Sadaharu Oh, born on May 20, 1940, is a Taiwanese nationality former professional baseball player from Sumida, Tokyo. He set the NPB and world record with his 868 lifetime home runs during regular season matches. On top of that, he helped the Yomiuri Giants win 9 consecutive Japan Series championships, and in 1977, he won the first People’s Honor Award. As history’s greatest batter, he is the subject of national popularity and pride in Japan.
After graduating Waseda Jitsugyo High School, he joined the Giants in 1959 with unprecedented conditions for a rookie straight out of high school. He was given a yearly salary of 1,44 million yen with a signing bonus of 18 million yen, along with the no. 1 jersey.
Oh joined the team as a pitcher, but because he received high praise for his batting abilities from his manager and team management, he was placed on first base, where they had an opening. He was in the starting lineup in the opening game, but his rookie year ended with a disappointing batting average of .161 and 7 home runs.
However, in his second year, Oh improved rapidly. His batting average rose to .270, with 17 home runs, and the fans even selected him for the Japan All Star Series. After the 1961 season, Hiroshi Arakawa became the Giants’ coach, which ended up changing Oh’s life for the better.
In order to raise Oh into a world class batter, Arakawa had him try different batting forms until they settled on the one-legged batting style. In the 1962 season, Oh, who was entrusted with the no. 4 spot, fell into a deep slump.
Up to the second half of June, he did manage to hit only 9 home runs, but on July 1, when his coach ordered him to use the one-legged batting style, in the Taiyo Whales match,
he hit a solo home run during his second at bat, bringing his count up to 10. With 5 plate appearances, he made 4 hits and 3 RBIs.
After that, he was back in good form and by the end of the season, he won his first title, which was the Japanese equivalent of the Silver Slugger, for 38 home runs and 85 RBIs. Using his unique one-legged batting style, he marked down countless magnificent records before he retired in 1980 – he was the leading hitter 5 times, the Home Run King 15 times, RBI King 13 times, OBP Leader 12 times.
Moreover, Oh’s records brought about the Yomiuri Giants’ Golden Age. During that time the Yomiuri Giants won 14 Pacific League championships, which included 9 consecutive pennants, and 11 Japan Series championships.
After he retired, he became the Yomiuri Giants’ 11th manager in 1984. The team had won the league pennant the previous year, which is why Oh became the subject of criticism when the team began to move further away from the championship during his first year as manager. Still, the team managed to stay in A class as always, and in Oh’s fourth year, in 1987, the Giants dominated the Central League with a big lead and reclaimed their title.
However, in the Japan Series, they lost 2-4 to the Seibu Lions, letting the championship title slip away. Next year, in 1988, the Giants finished second in their league, falling 12 games behind the winners, the Chunichi Dragons. As a result, Oh stepped back as manager after his 5th year.
After that, in 1994, he became the manager of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (presently known as: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks). When Oh took charge of the Hawks, the team fell into a slump, and the dissatisfied fans started bombarding him with criticisms.
On May 9, 1996, after the Kintetsu Buffaloes match, fans threw raw eggs at the team’s bus as they were driving away. Oh continued to go through a humiliating period, which is hard to even imagine considering his glorious career as a player.
Despite the hard times, Oh continued as manager, and he put in time and effort to turn the Hawks into a winning team. It was in 1999, 11 years after the team was founded, that he took the team to the Pacific League pennant. Finally, their long desired dream had come true. The Hawks then went on to beat the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Series, and Oh won his first Japan Series championship as a manager.
The following year, in 2000, the Hawks again won their league, and before Oh decided to retire as manager in 2008, he won 3 league pennants and 2 Japan Series championships, helped the team stay as an A class team 10 times, and he brought about the team’s golden age.
He was also the manager of the Japan national team for the first World Baseball Classic that was held in March, 2006. In the final against Cuba, Japan won 10-6, and Oh became known as a world class manager for making Japan the world champions.
Currently, he is the Softbank (the Hawk’s parent company) baseball team’s chairman, and he is doing his best to develop Japanese Professional Baseball.