Tsuyoshi Shinjo

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Tsuyoshi Shinjo (新庄 剛志)
(The Young Prince, Airhead, Spaceman, Big Boss)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tsuyoshi Shinjo was known for his funny antics and as one of the biggest fan favorites in Japanese baseball.

Shinjo was drafted by the Hanshin Tigers in the fifth round of the 1989 NPB draft. He reached the top team in 1991, going 2-17 (.118) with no HR and one RBI. In his second year, Shinjo batted .278/.320/.433 with 11 HRs and 46 RBI. In 1993, he hit .257/.305/.463 with 23 HR's and 62 RBI. As a result, Shinjo was elected to his first Best Nine team, being named one of the top three Central League outfielders. In 1994, Shinjo put up another steady year, batting .251/.304/.440 with 17 HR, a league-leading 7 triples and 68 RBI. That year he recorded a love song that sold 8,000 copies. He plummeted to .225/.294/.360 with 7 HR's and 37 RBI in 1995 and temporarily retired after a disagreement with manager Taira Fujita, who was critical of Tsuyoshi's lack of practice or effort. His power returned in 1996 as he hit 19 homers but his overall offensive game remained poor at a .232/.306/.405 line. Shinjo went on to play a full year in 1997, but struggled once more as he hit only .232/.306/.405 with 20 HR's and 68 RBI. He did lead the CL with 7 triples. During this time he was considered one of the top fielders in the CL, winning Gold Gloves regularly, a trend that continued throughout his time in Nippon Pro Baseball, but his defense was not making up for his offense. Thankfully, Hanshin was a weak team at this time and had few other options.

Shinjo put up a fourth straight bad season in 1998, in what would be his worst year to date, batting .222/.275/.331 with just 6 circuit clouts and 27 RBI in 132 games. In 1999, he bounced back a bit to .255/.303/.418 with 14 HR's and 58 RBI's. During Shinjo's final year with Hanshin in 2000, he batted .278/.321/.491 with 28 HR's, 15 steals and 85 RBI. It was his first good offense season in Japan and hardly a great one. While he made the Best Nine, he was not among the top 3 in the league in any offensive category. A great self-promoter, he had written an autobiography and had a compilation of his egocentric sayings printed.

After that year, Shinjo became a free agent. He went on to sign with the New York Mets for $200,000, turning down a $2 million deal from Hanshin. Many baseball analysts in America and Japan were surprised at the move, as Shinjo had not shown much offensive talent outside of one shining season. Tsuyoshi immediately responded to the less rigorous approach in MLB when it came to practices. In 2001, he had a respectable year, batting .268/.320/.405 with 10 HR's and 56 RBI and becoming the first Japanese player ever to hit clean-up in a MLB game. He was a fan favorite in New York for his constant upbeat personality and hustle - his visual flair included a pair of bright orange wristbands - but was also the target of criticism for his antics and hot-dogging.

Late that year, Shinjo was traded to the San Francisco Giants with infielder Desi Relaford for pitcher Shawn Estes. In 2002, he fell to .238/.294/.370 with 9 HR and 37 RBI but he became the first Japanese native to appear in the World Series, which the Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels. Still a fan favorite, he was clearly not producing enough offense to play regularly in the majors. That November, Shinjo was released by the Giants. In his final year with the Mets in 2003, he was struggling, being shuffled back and forth between the AAA Norfolk Tides and the Mets and declined to .193/.238/.246. For Norfolk, Tsuyoshi batted .324/.377/.486. Shinjo finished his major league career batting .245/.299/.370 with 20 HR's and 100 RBI. Shinjo collected 107 hits in his rookie season in the majors, and 108 hits the rest of his major league career

After leaving the majors, Shinjo signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters, where he had another very good year, batting .298/.327/.508 with 24 HR and 79 RBI in 2004. While he was again not among the league leaders in any category, he had played well enough to make a third Best Nine, his first in the Pacific League. In 2005, Shinjo fought a hand injury, and played in only 108 games, posting a line of .239/.274/.455 with 20 HR, more in line with his typical NPB season. While Michihiro Ogasawara and Fernando Seguignol were the star players of the Fighters, it was said that Shinjo was the face of the team. In early 2006, Tsuyoshi announced he would retire at the end of the season and said he was interested in becoming a nude model (he did in fact become a successful underwear model, along the lines of Jim Palmer). He hit .258/.298/.416 with 16 homers as his power again failed to compensate for his lack of OBP skills. Nippon Ham made their first Nippon Series in 25 years, though, thanks to the club's other performers, and when the Fighters won the series in five games over the Chunichi Dragons, he was carried off the field in triumph by his teammates.

Shinjo was known for his corny and selfish attitude, when once asked by manager Katsuya Nomura on why he didn't steal bases despite having excellent speed, he responded by saying "because I have no interest in it"; Nomura later responded by calling Shinjo "a spaceman". Tsuyoshi also said he didn't want to develop bigger leg muscles because they wouldn't look good in jeans. Known for style over substance, he also wore fancy leather suits, eyebrow makeup, orange wraparound sun glasses and used lots of hairspray. It must have worked as he married one of Japan's top models. Also, in 2006, Shinjo showed up to practice at Koshien Stadium with one of his old Hanshin uniforms on May 18th and was warned by Pacific League umpire Yoshio Maekawa. He was also warned by Maekawa for wearing collared undershirts. Shinjo was clearly one of the most popular and controversial players wherever he has appeared and regardless of the fact that he rarely was his team's star.

He was a nine-time NPB Gold Glove winner as an outfielder (1993, 1994, 1996-2000, 2004 & 2005) and a three-time member of the Best Nine (1993, 2000 & 2004). After his playing career ended, he became a visible pitchman in Japanese advertisements. In 2020, aged 48 but in surprisingly good shape for his age, he announced that he wanted to make a comeback as a player and took part in tryouts put on by his former team, Nippon Ham. In 2022, he became the manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, also acquiring a new nickname, "Big Boss", in the process.

Sources include The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whiting

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Matt Monagan: "MLB, to underwear model, back to baseball: Tsuyoshi Shinjo is back in baseball at 48 years old", mlb.com, December 7, 2020. [1]
  • Brian Murphy: "'Big Boss' era begins in appropriate fashion", mlb.com, March 25, 2022. [2]

Related Sites[edit]