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Masaki Yoshihara

 

Date and Place of Birth: January 2, 1919 Kumamoto, Japan
Date and Place of Death:    October 10, 1944 Burma
Baseball Experience: Japanese Professional League
Position: Catcher
Rank: Unknown
Military Unit: Army Artillery
Area Served: Burma/India

Japanese Hall of Famer Masaki Yoshihara was one of the greatest catchers in Tokyo Giants' history

Masaki Yoshihara (Yoshiwara), the son of a carpenter, was born on January 2, 1919 in Kumamoto, Japan. He attended Kumamoto Kogyo high school where, as a strong-armed catcher, he was a teammate of future Japanese pro baseball legend and Hall of Famer Tetsuharu Kawakami. Yoshihara played in two Koshien Tournaments (1934 and 1937) before signing with the Tokyo Giants in 1938. Playing in 34 of the 35 spring season games, Yoshihara batted .265 and led the Giants with four home runs. In the fall season his average dropped to .194 as he appeared in all 40 games.

A stubborn and fierce competitor, Yoshihara was a favorite with the Tokyo fans and became known throughout for his romance with actress Mieko Takamine.

In 1939, the 20-year-old played 89 games and batted a steady .241. In 1940, handling a pitching staff that featured future Hall of Famers Victor Starffin, Hiroshi Nakao and Eiji Sawamura (who was back from a military service stint), Yoshihara played all 104 games, batted .230, stole 30 bases and led the league with 83 base on balls. In 1941, Yoshihara played 72 games and batted .250 driving in 26.

Yoshihara was drafted for military service in April 1942. “For five full years I have spent my life in this world, burning with youthful ardor," he told the Yakyukai baseball magazine in May 1942. “Now with a fond memory I am going to leave the dear baseball world to which I fiercely devoted my youthful ardor.”

He served with the artillery and contracted an unknown disease during the Imphal operations in India. He died in Burma on October 10, 1944.

Japanese Hall of Fame second baseman, Shigeru Chiba, called Yoshihara the best ever Giants' catcher, always full of vigor, leading his teammates with a loud raucous voice.

Surrounded by future Hall of Famers during his playing days, Masaki Yoshihara was himself posthumously inducted in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.

Date Added: March 17, 2013

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