* Bold denotes league leaders
In the first 12 seasons after the two-league system was implemented, Hanshin had no championship banners to its name. The biggest reason: the team’s inability to defeat its greatest enemy, the all-powerful Yomiuri Giants. It was not until a former Kyojin manager, Sadayoshi Fujimoto, became Hanshin helmsman that the team could finally overcome its enemy, and in doing so, capture its first title.
One of Fujimoto’s primary objectives early in his tenure with the club was to change the clubhouse atmosphere, particularly in its attitude towards the enemy. He would constantly tell the team they had nothing to fear, and that Kyojin had nothing on them. As one of the first managers in Kyojin history, he had seniority over them even once he joined Hanshin. So he would frequently vocally talk down to the current Kyojin manager, Tetsuharu Kawakami, as a way of showing his boys that even the Giants were human.
The opening two-game series against the Giants saw Fujimoto trot Masaaki Koyama out for the opener and Minoru Murayama in the second game. Both pitchers shut down the Giants, and the Tigers were off to a strong start. Fujimoto would continue to shuffle his rotation to ensure his two aces always faced the Giants, and the team had great success as a result. At the all-star break, their record against the enemy was an astounding 10 wins, 2 losses and 2 ties. (The rest of the season would be a different story, as the team went 4-10 against the Giants to close out just over .500 against their bitter foes.)
By season’s end, the numbers say it all: Koyama (27 wins) and Murayama (25) would account for 2/3 of the team’s win total between the two of them. As far as innings logged, the ratio remains close to the same. However, in spite of the duo’s best efforts, the poor-hitting Tigers slumped to third place around the start of June. They would claw their way back to the top with the help of Koyama’s record 5 consecutive complete game shutouts.
With the Giants out of the pennant picture, there was just one team between the Tigers and a championship: the Taiyo Whales. Murayama and Koyama started to slump. Miyake got hurt. On September 15, the team lost its hold on first. With precious few games remaining on schedule, the Tigers faced an uphill battle. They would need to win all 4 of their remaining games while hoping that the Whales lost at least 4 of their 7. The Tigers swept the awful Kokutetsu Swallows, and the Whales seemed to be following Hanshin orders, as they continued losing game after game.
The final game of the season for Hanshin was against the Hiroshima Carp. Koyama had their number right from the start, limiting them to just 3 hits the entire game. The Hanshin bats came to life in the second inning with two outs, as Koyama drove in a run, followed by Yoshida hitting a 2-run double. Then in the sixth, a series of hits (including a home run by Katsumi Fujimoto) against the Carp relief staff brought in three more runs. Koyama’s complete game shutout would be his 13th on the season, still a modern-day Central League record.
Upon winning the pennant, the Hanshin players ran back onto the field at Koshien. To their surprise, many of the fans in attendance also rushed the field and joined in on hoisting Fujimoto in the air several times. (The last game took place on a weekday afternoon, so reported attendance was just 5,000, and according to shortstop Yoshio Yoshida, as many as 1,000 of them were part of the celebration.) It is said that the very first “beer shower” in Japanese professional ball took place as the Tigers clinched this 1962 pennant, and was introduced to the team by the lone import fielder (and first continental American in Central League history) Mike Solomko.
