Giants pitcher Takashi Nishimoto’s face went pale on the mound. That’s because his pitch had struck Sachio Kinugasa, who was extending his streak of consecutive games played, in the back during the game against the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima Stadium on Aug. 1, 1979.
Kinugasa was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was diagnosed with a cracked shoulder blade. When he returned home, he received a phone call from Nishimoto. The pitcher was at a loss for words after hearing about the broken bone, but Kinugasa told him: “After I was hit by your pitch, you surrendered a double. You must not let it rattle you. That’s not like you.”
There must be many fans who remember being moved by hearing this anecdote at some point. Former Hiroshima Carp slugger Kinugasa has died at the age of 71.
The day after he suffered the broken bone, he played a game as if nothing had happened, and eight years later he marked his 2,131st consecutive game played, renewing the then world record set by Lou Gehrig of the United States. Contrary to his cool face, his back must have continued to scream in pain. Hitting, defending and running ― he is surely a player who enhanced the appeal of baseball more than that. Even the god of baseball could not foresee the dramas that this “Iron Man” performed on the baseball field.
I recall a scene in which Kinugasa raised his hand slightly against a pitcher after being hit by a pitch and started running to first base. I will never forget those days when the number 3 on the back of his uniform became tinted with a passionate red.