Belson: Masaichi Kaneda, Japan’s ‘Emperor’ of baseball, dies at 86

From Ken Belson at the New York Times on October 11, 2019:

Masaichi Kaneda started each of the thousands of innings he pitched during his illustrious career in Japan the same way. He walked to the mound, dropped his glove, grabbed the rosin bag, tossed it a few times, dropped it and then picked up his glove. Then he walked to second base, where he threw the first of eight warm-up pitches to the catcher. After each throw, he moved a few steps closer to the mound, until by the eighth pitch he was standing on the pitching rubber.

“He had a cocky walk, this swagger,” said Robert Whiting, who has written books on Japanese baseball and who watched Kaneda pitch during his heyday more than 50 years ago. “He had it down to a science. He was fun to watch.”

Kaneda wasn’t just fun, though; he was among the best at his craft — the winningest pitcher in the history of Japanese professional baseball, the only one in Japan to win 400 games. (His 400th was his last.) In the American major leagues, only two pitchers have won more: Cy Young, with 511, and Walter Johnson, with 417.

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Originally published: October 15, 2019. Last Updated: October 15, 2019.