Sandomir: Sachio Kinugasa, Japanese iron man, dies at 71

From Richard Sandomir at the New York Times on April 26, 2018:

Sachio Kinugasa, the Japanese slugger who in 1987 broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, only to see his testament to durability exceeded nine years later by Cal Ripken Jr., died on Monday. He was 71.

The cause was colon cancer, according to reports in the Japanese news media, which did not specify where he died.

In Japan, Kinugasa embodied consistency and effort by playing in game after game for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp over 17 years despite broken bones, slumps and age. Even after a pitch fractured his left shoulder blade in 1979 — about halfway through his streak — he continued to play. He reasoned that it would have been more painful for him to sit out.

“If we have a game, I want to play, that’s all,” he told The New York Times in May 1987, several weeks before he was to tie Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games. “The record is not the goal. It’s only the natural outcome of my determination to play.”

Kinugasa was no ordinary player. A third baseman who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed about 165 pounds, he was nonetheless a hard-swinging force who amassed 504 home runs, tied for seventh-best in Japanese baseball history, and 2,543 hits, tied for fifth.

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Originally published: April 27, 2018. Last Updated: April 27, 2018.