoshi Shinjo retired briefly due to Fujita's criticism of Shinjo's play. Fujita had said that Shinjo's poor discipline must be due to poor parenting.

Sources: Japanbaseballdaily, The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whiting