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Sadaharu Oh (in Chinese: 王 貞 治, pinyin: Wáng Zhēnzhì; Tokyo, May 20, 1940) is a Japanese athlete of Taiwanese origin, who has developed his professional career as a player and baseball coach. He played as a first baseman in Yomiuri Giants (Japanese Professional Baseball League) from 1959 to 1980, and during those 22 seasons he won eleven Japanese Series and nine titles as MVP of the central division. He has been the most home run baseball player outside the Major League Baseball, with a total of 868 throughout his career, and in 1964 he made 55 home runs in a single season, the Japanese league record until 2013.
In his career as a coach, he directed Yomiuri Giants from 1984 to 1988 and, after a set time, he directed Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from 1995 to 2008. In addition, he was the coach of the Japanese team that won the 2006 World Baseball Classic. .
Career as a player
Sadaharu Oh was born in Japan but also has Taiwanese nationality, as his father was a native of the Republic of China. He started playing baseball as a pitcher and in 1957 he was part of the Waseda Jitsugyo Institute team that won the national youth championship, where he was the starting pitcher despite suffering a serious injury. In 1959 he was hired by Yomiuri Giants, the most important team in the Japanese Professional Baseball League.
Although he entered as a pitcher, his coach changed the position to first base. In his first season, Sadaharu averaged a .161 batting with seven home runs in 94 pitches and did not make a good debut. So that his career did not stall, the Giants hired Hiroshi Arakawa as coach, who helped him improve his fitness and his batting style. In 1962, he began to bat with a slight raise of one of his legs before the swing, similar to a flamenco, and that season he increased his average to .272 with 38 home runs and 87 runs. Since then, he never made less than 30 home runs until his retirement and was the top scorer fifteen times, thirteen of them consecutive from 1962 to 1974.
In the 1964 season, he achieved the record for home runs in a single season of the Japanese league, with a total of 55. This mark has not been surpassed yet, although there have been three batters who were on the verge of achieving it. : Randy Bass in 1985 with 54, and Karl Rhodes (2001) and Álex Cabrera (2002) with 55. In all three cases, the pitchers of any team in the league refused to throw strike balls, so none of the three could overcome Oh. Finally, the curazoleño Wladimir Balentien could complete 60 homers in the 2013 season.
Sadaharu Oh finished his professional career in 1980 at age 40, with a record of 2,786 at-bats (second only to Isao Harimoto and Katsuya Nomura), 2,170 RBIs, an average of .301 and a record of 868 home runs, the biggest brand in the Japanese league and in any competition outside Major League Baseball. With the Giants, he won eleven Japan Series and fourteen central leagues. In addition, he was named the most valuable player in the central championship nine times and was part of the team of the stars in 18 seasons.
Immediately after his retirement as a player, Sadaharu was appointed assistant coach of Yomiuri Giants from the 1981 season, and held the position for three seasons. He was then promoted to the head coach, a position he held since 1984. Under his leadership, the team won a Central League in 1987 but could not win any Japan Series. After a bad season, Oh resigned at the end of the 1988 season and remained retired.
He returned to the benches in 1995, when he took over Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (current Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks). Despite a difficult start, the team managed to win young promises and put together a long-term project that culminated in a victory in the 1999 Japan Series against Chunichi Dragons. For thirteen seasons, the Hawks won two Japan Series and three Pacific League championships. In 2006, Oh combined this position with the direction of the Japanese team that won the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Sadaharu Oh left his post temporarily in July 2006 to have surgery for a tumor in his stomach. Although it was carcinogenic, the doctors detected it in its initial phase and the trainer overcame the disease. He returned to the bench of the Hawks and remained in office until 2008, when he finally retired from the sport.
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