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Series champion Hawks lead Golden Glove voting

by Jim Allen (Nov 25, 2011)

The honors continue to pour in for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

The Pacific League and Japan Series champs were the biggest winners on Thursday, when the 2011 Mitsui Golden Glove Awards were announced. Catcher Toru Hosokawa, first baseman Hiroki Kokubo, second baseman Yuichi Honda and third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda gave the Hawks a Japan-high four winners.

The Central League champion Chunichi Dragons were second with three: pitcher Takuya Asao, catcher Motonobu Tanishige and outfielder Yohei Oshima.

The Hanshin Tigers were the only other team with as many as two: second baseman Keiichi Hirano and shortstop Takashi Toritani.

For the second straight season, all six PL clubs had at least one winner, while the CL's Yokohama BayStars continued to be conspicuously absent. Yokohama hasn't had a Golden Glove winner since Tatsuhiko Kinjo earned a top-three spot in the 2007 vote for outfielders.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows third baseman Shinya Miyamoto is now tied with Sadaharu Oh for fourth on the all-time with nine Golden Gloves. Only catcher Atsuya Furuta, first baseman Norihiro Komada and outfielder Koji Yamamoto have won 10.

Miyamoto's 229 votes were the highest in either league, and at 40 years 11 months, he became the oldest honoree. Kokubo broke the PL age record he set last season, winning at the age of 40 years 1 month.

Kokubo's award was his second at first base. He won a 55-43 vote over Seibu's Hideto Asamura in which 79 voters chose not to select a winner. Kokubo also won the PL award at second in 1995. Honda's award made him the first Hawks second baseman to win the honor while playing in all of his team's games since 1995.

The Hawks won three or more infield awards for the sixth time since the voting first took place in 1950. They last won three in 2004, when first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka was honored along with second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki.

Kawasaki finished second this year to the Saitama Seibu Lions' Hiroyuki Nakajima by a vote of 97-91--the closest result in either league. Had Kawasaki, who like Nakajima is looking to move to the majors this winter, finished first, the Hawks would have held all four infield awards for the first time since Nankai dominated the PL infield voting in 1951 and 1952.

Hosokawa, whose previous Golden Glove came with the Lions in 2008, joined the Hawks as a free agent over the winter and became the first catcher to earn the fielding honor in his first season with a new team.

Chiba Lotte Marines speedster Yoshifumi Okada topped the polling for PL outfielders, ending the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' seven-year run in that category. The Fighters were left tied for the longest outfield streaks with the Lions (1987-93) and Orix BlueWave (1995-2001).

Okada became the PL's first Golden Glove winner to begin his pro career on a developmental contract.

The Fighters' Yoshio Itoi, who led the balloting last season, slipped into a tie for second with the Orix Buffaloes' Tomotaka Sakaguchi. Itoi, who began his career as a pitcher, won for the third time, while Sakaguchi won his fourth.

Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka became the second Rakuten honoree, following catcher Motohiro Shima last season. Tanaka, who led both leagues in ERA and won the prestigious Sawamura Award a week ago, beat Fighters ace Yu Darvish 90-67.

In the CL, Asao, became the first pitcher to collect a Golden Glove without starting a game. The late-inning specialist made one error in 21 chances. Dragons starter Kazuki Yoshimi, who made two errors in 53 chances, was second.

Tanishige's fifth award puts him third on the all-time catcher's honor roll behind Furuta and another former Swallows backstop, Akihiko Oya. The Swallows' Ryoji Aikawa, who like Tanishige began his career in Yokohama, finished second.

At first base, where voters declined to pick a winner a year ago, the Hiroshima Carp's Kenta Kurihara returned for his third award, having won in 2008 and 2009. Kurihara got 144 votes, but more voters opted for no one (55) than the second-place finisher, Hanshin's Craig Brazell (36).

At second base, the Tigers' Hirano won the CL's closest vote, edging out the Swallows' Hiroyasu Tanaka 96-73 to win for the first time. Hirano became the first Tigers second baseman to win in two straight seasons since new Tigers manager Yutaka Wada, a three-time winner from 1992-94.

With his award, Toritani gave Hanshin its first Golden Glove at that position since Katsuo Hirata won in 1987.

In the outfield, Hisayoshi Chono became the first Giant to lead the voting since Hideki Matsui in 2002. Second behind Chono was six-time winner Norichika Aoki of the Swallows, while Yohei Oshima won the Dragons' first outfield award since Kosuke Fukudome won in 2006.


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