Former Yakult Swallows pitcher Takeshi Yasuda passed away on Saturday at the age of 73 from stomach cancer. I saw Yasuda a few times on the sidelines as a Swallows coach in the early 1990s when I spent a lot of time at Jingu Stadium in the company of a couple of colleagues who were Swallows fans, having joined our company from Yakult.
While the names of other veteran pitchers and players might draw a nod, Yasuda’s name always brought a smile to their faces. I’d never seen video of him until I found the Youtube clip about him above.
In Sunday’s news in Japan, I learned that the side-armer was known for his “penguin” pitching style. In 1983, he set an NPB record by not walking a batter over 81 consecutive innings. Although his battles against left-handed hitting Giants slugger Sadaharu Oh were famous, Oh surpassed Hank Aaron’s career total with his 756th in 1977, and hit No. 757 off the Swallows lefty (thanks to Dave @npbcardguy for that catch).
The Central League’s 1972 rookie of the year, Yasuda attended Waseda University, but played corporate league ball before turning pro and led the CL in ERA in his first two seasons. He was a typical front-line pitcher of that era, starting about half his games, and completing nearly half of his starts while also coming out of the bullpen in high-leverage situations.