Pitchers Yamamoto, Takatsu elected to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame

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This file photo shows Shingo Takatsu (left) and Masahiro Yamamoto. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Shingo Takatsu and seemingly timeless left-hander Masahiro Yamamoto were announced on Friday as the newest inductees of Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.

Takatsu was named on 311 ballots cast by 10-year veterans of the Japanese baseball media voting on candidates in the hall’s players division. Yamamoto was named on the 307th, with 271 being the 75 percent hurdle required for election.

The two were joined by the late Shigeyoshi Matsumae, the founder of Tokai University, who worked to popularize baseball abroad, particularly in Russia. He died in 1991.

Takatsu, currently manager of Japanese champions Yakult Swallows, narrowly missed out on his election last year. Yamamoto was second in last year’s voting when no players’ division candidates were chosen.

Takatsu saved 286 games in Nippon Professional Baseball, 27 more in the US major leagues with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and eight more in South Korea before winning 26 in 2010, his last pro season in Taiwan.

Takatsu contributed to four Japan Series championships with the Yakult Swallows of the Central League. Though the stalwart right-hander’s total saves in Japan are the second-highest ever, he said releasing impressive numbers wasn’t his primary goal.

“I wasn’t concerned with making up big numbers,” he said. “My desire for the team to win was stronger.”

Yamamoto went 219-165 with five saves in his career, all of which he spent with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan’s Central League. He led the CL to wins three times, was voted the league’s top pitcher twice, and won the 1994 Sawamura Award for Japan’s top starting pitcher.

Active into his 50th birthday, Yamamoto set a number of longevity records, including throwing a no-hitter at age 41 and winning a game at age 49, despite a lack of speed compared to others pitchers.

“It’s a compliment that someone doesn’t throw hard,” said Yamamoto, whose fastball often didn’t hit 140 kilometers per hour. “I want the young kids who aren’t throwing hard to have hope and do their best.”

Two-time former CL MVP Alex Ramirez finished third in Players Division voting, earning 209 votes, 62 fewer than the required total.

Hiroki Kuroda, former right-hander for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, received 165 votes in his first election year.

No new members were elected from the panel of experts, which votes on a panel of existing Hall of Famers and 15-year baseball media veterans. Only one candidate, former Hanshin Tigers hitter Randy Bass, garnered significant support.

Bass, who won two CL Triple Crowns and was Most Valuable Player in 1985, the year Hanshin won his only Japan Series championship, was named on 106 of the 146 ballots cast, four fewer than the number required for induction.

The vote marked the second year in a row that the expert panel was unable to elect anyone.

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