Hanshin would host the Toei Flyers for the first two games of the series. Naturally, Koyama would be the starter for Game 1 (October 13, Koshien). Spotted a 1-0 lead, he would give up 5 runs in the top of the third, including a 2-run home run to their Yoshida. However, Hanshin stormed right back in the bottom of the inning to tie the game up at 5. Ultimately the game would go to extra innings, and none other than Yoshida hit the walk-off winner (a double to deep right) against Flyers rookie stud Yukio Ozaki. Final Score: Tigers 6x, Flyers 5 (Winning Pitcher: Murayama)
Game 2 (October 14, Koshien) was a much more lopsided affair, with Hanshin getting two runs in the fourth (Solomko RBI double, Yokoyama sac fly) and an insurance 3-run home run from Fujimoto in the eighth. Murayama got his second win in two days, throwing a 2-hit complete game shut out. Just two more wins in 5 games would be enough for the Tigers to win it all. Final Score: Tigers 5, Flyers 0 (Winning pitcher: Murayama)
Overconfidence may have been the cause of many problems in the road games, however. Game 3 (October 16 @ Jingu Stadium) saw Hanshin leading 2-0 after the top of the sixth, but Murayama, throwing in relief, gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the frame (Shozo Watanabe was Hanshin’s starter) and an inning later, Toei tied it up after a dropped infield fly ball kept their inning alive. This one would last 14 innings, and as time expired, the game went down in the record books as a tie. Closing the game for Hanshin was a mid-season acquisition named Gene Bacque, who would go on to figure in the team’s next pennant, but would not see any further action in this series. Final Score: Tigers 2, Flyers 2
Game 4 (October 17 @ Jingu) saw the Tigers lose their first game of the series. Teruo Namiki hit an RBI triple to give Hanshin an early lead, but Koyama gave up 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth. After that first inning, Hanshin got just 3 hits, including one by Koyama himself. Final Score: Flyers 3, Tigers 1
While still on the road for Game 5 (October 18), the action moved over to Yomiuri’s home stadium, Korakuen. Fujimoto opened the scoring with a 2-run home run in the top of the first, but Murayama blew the lead in the bottom of the frame by giving up a 3-run blast to their Yoshida. The Flyers added on an insurance run three innings later. However, Yoshida tied the game up in the 7th. Again, this one was decided in extras, but unfortunately, Hanshin was on the losing end this time around. Koyama gave up a walk-off home run to Iwashita. The series was set to return to Koshien knotted at 2-2-1. Final Score: Flyers 6x, Tigers 4
Unfortunately, it appeared that the two Hanshin aces were running out of gas. Murayama started Game 6 (October 20) but gave up a run in the first. Yoshida knotted it up in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot, but the very next inning, two more runs were tacked onto the Flyers’ board. That lead stretched to five in the top of the fifth, but Hanshin chipped away in the fifth and sixth, scoring some hard-earned runs. However, in the top of the eighth, the Flyers put the game out of reach with an insurance run. Final Score: Flyers 7, Tigers 4
So it was do-or-die in Game 7 (October 21). A loss would give the Flyers the title. So would a tie. The team put Koyama on the mound for possibly its final game of the year. He responded with a strong performance, blanking the Flyers for nine innings. Unfortunately, the Tigers also put up goose eggs through regulation as well. For the fourth time in the series, extra innings were required. Koyama gave up a run in the top of the 10th, and it looked bad for the Tigers. However, Eiji Fujii came through with the season on the line to tie things up. As the team headed back to the field for the 11th, manager Fujimoto noticed that Koyama was neither on the mound nor still in the dugout. Turns out he was so upset about the run he gave up in the 10th and convinced the series was over, that he was already in the shower room. The team had no choice but to bring in a reliever (though no one had warmed up at all). Murayama blanked Toei in the 11th, but gave up a solo home run to Saionji in the top of the 12th. That would be the series clincher, and despite a 2-0 series lead, the Tigers would lose it with 4 losses and a tie in the series’ final 5 games. Final Score: Flyers 2x, Tigers 1
All-Stars: Fujimoto (coach); Murayama (pitcher, 4th time, did not play); Koyama (pitcher, 6th time); Yoshida (SS, 9th time); Namiki (OF, 2nd time)
MVP: Murayama (first)
Top ERA: Murayama (second)
Most Strikeouts: Koyama (first)
Best Win Percentage: Koyama (first)
Sawamura Award: Koyama (first)
All-Central League Team: Murayama (pitcher, first); Yoshida (SS, seventh); Namiki (OF, second)
Fighting Spirit Award, Nippon Series: Yoshida (16 H, .471 AVG)