NAGOYA – Chunichi Dragons pitcher Masahiro Yamamoto, who turned 50 in August, said Saturday he will retire at the end this season.
“The current reality is that the Dragons are moving forward to rejuvenate the team before my eyes and I strongly felt that it would be no good hanging around and have decided to retire,” Yamamoto said in a post dated Friday on his official website.
Yamamoto told reporters at Nagoya Dome on Saturday he would hold a news conference at a later date.
Yamamoto rewrote NPB’s record as the oldest winning pitcher last September, surpassing the mark set by Hall of Famer Shinji Hamazaki in 1950 when he won as a reliever at the age of 48 years, 4 months.
He joined the first team for the first time this season in August and made his debut but hurt the index finger on his right hand and had been training with the farm team.
“It is a shame I could not live up to expectations,” he said on his website. “I have made up my mind now and feel really refreshed.
“If I was born again, I doubt if I could ever have such a happy baseball career twice.”
Yamamoto, whose game was more finesse than power, was Japan’s biggest screwball practitioner. In 1994, he won the Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, and in 2006 became the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter. In 2008, Yamamoto became the oldest 200-game winner. His record now stands at 219-165 with five saves.
Dragons manager Motonobu Tanishige, who will retire his catcher’s glove this season, called Yamamoto something special.
“I had the mask on when he won his 200th game and when he threw his no-hitter, too,” Tanishige said in Yokohama. “I was thinking, ‘Man, this old guy can really pitch.’
“He had the special ability to make the distance to the mound seem shorter. His 130 kph pitches looked like 140 (from behind the plate).”