Tsuneo Horiuchi

From BR Bullpen


Tsuneo Horiuchi (堀内 恒夫)
(Warutaro; The Wonder Boy)

BR Register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Tsuneo Horiuchi was a key member of the Yomiuri Giants during their nine consecutive championship seasons.

Horiuchi was drafted by the Yomiuri Giants in the first round of the 1965 NPB draft, and he soon became one of the most dominant pitchers in the Central League. He started his career 13-0, a NPB record that stood until Rick van den Hurk broke it, and the performance would earn him the nickname "The Wonder Boy". Horiuchi ended up 16-2 with a 1.39 ERA, led the CL in winning percentage and ERA, ranked 4th in wins (8 behind Minoru Murayama) and 7th in strikeouts (90 behind Murayama). He was called "Sawamura Jr." (after Eiji Sawamura), and won the Sawamura Award and the CL Rookie of the Year Award. His 13-game winning streak is still the CL record, and he also held another CL record for .889 winning percentage. In the 1966 Nippon Series, he started in Game 2 but allowed two runs in 3 innings and Taisuke Watanabe of the Nankai Hawks got the win over him. He didn't appeared in the rest of the series, and still won his first title as the Giants beat the Hawks in 6 games.

The young ace of the Giants suffered a spinal disc herniation in 1967, so he didn't stay with the big club regularly until August. After returning, Horiuchi's pitching seemed as good as prior to his injury as he ended up 12-2 with a 2.17 ERA. He had one of the greatest one-man performances ever witnessed in professional baseball annals on October 10, not only throwing a no-hitter against the Hiroshima Carp but also hitting three home runs in an 11-0 victory. Horiuchi was the second pitcher to blast three homers in a game (following Tokuji Kawasaki), and the first pitcher to do it in three straight at-bats. He shut out the Hankyu Braves in Game 2 of the 1967 Nippon Series, but he allowed 6 runs in 8 1/3 innings in Game 5 and lost to Mitsuhiro Adachi; the Giants beat the Braves in the next game to lock up the title. Horiuchi was 17-10 in 1968 and ranked 5th in wins (8 behind Yutaka Enatsu), but his ERA rose to 3.31 and he also led the CL in walks and homers allowed. He was still selected into the 1968 NPB All-Star Games, relieved Sohachi Aniya in the 4th inning of Game 2 and pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings with two strikeouts. Masaichi Kaneda took over and the CL won, 8-3. The Giants won the CL pennant again, and Horiuchi dueled with Tetsuya Yoneda in Game 3 in the 1968 Nippon Series. He faced serious command problems, as he allowed three walks in 2/3 of an inning and gave up two runs, Akira Takahashi relieved him and the Giants still won that game. He got on track soon, as he shut out the Braves in Game 6 and won his third consecutive title.

Horiuchi still struggled with his command problem sin 1969, led the league in walks again with 107 and in wild pitches with 6. He still had a 14-13 record with a 3.12 ERA, ranked 6th in wins (8 behind Kazumi Takahashi) and 4th in Ks (102 behind Enatsu). He was the starter of 1969 NPB All-Star Game 3, and pitched 3 innings with a run allowed, due to Yozo Nagabuchi's solo shot in the first inning. Horiuchi was the starter of the opener in the 1969 Nippon Series, but he allowed 4 runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Braves and ended up with a no-decision. He was then used as a reliever, replacing Hidetake Watanabe in the 7th inning of Game 3 and got a win as he completed the game with only a run allowed, then collected another win in Game 4 as he pitched three shutout innings after relieving Kaneda in the 7th inning. He then replaced Tadao Wako in the 6th inning in Game 5, but he allowed a two-run shot to Atsushi Nagaike and Adachi got the win over him. The Giants still beat the Braves in 6 games to give Horiuchi his fourth title.

The Kofu native improved to 18-10 with a 2.07 ERA in 1970, but he still led the CL in walks with 103. He ranked 4th in wins (7 behind Masaji Hiramatsu), 4th in ERA (1.09 behind Murayama) and 4th in strikeouts (158 behind Enatsu). He relieved Yoshiro Sotokoba in the 9th inning in 1970 NPB All-Star Game 1, and pitched a shutout inning with a strikeout of In-chun Baek. Horiuchi shut out the Lotte Orions as he pitched 11 innings with 9 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1970 Nippon Series, then pitched 7 1/3 innings with 3 runs allowed in Game 3 and ended up with a no-decision; the Giants beat the Orions in 5 games. Horiuchi's ERA rose to 3.11 in 1971, and he had a 14-8 record; he ranked 3rd in wins (3 behind Hiramatsu) and 2nd in strikeouts (114 behind Enatsu). He relieved Yataro Oishi and pitched a shutout innings with two strikeouts (against Kohei Shimamoto and Hiroshi Takahashi) in 1971 NPB All-Star Game 2, then succeeded Hiramatsu and pitched two shutout innings in Game 3. The Giants won their seventh straight CL pennant in this season, and Horiuchi completed Game 1 of the 1971 Nippon Series with one run allowed to beat Adachi of the Braves. He then had another complete game to win over Adachi with 4 runs allowed in Game 5, and helped the Giants beat the Braves in 6 games.

