Legendary Giants skipper Kawakami dead at 93

'God of Hitting' guided the club to nine straight Japan Series titles


Former Yomiuri Giants manager Tetsuharu Kawakami, who led the famed club to nine consecutive championships from 1965 to 1973, has died of natural causes. He was 93.

Kawakami’s relatives said that the man who brandished a red-painted bat and was known as the “God of Hitting” passed away at a hospital in Inagi, Tokyo, at 4:58 p.m. Monday.

In his 18 years in pro baseball, Kawakami won five batting titles, two home run crowns, three RBI titles and had six titles for the most hits in a season. He was the first player in Japanese pro baseball to achieve 2,000 hits and was named the league’s MVP three times.

The Kumamoto Prefecture native, who played for the Giants from 1938 to 1958, ended his playing career with a .313 batting average, 2,351 hits, 181 homers and 1,319 runs batted in over 1,979 games.

Appointed Giants skipper in 1961, he was known for his ruthless, tough-love style. Kawakami guided the Giants to 11 Central League pennants, winning the Japan Series in every case. He sat at the helm during the team’s golden era when sluggers Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh led the V9 Giants to nine consecutive Japan Series championships (1965-73).

“Batting in the cleanup spot on that team, then taking the baton from him as manager, I felt his greatness,” said Nagashima. “He was a fan favorite with that red bat as a player, and as a manager his strictness in never compromising when it came to competition and the development of players, played a significant role in us achieving an unprecedented feat of nine straight victories.”

Kawakami, whose Giants No. 16 uniform has been retired, was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965. As manager of Japan’s most storied ballclub, Kawakami posted a record of 1,066-739 with 61 ties.

After retiring as manager in 1974, Kawakami worked in the Giants front office and became an NHK baseball analyst in 1976. He also opened his own baseball clinic for little leaguers to promote the expansion of Japanese baseball.