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Hall of Fame pitcher Inao dead at 70

Kyodo News

Former Nishitetsu Lions pitcher Kazuhisa Inao, who once held the moniker “iron man,” died of cancer at a Fukuoka hospital early Tuesday. He was 70.

News photoJapanese baseball Hall of Famer Kazuhisa Inao, shown here when he played for the Nishitetsu Lions in the
1950s, died of cancer on Tuesday at a Fukuoka hospital at the age of 70.
KYODO PHOTO

A native of Oita Prefecture, Inao made his professional debut with Nishitetsu in 1956 and posted a 21-6 record, winning the Pacific League Rookie of the Year award.

He led the Lions to three consecutive Japan Series championships in 1956-1958, while being named the league MVP in 1957 and 1958.

In the 1958 Japan Series against the Yomiuri Giants, the Lions came back from a three-games-to-none deficit, with Inao winning four straight decisions from Game 4, three of them complete games.

In Game 5, he took the mound in the fourth inning and hit a walkoff solo homer in the 10th.

In 1961, he tied the record for most wins in a season with 42 triumphs.

Widely seen as one of Japanese baseball’s greatest pitchers of all time, Inao logged a lifetime 276-137 record with a 1.98 ERA, playing his entire career with the Lions until 1969.

Inao led the PL in wins four times and in ERA five times. In 1993, he was inducted into Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I was surprised to see the news. I heard four or five days ago that he was in the hospital, but I expected Sai-chan (his nickname) to get better and recover from the hospital since he was physically strong,” said ex-Lions slugger Futoshi Nakanishi, who was Inao’s teammate.

“On the mound, he was a daring man. The pure young man from the countryside was a quick leaner,” Nakanishi added.

9 file for free agency

Kyodo News

Nine of the 68 eligible players, with Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome headlining the bill, have filed to become free agents, the Japanese baseball commissioner’s office announced Tuesday.

Fukudome, who is arguably the top position player in Japan, is unlikely to remain with Chunichi and is sure to draw interest from several teams, including Major League Baseball clubs, as well as the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, once negotiations open Wednesday.