Horiuchi had his career year in 1972. An All-Star pick again, he relieved Katsuji Sakai in the 4th inning of 1972 NPB All-Star Game 2. He allowed a walk to Baek first, then caught Yutaka Fukumoto on second while stealing. That caught-stealing was clutch because Horiuchi then walked Masayoshi Higashida and Toshizo Sakamoto blasted a two-run shot; Hiramatsu succeeded him in the 6th inning. He then replaced Mitsuo Inaba in the 6th inning in Game 3 and pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts (to Nagabuchi, Michiyo Arito and Katsuo Osugi). He ended up 26-9 with a 2.91 ERA, led the league in wins, complete games, winning percentage, innings and hits allowed, ranked 7th in ERA (.83 behind Takeshi Yasuda) and 2nd in strikeouts (30 behind Enatsu). He won the CL MVP, Diamond Glove, Best Nine and Sawamura Award. No other CL pitcher won 25 games after Horiuchi. In the 1972 Nippon Series, he allowed homers to Taira Sumitomo and Nagaike in Game 1, but still completed it with three runs allowed and won over Hisashi Yamada. Horiuchi then relieved Kazumi Takahashi in 8th inning in Game 2, pitched 1 2/3 innings and notched a win as he hit a game-winning two-run double against Yoshihiro Kodama. He started in Game 3, but he allowed four runs in five innings; they included Hideji Kato's two-run homer; Adachi beat him. Horiuchi didn't have any rest and relieved Shitoshi Sekimoto in the 9th inning of Game 4. He walked two batters, but still retired Yutaka Ohashi with the bases loaded and notched a save. The Giants beat the Braves in the next game, and Horiuchi was named the Nippon Series Most Valuable Player.

Due to the overuse in the 1972 season, Horiuchi slumped to 12-17 with a 4.52 ERA in 1973. He pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings in 1973 NPB All-Star Game 1, then had a shutout inning in Game 3. Horiuchi shined in the 1973 Nippon Series, relieving Makoto Kurata and pitching 5 shutout innings to win over Michiro Sato of the Hawks in Game 1. Horiuchi then pitched a complete game in Game 3 with two runs allowed to beat Hiroaki Fukushi. He became the only pitcher in NPB history to blast two homers in a single game in the Nippon Series. Horiuchi relieved Kurata and pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings to help the Giants beat the Hawks in the decisive Game 5, and he was named the Nippon Series MVP again. He was the second player to win back-to-back Nippon Series MVP (following his teammate Shigeo Nagashima), and also won another Gold Glove as a pitcher.

Horiuchi bounced back in 1974, having a 19-11 record with a 2.67 ERA. He led the league in complete games, ranked 3rd in wins (1 behind Motoyasu Kaneshiro and Yukitsura Matsumoto), 3rd in ERA (.39 behind Mitsuhiro Sekimoto) and 8th in strikeouts (80 behind Kaneshiro). He was the starter in 1974 NPB All-Star Game 1, pitching 3 innings with 3 strikeouts and allowed a run due to Nagaike's RBI single. Horiuchi also won the Diamond Glove and Best Nine again. He slumped to 10-18 with a 3.79 ERA in 1975, and led the league in losses. Horiuchi also attended the NPB All-Star Game for the last time in his career, relieving Matsumoto in the 9th inning in Game 2 and pitching a shutout inning with a strikeout against Arito to notch a save. He also relieved Takamasa Suzuki in the 8th inning in Game 3 and pitched a shutout inning.

The Kofu Shogyo alumni had a 14-6 record with a 3.96 ERA in 1976, and ranked 7th in wins (6 behind Kojiro Ikegaya). He was the starter of the opener in the 1976 Nippon Series, and he pitched 4 innings with 3 runs allowed versus the Braves and ended up with a no-decision. Horiuchi then started in Game 4, and pitched 6 innings with only two runs allowed; he had a no-decision again. He started in Game 6, allowing four runs in four innings and had a no-decision again, then relieved Shigeru Kobayashi and pitched a shutout inning in Game 7. The Giants lost to the Braves, and Horiuchi finally lost a Nippon Series after he won his first eight. Horiuchi slumped to 10-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 1977, and started in Game 2 of the 1977 Nippon Series. The veteran pitched 4 innings, allowing only one run but still lost to Adachi's shutout. He then started in Game 4, allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings and ended up with a no-decision. Horiuchi's last appearance was in Game 5 as he relieved Clyde Wright and pitched two shutout innings, but the Braves still beat the Giants in this game.

The 1978 season was Horiuchi's last productive season. He was 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA, and became the first pitcher to win 7 straight Diamond Glove awards (only Takashi Nishimoto had also done this, completing the feat in 1985). His ERA rose to 6.67 in 1979, and he only was 3-5 with a 4.32 ERA in 1980. He became the second pitcher to win 200 games while staying in the Giants for his entire career, following Hiroshi Nakao. Horiuchi only pitched 13 games combined in the next two seasons, then he decided to retire after the 1983 season. In his last career at-bat, Horiuchi blasted a home run against Tsugio Kanazawa, and his 19-year career ended.

After retirement, Horiuchi was the pitching coach for the Giants from 1984 to 1985 and from 1993 to 1997. He was their bench coach in 1998, and managed them from 2004 to 2005. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2010, he was one of two former Yomiuri players to run for Japan's Upper House with the Liberal Democratic Party, along with Hiroo Ishii.

Overall, Horiuchi was 203-139 with a 3.27 ERA and 1,865 strikeouts, pitched 3,045 innings in 18 seasons in NPB. He ranked 22th in wins (197 behind Masaichi Kaneda), 32th in strikeouts (2,625 behind Kaneda), 19th in complete games (178, 187 behind Kaneda) and 19th in shutouts (37, 46 behind Victor Starffin)). At the plate, Horiuchi hit .172/.176/.262 with 21 homers. He also set the Nippon Series record for most appearances (27), most innings (140 1/3), most wins (11) and most walks (61). His 1.44 ERA in NPB All-Star Game play was the lowest for those who pitched at least 20 innings.

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