Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Higashio, two others voted into Japanese Baseball HOF

Kyodo News

Former Seibu Lions manager Osamu Higashio, the late Shinichi Eto and the late Masayuki Furuta have been selected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, the selection panel said Tuesday.

Higashio, 59, had a career record of 251-247 with 23 saves and a 3.50 ERA in a 20-year career through 1988, all with the Lions since the days when the club was known as Nishitetsu, and served as Seibu’s manager from 1995-2001.

He led the Pacific League in wins twice (1975 and ’83) and won the PL MVP award twice (1983 and ’87).

Higashio also won the PL pennants as manager in 1997 and 1998.

“I am very pleased and relieved,” Higashio said. “Last year I came close, so I kind of had high expectations this year. When I started my career, I never imagined I’d get into the Hall of Fame.”

Eto led the Central League in batting average in 1964-65 with the Chunichi Dragons and again in the PL in 1971 with the Lotte Orions, making him the first player in Japanese baseball history to lead both leagues in that category.

He was a .287 career hitter with 367 home runs and 1,189 RBIs in 18 seasons through 1976 and died of liver cancer in February 2008 at age 70.

Furuta was a top amateur player with no professional experience.

As second baseman, he formed a slick-fielding Rikkyo University infield that included legendary Yomiuri Giants third baseman Shigeo Nagashima and helped the Kumagai Gumi corporate team win three intercity tournament titles.

Furuta died of heart failure in July 1999 at age 65.

Election to the Hall of Fame required 75 percent, or 228 votes. This year, Higashio received 254.

The selection of the three players brought the total number of Hall of Fame inductees to 171.

Chunichi manager Hiromitsu Ochiai, a three-time batting Triple Crown winner, missed by one vote for the second year in a row.