KOBE – Outspoken former Hanshin Tigers owner Shunjiro Kuma, who recruited such renowned managers as Katsuya Nomura and Senichi Hoshino, died of natural causes late last week, the Central League club said Tuesday. He was 90.
Kuma, former chairman of Hanshin Electric Railway Co. who became owner of the parent company’s ballclub in 1984, was pronounced dead at Konan Hospital in Kobe last Friday.
After graduating from the law faculty at Tokyo Imperial University (now Tokyo University), Kuma joined Hanshin Electric Railway in 1946. He moved up through the ranks until he was appointed president in 1982.
Kuma led the Tigers front office when they won their only Japan Series championship in 1985. Known for his keen business sense, Kuma hired Nomura in 1999-2001 and Hoshino, currently manager of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, from 2002-03 to manage the Tigers.
After nearly 20 years at the helm, Kuma resigned as club owner in 2004 following a scouting scandal in which Meiji University pitcher Yasuhiro Ichiba was paid money in violation of collegiate baseball bylaws.
Kuma and Yukio Sunahara, then owner of the Yokohama BayStars, both stepped down after their clubs tried to lure Ichiba to join their teams with cash payouts.
Right-hander Ichiba currently plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Giants want Hara back
The Yomiuri Giants have asked Tatsunori Hara to remain as manager after his three-year contract expires at the end of the current season.
“We informed Hara of our intention by Monday,” a senior club official said Tuesday on condition of anonymity. “Instead of him being bothered about who will be manager next season, we wanted to make it clear, so he can lead the team’s comeback for the league title without any worries.”
Hara is expected to accept the offer as the two sides have already begun discussing the club’s plans for next season.
“I’d like to concentrate on what’s happening on the field this season,” the 53-year-old manager said.
The Giants struggled early on and trailed the CL-leading Yakult Swallows by as many as 12 games at one point before the All-Star break but have rebounded to contend for a playoff spot.
Under Hara in his eighth season at the helm, the Giants have won four league titles (2002 and 2007-2009) and two Japan Series crowns (2002 and 2009). He also guided Japan to the 2009 World Baseball Classic title.