Toru Sugiura

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Toru Sugiura

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Biographical Information[edit]

1B-OF Toru Sugiura played for the Yakult Swallows for 22 years. He was picked in the 10th round in 1970 as a pitcher but was soon moved to hitting. In 1972, he hit .239/.292/.304 in 23 games for Yakult. 1973 again found him in a limited role; he was 4 for 37 with two doubles and two walks in 27 games. He went 5 for 25 with a double, homer and two walks in 1974.

In 1975, Sugiura batted .200/.253/.357 in 42 games. He produced at a .245/.307/.330 rate in 69 contests in 1976, then improved to .323/.393/.548 in 83 games in 1977.

Sugiura became a starter in 1978 and hit .291/.366/.477 with 17 home runs. He then batted .292/.393/.333 in the 1978 Japan Series as Yakult won its first Japan Series title. In 1979, he hit .284/.382/.489 with 22 home runs and made his first Central League All-Star team.

Toru continued to improve; in 1980, his batting line was .311/.408/.537 and he hit 20 home runs. He also had more walks (66) than strikeouts (54). He finished sixth in the CL in batting average. He was named to the Best Nine as one of the top three outfielders in the circuit, alongside Koji Yamamoto and teammate Tsutomu Wakamatsu.

Sugiura hit .289/.375/.464 with 16 home runs in 1981. In his 11th pro season, 1982, he batted .287/.357/.460 with 8 triples and 22 steals (in 32 tries). He made his second All-Star team and also paced the circuit in three-baggers.

In 1983, Toru hit .296/.361/.460 and went 19-for-23 in steal attempts. He only struck out in 31 of 446 AB. On April 9 of that year, he hit his 100th career home run. He tied for the CL lead with five triples.

The veteran from Aichi batted .281/.385/.398 in 1984 with just eight home runs, his lowest total since becoming a starter. He had 59 walks to 25 strikeouts. In 1985, he had a career year, hitting .314/.423/.633 with 34 homers, 86 runs, 74 walks and 81 RBI. On June 15, he had his 1,000th hit in NPB, the 142nd player to do so. He made his third and final All-Star team. He was 7th in the CL in average. He joined Ryuzo Yamasaki and Akinobu Mayumi on the Best Nine outfield, his second and last Best Nine selection. He was well back of the home run and slugging leader, Randy Bass, but was very close in OBP (.005 behind).

Sugiura only played 42 games in 1986, hitting .244/.338/.393. He rebounded in 1987 to bat .304/.400/.560 with 24 home runs at age 34/35 and was 9th in the league in average. He won Comeback Player of the Year honors for his performance.

Sugiura hit .255/.342/.447 with 20 home runs in 1988, his last big season. He became the 90th player in NPB annals to play 1,500 games. On October 2, he hit his 200th homer, the 56th person to do that.

Sugiura was down to a part-time but productive role in 1989 (.274/.352/.484), 1990 (.244/.298/.439) and 1991 (.308/.381/.604).

Sugiura only played 18 games in 1992, going 2 for 11 with 5 walks and a homer. He came through big in the 1992 Japan Series, Yakult's first Japan Series in 14 years. In the bottom of the 12th inning of game one, with a 3-3 score, he belted a grand slam off Yoshitaka Katori as a pinch-hitter; it was the first pinch-hit, sayonara grand slam in the 43-year history of the Japan Series. It would be 24 years before Haruki Nishikawa hit the second such homer. He was 2 for 10 with two walks and 5 RBI in the Series, playing almost as much as he had in the entire regular season. Unfortunately, his Swallows fell in seven games.

Sugiura hit .205/.304/.256 in 45 games in 1993 and was 0 for 1 in the 1993 Japan Series, which Yakult won.

After retiring as a player, Sugiura became a coach for the Swallows.

Toru hit .284/.370/.479 in 1,782 games in NPB with 224 home runs and 682 walks.

Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland

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