Yoshihiko Takahashi (Renshu no Mushi)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 173 lb.
- High School Josai High School
1974-1982: Early years
A pitcher in high school, Takahashi was a third-round draft pick of Hiroshima in 1974. He debuted with the Carp two years later, playing five games and never coming to the plate. In 1977, the 20-year-old hit .292/.338/.369 in 58 games and stole 14 bases in 16 tries. His first hit came against Senichi Hoshino. By 1978, he was a star, batting .302/.365/.443 with 10 triples and 15 steals (though he was thrown out running 20 times). He led the Central League in triples, times caught stealing and times hit by pitch (11). He made his first Best Nine at shortstop.
Takahashi served as the sparkplug for Hiroshima as they won the CL pennant in 1979. He hit .304/.360/.408 and finished 9th in the league in average. His steal rate improved significantly as he pilfered 55 while only being nabbed 16 times. He had 7 triples (leading the CL) and scored 86 times. He led the league in steals and times caught stealing, made his first All-Star team and his second Best Nine. In the 1979 Japan Series, he batted .444/.464/.667 and won the MVP award as the Carp claimed the title. From June 6 until July 31, he hit in 38 straight games, setting the NPB record for the longest hitting streak ever. As of July 31, 2007, it remains unmatched.
In 1980, the young infielder produced at a .307/.349/.418 clip with 11 triples and 38 stolen bases in 58 attempts. He led the league in triples, steals and hits (169) and again was an All-Star and Best Nine. He set Hiroshima's single-season record for triples (unmatched through 2006). In the 1980 Japan Series, Takahashi was far from the star he had been in the 1979 Series, but Hiroshima still won the title. He was only 4 for 31 with no walks or extra-base hits but two steals.
Takahashi hit .289/.324/.389 in 1981 but the big drop-off came in steals - only 14 in 25 tries. In 1982, he was running better (43 SB, 24 CS) but only batted .269/.314/.357 for one of his worst years.
1983-1986: Emergence as a power hitter
By 1983, he was again an All-Star with a .305/.378/.523 batting line in a comeback campaign. He hit 24 home runs, more than 3 times his total from any prior year, scored 91 and stole 70 bases in 98 attempts (the 28 times caught stealing was a CL record). On April 26, he became the sixth player in NPB history to homer from both sides of the plate. He tied Ryuzo Yamazaki and Keiji Nagasaki for 8th in the league in average. He made his fourth Best Nine team. He failed to lead the CL in stolen bases as Tadashi Matsumoto pilfered 76.
The power marked a key new element in Takahashi's game. In 1984, the short shortstop cracked 23 homers, scored 97 times and stole 30 bases while only being caught nine times. He hit .303/.361/.505 and was an All-Star for the 4th time. He led the Central League in runs scored. Masaru Uno made the Best Nine at SS instead. In the 1984 Japan Series, the 27-year-old star was an amazing 15 for 30 with a double, homer, 8 runs, 2 walks and 4 steals in 6 tries for a .500/.531/.633 batting line. Hiroshima won but Kiyoyuki Nagashima was MVP of the Series for his power display (3 homers, 10 RBI, .704 slugging).
Takahashi hit 24 homers, scored 96 runs and stole a career-high 73 bases (in 91 attempts) in 1985 while batting .276/.343/.437. He was an All-Star and led the league in steals. He was 12 runs behind leader Akinobu Mayumi and lost the Best Nine spot to Yutaka Takagi.
In 1986, Takahashi had one of his last big years. He produced at a .284/.313/.466 clip with 88 runs, 21 HR and 39 steals in 54 tries. He made his last All-Star team and Best Nine and played in his last Japan Series. He led the league in AB (552) and plate appearances (583), his last time leading in anything. In the 1986 Japan Series, he only managed to hit .235/.265/.297 with 2 steals in 3 tries and two runs as Hiroshima was ousted 4 games to 3 with one tie against the dynastic Seibu Lions. It was the last great season for the Hiroshima team of the era, the best period in club history.
1987-1989: Last years with the Carp
Takahashi was suspended by the Carp for two weeks in early 1987 when he failed to show up for a team event. He finished the year with a .281/.336/.407 batting line and 28 steals in 36 tries. The power faded away as he only hit 11 home runs and would never top 12 again after that nice four-year run of 20+ he had just completed.
Yoshihiko hit .238/.285/.365 in 1988 as he faded further yet. He stole 32 bases in 45 tries. It was his 9th season of 20+ steals and 8th of 30+ but his last of either. In 1989, he hit .267/.320/.383 and was thrown out running 15 times while only stealing successfully in 13 attempts, a far cry from his glory days. In the off-season, he was dealt to the Lotte Orions for Shoji Toyama.
1990-1992: Final years as a player
Takahashi became an outfielder with Lotte and played 100 games in 1990 but only got 261 AB; he hit .207/.268/.349. He then went to the Hanshin Tigers and batted .206/.265/.238 in 57 games in 1991 and was just 5 for 23 in 1992 to complete his career.
In 1,722 games, Takahashi hit .280/.333/.416 with 1,003 runs, 163 home runs and 477 stolen bases in 683 tries. As of 2007, he is the all-time Central League leader in times caught stealing (202) and is third all-time in home runs leading off a game (34). His 55 triples were a Hiroshima record through 2006.
After retiring as a player, Takahashi has worked as an announcer and has coached for the Daiei Hawks (1995) and Chiba Lotte Marines. While coaching for the Marines in 2007, Takahashi was part of a brawl that led to the 5th time in NPB history that three or more people were ejected. Yoshihiko was tossed along with Tuffy Rhodes and coach Jon Debus of the Orix Buffaloes. He was fined $50,000 for the incident.