Yasumitsu Toyoda

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Yasumitsu Toyoda (豊田 泰光)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Yasumitsu Toyoda is a Japanese Baseball Hall-of-Famer who played in Nippon Pro Baseball for 17 seasons.

Toyoda was signed by the Nishitetsu Lions after he graduated from high school. He soon became the starting shortstop for the Lions and blasted 27 homers with a .281/.337/.537 batting line. He ranked 2nd in homers (9 behind his teammate Futoshi Nakanishi), 9th in RBI (27 behind Nakanishi) and 9th in runs (28 behind Nakanishi). He broke the NPB rookie record for most homers in a season, and won the Pacific League Rookie of the Year award. He slumped to .241/.337/.407 with 18 homers in 1954, and won his first Pacific League pennant. He was 4-for-24 in the 1954 Nippon Series, and the Lions were beaten by the Chunichi Dragons in 7 games. The Ibaraki native bounced back and attended the 1955 NPB All-Star Game. He was 0-for-2 in Game 2. Toyoda ended up hitting .275/.351/.449 with 23 homers and 27 steals, ranked 3rd in homers (12 behind Nakanishi), 5th in RBI (23 behind Kazuhiro Yamauchi) and 7th in hits (13 behind Tokuji Iida).

1956 was Toyoda's career year. In 1956 NPB All-Star Game 1, he went 1-for-3 and collected 3 hits in Game 2. He recorded a .325/.407/.491 batting line with 12 homers that year, and won his first batting title and Best Nine award. He robbed his teammate Nakanishi of the batting title with a .0005 lead, and became the first Japanese shortstop to win a batting title. He also ranked 2nd in hits (5 behind Shinya Sasaki), 9th in RBI (25 behind Nakanishi) and 9th in homers (17 behind Nakanishi). In the 1956 Nippon Series, Toyoda went 11-for-24, with a clutch go-ahead 2-run homer off Takehiko Bessho in Game 3. The Lions beat the Yomiuri Giants in 6 games, and Toyoda won the Nippon Series Most Valuable Player.

Toyoda extended his solid performance in 1957, hitting .287/.377/.495 with 18 homers and won the Best Nine again. He led the league with 92 runs, ranked 5th in homers (12 behind Katsuya Nomura), 5th in hits (21 behind Nakanishi) and 7th in steals (32 behind Akiteru Kono). He also attended the 1957 NPB All-Star Game, but went 0-for-7. Toyoda shined in the 1957 Nippon Series for another Nippon Series star turn; he crushed a clutch go-ahead solo shot off Taketoshi Yoshihara in Game 1, and collected 3 hits in Game 5. The Lions beat the Giants in 5 games, and Toyoda was named the Outstanding Player award (a step below the MVP, which went to teammate Hiroshi Oshita).

The Ibaraki native slumped to .258/.341/.411 in 1958, but he still attended the All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive year; he was 2-for-5 in 2 games. The Lions won the pennant again, and Toyoda blasted 7 homers with a 12-for-24 record and drove in 7 RBI in the 1958 Japan Series. The Lions beat the Giants to win their third consecutive Nippon Series title, with Toyoda getting four hits in Game 7. The talented shortstop hit .300/.403/.472 with 17 homers. Since their main cleanup hitters, Oshita and Nakanishi retired, Toyoda had a lack of protection so he collected a league-leading 78 walks. His 18 intentional walks broke the NPB record. He also led the league in on-base percentage with .403, and won his third Best Nine award.

Toyoda was still productive in 1960 and he attended his sixth All-Star Game; he was 2-for-6 in 2 games. The Ibaraki native ended up hitting .287/.394/.511 with 23 homers, and won the Best Nine again. He led the league in walks, ranked 3rd in homers (9 behind Yamauchi), 3rd in RBI (16 behind Yamauchi) and 3rd in runs (19 behind Kihachi Enomoto). Toyoda still collected a league-leading 87 walks with a .297/.421/.468 batting line and 16 homers in 1961, and won his fifth Best Nine.

Toyoda was named the bench coach for the Lions in 1962, and he hit .274/.393/.469 with 23 homers as a player that season. He was 3rd in homers (21 behind Nomura) and 8th in RBI (37 behind Nomura). Toyoda also won his 6th Best Nine as a shortstop. However, he had a conflict with manager Nakanishi, then the Lions traded him to the Kokutetsu Swallows for 45 million yen after that season.

In the first year with the Swallows, Toyoda was still a solid infielder and hit .292/.384/.479 with 20 homers. He was 9th in AVG (.05 behind Shigeo Nagashima), 8th in homers (20 behind Sadaharu Oh) and 8th in RBI (42 behind Nagashima). He also won his seventh, and last, Best Nine Award, his only one in the Central League. He extended his good performance in 1964 and hit .275/.385/.519 with 24 homers; Yoshio Yoshida won Best Nine honors instead. However, Toyoda injured his left elbow in 1965, and only played 82 games combined in the next two seasons. He came back as a first baseman in 1967, but he only had a .246/.321/.405 batting line with 18 homers. He became the only player in NPB history to hit a walk-off homer off the same pitcher (Tatsumi Yamanaka in this case) in two consecutive games in 1968, but he was mainly used as pinch-hitter in that season. After recording a .242/.345/.374 batting line in 40 games in 1969, Toyoda announced his retirement and became a coach.

Following his playing career, Toyoda was the hitting coach for Kintetsu in 1972 before becoming an outspoken commentator for Bunka Broadcasting. When he was chosen for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, he noted that his work on the air must have helped get him in since he wasn't good enough to get in on his playing ability alone. Toyoda has also been active in promoting the campaign to grow aodamo for the production of bats.

Overall, Toyoda had hit .277/.372/.465 with 263 homers and 215 steals in 17 seasons in NPB.