Akiteru Kono

From BR Bullpen

Akiteru Kono (河野 旭輝)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 140 lb.

BR Register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Akiteru Kono was a three-time stolen base leader during his Nippon Pro Baseball career.

Kono played for Matsushita Denki in the Japanese industrial leagues after high school. [1] He signed with the Hankyu Braves and became their regular at second base as a rookie, hitting .242/.307/.382 in 1954. Not yet a big-time stealer, he had 8 steals while only being caught twice. He was among the Pacific League leaders in hit-by-pitch (5, tied for 5th with Takashi Kusaka), sacrifice hits (16, 6th) and strikeouts (79, tied Akinobu Kono for 4th).

Moving to shortstop in 1955 (after their former shortstop Larry Raines signed with the Cleveland Indians), he improved his batting line to .283/.321/.436 and ran more (20 SB, 8 CS). He tied Akitoshi Kodama and Nobushige Morishita for 7th in the PL in doubles (25), tied Kihachi Enomoto for 7th in triples (7), tied Charles Luis and Sal Recca for 7th in sacrifice flies (7) and tied Hiroshi Minohara for 10th in whiffs (65). In 1956, he hit .270/.336/.360 with 8 triples and 70 RBI, while stealing 85 bases in 114 tries. He set the NPB record for steals in a season (broken by Yutaka Fukumoto in 1972) and times caught (never broken through 2021). [2] Despite all those steals, he did not place among the PL top ten in runs, with 68. He was among the leaders in RBI (tied Yasumitsu Toyoda for 9th), triples (tied for 6th), steals (1st obviously, 29 ahead of Morishita), caught stealing (5 more than Kodama), strikeouts (70, tied for 7th), times plunked (6, tied for 2nd) and errors (51, 1st). [3]

Fresh off his record-setting steal season, he was far more efficient on the basepaths in 1957, going 56-for-65 in steals. He batted .239/.323/.339, increasing his walks (56) and runs (72) though his overall numbers fell. He cut his errors to 38 but still led PL shortstops. [4] He was also among the loop's leaders in steals (1st, 14 ahead of Kiyoshi Watanabe), runs (72, 7th), triples (6, tied for 6th) and walks (tied Roberto Barbon for 6th). In 1958, the 23-year-old lost his shortstop job to Kingo Motoyashiki. Backing up Takeo Hitomi at third, he fell to .190/.253/.204 with 17 steals in 22 tries. Despite his backup role, he tied for 6th in the league in steals.

He moved to the outfield in 1959, rebounding to .259/.315/.376 and stealing 27 bases but being caught 18 times. He was tied for 8th in triples (6), third in steals (behind Barbon and Motoyashiki) and 1st in caught stealing (by 7). He slumped back to .221/.275/.319 in 1960. Hankyu then dealt him to the Chunichi Dragons for fellow speedster Hiroki Okajima. [5] He returned to shortstop and hit .275/.326/.385 with 23 steals in 35 tries in 1961. He was 8th in the Central League in average (between Katsuya Morinaga and Hideshi Miyake), 8th in runs (between Sadayuki Tokutake and Minoru Kamata), tied Yoshio Yoshida and Yukihiko Machida for 4th in triples (5), tied Miyake for third in steals, was third in caught stealing, was 6th in strikeouts (77, between Hiromu Fujii and Masataka Tsuchiya) and tied for third in sacrifice hits (13). [6] He made the Best Nine as the top shortstop in the CL, the only time he took home that award.

Kono hit .257/.312/.372 in 1962 and stole 26 bases in 34 tries. Having won two PL steal titles, he now led the CL (four ahead of Yoshida). He also tied Fujii for 9th in runs (53). In 1963, he had his best OPS by a good margin as he slashed .294/.349/.472 with 27 doubles and 14 homers. He was 8th in average (between Eiji Fujii and Toyoda), made the top 10 in slugging and OPS, tied Bob Nieman for 5th in doubles and tied for third with six times plunked. [7] He was then traded back to Hankyu, in return for Masahiko Makita. [8] He batted .238/.292/.340 in 1964. After two straight zero-triple years, he hit five to tie for 9th in the PL.

The Wakayama native made a league-high 27 errors in 1965 but hit a career-high 16 homers, batting .248/.309/.405, showing good pop for a shortstop. Fujio Yamaguchi took over the shortstop job in 1966 as he fell to .193/.287/.193 in a back-up role. He moved to the Nishitetsu Lions in 1967 but eked out a .191/.235/.221 line as the backup to Takashi Hamamura.

Overall, he had hit .254/.312/.369 in 1,491 NPB games with 579 runs, 480 RBI, 93 homers and 293 steals in 406 tries. Through 2011, he was tied for 63rd in NPB history in triples (43, even with Jinten Haku, Ken Hirano, Norifumi Nishimura, Yutaka Tagawa and Tsutomu Wakamatsu), 30th in swipes (between Sumio Hirota and Kozo Kawai), 27th in caught stealing (between Tadasuke Kiduka and Hirota) and 95th in K (818). [9]

He then went into coaching, first with the Lions (1968-1969), then the Yakult Atoms (1972-1973), Nippon Ham Fighters (1974-1975), Lotte Orions (1976-1980), Hanshin Tigers (1981-1983), Yakult Swallows (1984) and Hanshin minor leagues (1985-1994). [10] In 1982, he was central in the Violent Tiger Incident, when umpire Wataru Wakiya ruled a ball hit by Taira Fujita foul and Kono (coaching third) said that it had hit the glove of 3B Mitsugu Ishibashi and was fair. His fellow coaches Ikuo Shimano and Takeshi Shibata attacked Wakiya.

Sources[edit]

  1. Defunct Japan Baseball Daily website
  2. Japanese Wikipedia
  3. Michael Eng's Japanese Baseball Database
  4. ibid.
  5. Japanese Wikipedia
  6. Japan Baseball Daily
  7. ibid.
  8. Japanese Wikipedia
  9. Michael Eng Database
  10. Japanese Wikipedia