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Patrick Newman

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10 Foreign Player Stories

by Patrick Newman (Aug 28, 2009)

There are a couple of editions of Shukan Baseball that I look forward to each year: the issue on breaking pitches, the series of issues leading up to the draft, and the mid-season issue on foreign players in Japan. I picked up foreign players issue on my last trip to Kinokuniya, and this year's edition has a photobook of all 908 foreign players who have been on the payroll of an NPB team. Every time I get a magazine like this I learn something new, so here's a few things from this year's edition, plus a few of my own.

Jose's twin Ozzie Canseco spent part of 1991 playing for Kintetsu, but never escaped the ni-gun team, where he hit .271 with eight homers.

Frank Ortenzio's name was officially registered on Nankai's roster in Kanji as 王天上 rather than the usual Katakana, which would have been オーテンジョウ or something similar.

Don Newcombe was a star pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1950's, but played the outfield for Chunichi in 1962. He hit .262 with 12 home runs in 81 games. One of Newcombe's Chunichi teammates was color-line pioneer Larry Doby.

Matt Stairs played for Chunichi way back in 1993, prior to having any MLB success.

Korean pitcher Cho Son-Min had the longest contract in NPB history, an eight-year deal with the Giants signed prior to 1996. Over the life of the contract he only appeared in 53 games, posting a 2.84 era.

Dave Nilsson played for Chunichi in 2000, so he could represent Australia in that year's Summer Olympics. He went by "Dingo" during his brief stay in Japan.

Marty Keough played for Nankai in the 60's; his son Matt Keough played for Hanshin in the 80's. Now Matt's son Shane Keough is a minor leaguer in the A's system - possible third generation suketto?

This isn't really notworthy, but a guy I really liked when I was living in Japan was Chang Chih-Chia from Taiwan. I thought he'd be a good pitcher for a long time, but weight and injury problems derailed his career. He was back in Taiwan last season, and even though he's still just 29 years old it seems as though his best days as a pitcher are behind him. BR Bullpen has a chronicle of his rise and fall.

Some pretty good MLB players signed to play in Japan while the players were still striking in 1995: Shane Mack, Kevin Mitchell, Julio Franco, Darrin Jackson. Of course, Mitchell didn't pan out, but the other guys did okay.

Alex Ramirez's step-son, Alex Jr, had been in Yakult's farm system while Sr was with the ichi-gun team. I didn't realize that until about a week ago, Jr had been with Kochi of the independent Island League.


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