A pair of players with 2,000 hits, a pair of Sawamura-Award winning pitchers and a pair of foreign Triple Crown hitters will be eligible for induction into Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame next year, the hall said Wednesday, when it published its list of candidates.
Topping this year’s group are catcher Atsuya Furuta and first baseman Randy Bass. Furuta, the anchor of the Yakult Swallows teams that won five Central League pennants between 1992 and 2001 and one of the only two catchers with 2,000 career hits, is one of the four new candidates in the players division. The others are 2,000 hit shortstop Yukio Tanaka (Nippon Ham Fighters) and pitchers Shinji Sasaoka (Hiroshima Carp) and Masato Yoshii (Yakult Swallows).
Bass won back-to-back Triple Crowns for the Hanshin Tigers and was the CL’s MVP in 1985, when the Tigers won their only Japan Series championship. He is now eligible for selection in the experts division, having not played for 21 years. Joining Bass as new candidates on the experts’ ballot are former Pacific League triple crown winner Boomer Wells and former Sawamura Award-winning pitcher Hiroshi Gondo.
In the players division, candidates must have been active as a player at some time during a period beginning 20 years before and ending five years prior to election and need at least 75 percent of the ballots to enter the Hall of Fame. Successful candidates will be announced Jan. 11.
The four players remaining on the ballot who drew the most votes in the previous year’s selection without being inducted were Carp pitcher Yutaka Ono, who got 177 of the 237 needed, Lions and Hawks outfielder Koji Akiyama, (133), BayStars relief ace Kazuhiro Sasaki (132) and Giants third baseman Tatsunori Hara (108).
The remaining candidates in the experts division who got the most votes in the previous year but failed to win induction are Carp pitcher Yoshiro Sotokoba, who missed induction by one vote with 28 of the 29 needed and Taiyo Whales ace Masaji Hiramatsu, who got 22 votes.