Ryuzo Yamasaki

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Ryuzo Yamasaki (山崎 隆造)

  • Bats Both, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 187 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Ryuzo Yamasaki played 15 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and made three All-Star teams.

Yamasaki was on the team that won the 1976 spring Koshien. The Hiroshima Carp took him in the first round of the 1976 draft. He led the Western League in steals in 1978 and also made his debut with the big club, getting into one game and not batting. He again led the minor WL in swipes in 1979 and hit .264/.328/.340 in 24 games for Hiroshima (with 8 steals in 9 tries). He went 1 for 10 with a double, two walks and two runs in the 1979 Japan Series, as Hiroshima beat the Kintetsu Buffaloes in seven games. He split second base with Toshiyuki Mimura (who played 3B when Yamasaki was at 2B). As a part-time second baseman for Hiroshima in 1980, he hit .252/.341/.308 and stole 17 bases in 23 tries, 8th in the Central League in swipes despite his part-time role. He was 1 for 11 with a walk and two runs in the 1980 Japan Series as Hiroshima again topped Kintetsu.

Yamasaki ran into a wall in March 1981, fracturing his right knee; he was hospitalized for five months. Back in action in 1982, he was a backup to Tomio Kinoshita at 2B and backed up in the outfield as well; he hit .240/.333/.301 and was an uncharacteristically poor 14-for-23 in steal attempts. Moving to the outfield primarily in 1983, he established himself as a solid contributor, producing at a .305/.373/.431 clip and stealing 26 bases in 31 tries. He tied Keiji Nagasaki and Yoshihiko Takahashi for the CL lead with five triples, was 9th in average (between Takahaashi and Nagasaki), tied Ken Hirano for second in sacrifice hits (27, four behind Terufumi Kitamura) and tied Kitamura for 4th in steals (trailing Tadashi Matsumoto, Takahashi and Yutaka Takagi). He also began a streak of 900 consecutive games played, lasting until late 1990, 9th-best in NPB history to that point (after teammate Sachio Kinugasa, Tokuji Iida, Fumio Fujimura, Katsuo Osugi, Hideshi Miyake, Koji Yamamoto, Sadayuki Tokutate and Shinichi Eto).

In 1984, Yamasaki was better yet, hitting .319/.392/.422, stealing 39 bases in 48 attempts, legging out 27 doubles and scoring 79 runs. He hada 26-gamr hitting streak in June and July. He made his first CL All-Star team, won a Diamond Glove Award (joining Kaname Yashiki and Kiyoyuki Nagashima as the CL outfielders) and was a Best Nine selection (Tsutomu Wakamatsu and Koji Yamamoto were the others picked in the outfield in the CL). He finished among the league leaders in average (7th, between Leon Lee and Ken Macha), runs (4th, behind Takahashi, Yasushi Tao and Kenichi Yazawa), hits (158, 4th after Tao, Yazawa and Kinugasa), doubles (3rd, trailing Kazunori Shinozuka and Kiyoshi Nakahata) and steals (3rd, behind Takagi and Matsumoto). His performance was not as strong in the 1984 Japan Series (6 for 25, 2B, BB, SB, 2 R, 4 RBI) but Hiroshima still topped the Hankyu Braves in seven contests.

The Hiroshima native continued to shine for his hometown team in 1985, producing at a .328/.412/.440 clip with 86 runs, 77 walks and 35 stolen bases while being caught nine times. He tied Toru Sugiura for 7th in the CL in runs scored, was second in hits (169, five shy of leader Randy Bass), ranked fifth in the steals (between Takagi and Matsumoto), tied Takagi for second in walks (behind Masayuki Kakefu) and was fourth in OBP (trailing Bass, Akinobu Okada and Sadaaki Yoshimura). He did not make the All-Star team but did win a Diamond Glove (alongside Hirano and Yashiki) and got a bigger honor than being an All-Star, making the Best Nine (Sugiura and Akinobu Mayumi were the other outfielders). It was perhaps his best season overall.

In 1986, he faded to .275/.330/.377 with 23 steals in 29 tries, 7th in the league in swipes. He was only 7 for 34 with two walks, a triple, a steal, no runs and two RBI in eight games (including one tie) in the 1986 Japan Series as Hiroshima lost to the Seibu Lions. He had a bases-loaded walk in game 4, the first time that had happened in a Japan Series; the next would be Munenori Kawasaki in 2011. Ryuzo hit a career-high 12 home runs in 1987; for the season, his batting line was .294/.366/.417. He stole 21 bases in 23 tries, made his second All-Star team, won a Diamond Glove (alongside Yashiki and Nagashima) and finished among the CL's best in runs (79, 3rd, four behind Hiromitsu Ochiai and one behind Tatsunori Hara), hits (143, tied for 5th with Warren Cromartie, Shinozuka and Ochiai), steals (4th, behind Yashiki, Kozo Shoda and Takahashi) and walks (55, tied for 6th with Kazuhiro Yamakura).

Yamasaki struggled offensively in 1988 (.240/.298/.366, 14 SB). He did win his fourth and final Diamond Glove (Yashiki and Toshikatsu Hikono were the other CL winners) and made the leaderboard in triples (6, tied for second, one behind Shoda), steals (9th) and sacrifice hits (36, 2nd, 20 behind leader Yutaka Wada). He hit .266/.333/.374 and stole 12 bases in 16 attempts in 1989. He moved to third base in 1990 to replace the struggling Wade Rowdon and hit .294/.361/.415. His 28 sacrifice hits were third in the CL.

Yamasaki split time between the outfield and third (where a young Akira Eto was getting off to a slow start to a strong career) in 1991 and batted .301/.372/.408. He was 9th in the league in average, between Tom O'Malley and Johnny Ray, and made the Best Nine, this time at third base. He also made his third and final All-Star team. In the 1991 Japan Series, he was only 1 for 13 with 3 walks and a RBI as Hiroshima fell to Seibu. With Eto making progress in 1992, Yamasaki was used primarily in the outfield; the veteran hit .265/.339/.373. In his final season, 1993, Yamasaki backed up Eto at 3B and Marty Brown, Koichi Ogata, Kojiro Machida and Tomonori Maeda in the outfield. He batted .236/.302/.339 and did not steal a base, his speed gone.

Overall, Yamasaki had hit .284/.355/.393 in 1,531 NPB games, with 683 runs, 477 RBI, 218 doubles, 88 home runs, 527 walks and 228 steals (while being caught 65 times). Through 2011, he was among the career leaders in stolen bases (56th, between Hirano and Yuichi Honda), steal percentage (49th) and sacrifice hits (217, 24th, between Hiromichi Ishige and Hiroshi Narahara).

After his playing career ended, Yamasaki served Hiroshima as a coach and minor league manager from 1994 until 2011, when he became a baseball commentator.