Sachio Kinugasa

Sachio Kinugasa (衣笠 祥雄; January 18, 1947 – April 23, 2018) was a Japanese professional baseball third baseman for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball league from 1965 to 1987. He was nicknamed Tetsujin, meaning "Iron Man". He played in a record-breaking 2,215 consecutive games, having surpassed Lou Gehrig's record by 1987.

Sachio Kinugasa
Kinugasa (left) with Cal Ripken Jr. in 2011
Third baseman
Born: (1947-01-18)January 18, 1947
Died: April 23, 2018(2018-04-23) (aged 71)
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
NPB debut
May 16, 1965, for the Hiroshima Carp
Last appearance
October 22, 1987, for the Hiroshima Carp
NBP statistics
Batting average.270
Runs batted in1448
Home runs504
Total bases4474
Stolen Bases266
Career highlights and awards
  • 13× NPB All-Star (1971, 1974–1977, 1980–1987)
  • 3× Central League Best Nine Award (1975, 1980, 1984)
  • Central League Stolen Base Champion (1976)
  • 3× Centaral League Golden Glove Award (1980, 1984, 1986)
  • Central League MVP (1984)
  • Central League RBI Champion (1984)
  • Matsutaro Shoriki Award (1984)
  • People's Honour Award (1987)
  • Hiroshima Toyo Carp #3 retired


  • 2215-Consecutive Games (1970–1987)
  • 20-years consecutive seasons over 10 Home runs (1968–1987)
  • 13-years consecutive seasons over 20 Home runs (1974–1986)
  • 5-consecutive games Home runs (June 6–10, 1971)
  • Hitting for the cycle (July 7, 1976)
  • 2-Hit by pitches in the same inning (August 31, 1976)
  • 2-consecutive games Lead-off home runs (October 4–5, 1977)
Member of the Japanese
Baseball Hall of Fame

Kinugasa is mostly remembered for his consecutive-game streak, but he ranks seventh in Nippon Professional Baseball in career home runs (504), 5th in career hits (2543) and 10th in career RBIs (1448), showing that he was one of the most consistent hitters in Japanese baseball. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.


Kinugasa's mother was Japanese and she raised him by herself. Kinugasa's father was an African American serviceman who was stationed in Japan after World War II.[1][2] He reported that he never met his father.[3]

Playing career

Kinugasa entered Heian High School in Kyoto,[4] and advanced to the Japanese National High School Baseball Championship twice in his senior year as a catcher.[4] He was signed by the Hiroshima Carp in 1965, and spent several years in the minors before an arm injury led him to being converted into a first baseman in 1968.[3] He became the team's regular first baseman, hitting 21 home runs with a .276 batting average. In 1975, he moved to third base at the suggestion of manager Joe Lutz, and his efforts helped the Hiroshima Carp win their first ever league championship.[4] He led the league in stolen bases in 1976, and won the Central League's Most Valuable Player award in 1984 as his team won the Japanese championship series.[3][5]

Nicknamed Tetsujin (Iron Man), after the robot manga "Tetsujin 28" (Known as Gigantor in the United States), Kinugasa played in games even when he was badly injured, including with bone fractures.[6] He last missed a game on October 18, 1970, and set the Japanese consecutive games played record with his 1,247th consecutive game on August 2, 1980.[7] He tied Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played on June 11, 1987.[3] Kinugasa retired after the 1987 season, ending his career with 2,215 consecutive games played, 2,543 hits, and 504 home runs.[6] His consecutive games played streak was broken in 1996 by Cal Ripken Jr., who played in 2,632 straight games in Major League Baseball.[5]


Following his retirement from baseball, Kinugasa became a sports commentator. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.[6]

Kinugasa died of colon cancer on April 23, 2018.[3]

Awards and accolades

Kinugasa was given the People's Honour Award for his performance in the professional leagues. He is the second baseball player, following Sadaharu Oh and followed by Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui, to have received the award.[6]

On 18 January 2023, Google celebrated the 76th birthday of Kinugasa with a Google Doodle.[8][9]

Pop Culture

The character of Mitsuo from the Yakuza series is based on Kinugasa, as he too is a half African-American baseball player who never met his father.

See also

  • List of top Nippon Professional Baseball home run hitters
  • Matsutaro Shoriki Award (1984)


  1. Albright, Jim. "Japan's Top Players," Accessed March 28, 2015.
  2. Whiting, Robert. You Gotta Have Wa (Vintage Departures, 1989), p. 65.
  3. "Baseball: 'Iron Man' Kinugasa dies at 71". Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  4. "'Iron Man' Sachio Kinugasa dies at 71". Japan Times. April 24, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  5. Landers, Chris. "Sachio Kinugasa, Japan's iron man, has passed away at the age of 71". Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  6. "Hiroshima Carp's 'Iron Man' Kinugasa dies at 71". NHK World. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  7. Haberman, Clyde (May 13, 1987). "Japan Cheers For Star With Staying Power". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  8. Desk, OV Digital (January 18, 2023). "18 January: Google Doodle celebrates Sachio Kinugasa Birthday". Observer Voice. Retrieved January 18, 2023.
  9. "Sachio Kinugasa's 76th Birthday". Retrieved January 18, 2023.
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