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Old 06-12-2019, 08:46 PM
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Sean McGinty
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Japan
Posts: 232

Originally Posted by nat View Post
Tsunemi Tsuda pitched for the Hiroshima Carp from 1982 to 1991. Early in his career he was a starting pitcher. As a 21 year old rookie he pitched 166 innings and was not good exactly, but good enough to take home the rookie of the year award. The following year he appeared in 19 games (17 starts) and was actually quite good. In his third year he made ten starts and four relief appearances, totaling only 54 innings, and he went back to being bad. After that he was converted into a relief pitcher. The Japanese Hall of Fame says that his conversion was necessitated by a ‘disrupture of blood in the middle finger’. I don’t have any idea what that is. But anyway, his first season out of the bullpen, 1985, did not go as planned. Tsuda was terrible: 50% worse than league average. His ERA that year was 6.64, and league-wide scoring was about the same as in 2018’s American League, so that doesn’t require any adjustment. His fame really rests on three of the following four seasons. In 1986, 87, and 89 he was terrific.

But then tragedy struck.

In the spring of 1990 he needed surgery because he was suffering from cerebral edema. That is, excess fluid built up in his brain. Cerebral edema can result from traumatic injury, but it can also result from cancer. In Tsuda’s case, it was the latter. He pitched six innings in 1990, one in 1991, and then he died of brain cancer.

The man nicknamed “the flaming stopper” remains as popular as ever. His son wanted to build a museum to his father, and crowd sourced funds for it. His goal was to raise four million yen (something like $40,000) to renovate Tsuda’s old house. The Yomiuri Shimbun (the newspaper that owns the Giants) reports that he hit his initial target in five hours, and eventually raised twenty-six million yen, for a much nicer museum.

The American hall of fame has been known to cut some slack for players who died suddenly and tragically. Ross Youngs comes to mind. Addie Joss didn’t even meet the 10 year requirement, but they put him in anyway. The Japanese voters did the same for Tsuda, but on the merits he’s even less deserving than Youngs or Joss. Joss was legitimately an all-time great, even if his career was short. (For what it’s worth, and yes he was a deadball pitcher, but he still holds the all-time record for WHIP.) Youngs, eh, had half of a hall of fame career. If he’d lived he probably wouldn’t have made it, but he might have. Tsuda is a different animal. Imagine if, instead of retiring at 32, Eric Gagne had died. That would be the American version of Tsuda.

This is a 1987 Calbee card.
Yeah, he really is one of the oddest HOF inclusions based on career stats and accomplishments, he isn't really even a Hall of Very Gooder by most standards.

His tragic story really drives interest in him. Even his cards sell for the same prices as super stars with way more impressive resumes.
My blog about collecting cards in Japan:
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