Yoshio Tanaka (catcher)
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Yoshio Tanaka (Kaiser)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 149 lb.
An American of Japanese descent with a German nickname (given due to his interest in the German royal family), Yoshio (Kaiser) Tanaka would be the first foreign manager to manage a team in Nippon Pro Baseball history.
Tanaka was a high school teacher when former classmate Tadashi Wakabayashi convinced him to come to Japan in 1937 to join the new Japanese Professional Baseball League. He was hit by six pitches, the most in the loop. Yoshio, a catcher, hit .291/.356/.432 for the Osaka Tigers in the fall of '37 to finish 9th in average. In the spring of 1938, he batted .333/.432/.427 and followed with a .235/.279/.327 fall at age 31.
In '39, Yoshio was 5 for 16 in 15 games, but he returned to regular action the next year, producing at a .293/.326/.356 clip and making his only Best Nine. He was third in the JPBL in average behind Kazuo Kito and Tetsuharu Kawakami. In 1941, the veteran backstop batted .229/.274/.287 but led the league with 21 sacrifice hits. In '42, the 35-year-old hit .201/.249/.221 and he struggled some more in 1943 (.229/.305/.278). He finished his career by going 0 for 10 the next year.
He worked at a US military base in Hokkaido Prefecture after World War II and then coached for the Tigers from 1954-57. He became the club's manager in 1958, the year he became the first foreign skipper in the history of NPB. They were second that year at 72-58, then were 62-59-9 to tie for second a year later.