Tsutomu Wakamatsu

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Tsutomu Wakamatsu (若松 勉) (The Little Big Hitter)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tsutomu Wakamatsu was one of the greatest players in the history of the Yakult Atoms/Yakult Swallows. His .319/.375/.481 career line gives him the second highest batting average in the history of Nippon Pro Baseball for players with 4,000 or more at-bats - only Leron Lee posted a higher mark, at .320. Wakamatsu holds the Central League record. He is Yakult's all-time leader in games and hits as well.

An 11-time All-Star in 19 seasons (1971 through 1989), Wakamatsu won two batting titles ('72 with a .329 average and '77 with a .358 clip) and hit .300 or better 15 times. In 1978 he was MVP of the Central League after hitting .341/.408/.539 with 100 runs and 17 homers in leading the Swallows to the Japan Series. He also was named Japan Series MVP that year as Yakult won the Series for the first time ever.

Wakamatsu was a 2-time Gold Glove outfielder who also led the league in doubles twice and hits once. Known more for his consistency than break-out seasons, he made the Best Nine team ten times, including nine in a row from '72 through '80.

After retiring, Wakamatsu served as a broadcaster for three years, then managed for the Swallows' minor league team for five years. In 1999 he took over Yakult's reign. He won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award in 2001 after leading the Swallows to a Japan Series win. There was some controversy over this, as Tuffy Rhodes had tied the home run record that year; at that point no foreigner had ever won the award. After the 2005 season he was replaced in that role by Atsuya Furuta. Wakamatsu was 496-461-18 as a manager and the team finished at least fourth every season he was at the helm, with one title and two second-place finishes.

Wakamatsu was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Principal source: japanbaseballdaily.com