Name (Japanese): 真弓 明信
Hometown: Ohmuta City, Fukuoka
Date of Birth: July 12, 1953
Position: Outfield, Shortstop, Second Base
Height: 174 cm (5’9”)
Weight: 75 kg (165 lb)
Wore #: 2, 42 (Lions), 7 (Tigers player), 75 (Buffaloes manager), 72 (Tigers manager)
Drafted by: Taiheiyo Lions, 1972 (Round 3)
Made Tigers Debut on: April 7, 1979
Played Final Game on: October 6, 1995
Manager Career: Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (2000-04, Hitting Coach), Hanshin Tigers (2009-11, Manager)
Career Awards/Achievements: Top Batter (1983); All-Pacific League Team (1978); All-Central League Team (1983, 85); Nippon Series Outstanding Player (1985); CL Player of the Month (Sept 1985); Most Leadoff HRs in CL History (38); Most Pinch Hit RBIs in a Season (1994 – 30); All-Star Game (1978, 1980-82, 1985-88, 1991)
Akinobu Mayumi was born on July 12, 1953 in Kumamoto, but moved to Fukuoka when he was young. Reports say he got interested in baseball when the local high school team, coached by current Yomiuri Giants’ ace Tomoyuki Sugano’s grandfather, won the summer tournament at Koshien when he was 12 years old. He joined his school team in junior high and excelled at two sports (baseball and track & field). In high school, despite playing for a strong school, he never made it to the national tournament. Instead of going to university, Mayumi went directly into industrial league baseball, playing there for two years, at which time he was chosen by the Nishitetsu Lions (a local Kyushu team) in the third round of the 1972 draft.
The team changed its ownership in 1973, his first year with the team, becoming the Taiheiyo Club Lions. In his first game, he played the 9th inning at shortstop, but had no balls hit to him. His next game saw him commit one error (and possibly another, but in the record books it went down as an infield hit). He was sent to the farm, and in July of that year, made his way to Lodi, California, to play for the Class-A Lodi Lions (now the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – affiliated with the LA Dodgers). He stayed there for three months, during which time he acquired the nickname “Joe” (apparently because “Mayumi” was hard for Americans to pronounce).
The following season, he collected his first professional hit back with the Lions, but he did not find a permanent spot on the top roster until the 1975 season, in which he hit his first career home run. However, he didn’t see full-time playing time until the 1977 season, and really hit his stride the following year, when he was named to the all-star team (at shortstop), and was also selected to the all-Pacific League team at season’s end.
However, that offseason, he became involved in a major trade: Hanshin would send super-slugging catcher Koichi Tabuchi to the Lions (who moved to Saitama the next year) among others, in exchange for several players, including Mayumi. He would immediately become the team’s leadoff hitter, filling the gap at shortstop. He started to really develop his power game with Hanshin, and hit for the cycle on May 20 of his first year with the team.
Mayumi really made his mark on the game in the 1980s, though. He started launching leadoff home runs at an incredible pace, and finished 5th in the league with 29 home runs in 1980. Among those home runs were leadoff homers in both halves of a double header against the Chunichi Dragons in October. Injury would slow him down in 1981, but he bounced back with a fairly strong season in 1982, ending the year with the league’s 10th highest batting average.
A midseason injury to Akinobu Okada in 1983 resulted in Mayumi sliding over to second base for much of the year, and Mayumi responded by winning the batting title with a .353 average. Despite manager Motoh Andoh recommending he take the final 10 games off to ensure the title remain his, Mayumi continued to play and hit. He would earn all-Central League team honors at season’s end for his superior average and leadoff presence. Upon Okada’s return in 1984, he was relegated to the outfield, so Mayumi remained at second base. That season, he would pick up his 1000th career hit and also play in his 1000th career game.
Despite an injury in 1985 (he fractured his collar bone in a home plate collision in June, missing a month of play), it was a banner year for Mayumi. He would finish the season with 34 home runs, 84 RBIs, and another All-Central League team selection – all while taking on a new position to allow Okada to return to second base. Mayumi would spend much of the rest of his career in right field. (His third All-League Team, a.k.a. Best Nine, at a third different position, made him just the second player in NPB history to achieve this incredible feat. The first was legend Hiromitsu Ochiai.) The season would only get better for Mayumi, though, as he would hit a team-best .360 with two home runs in the Nippon Series, earning him the Outstanding Player Award. (This is not to be mistaken for the MVP, which went to Randy Bass.)
He continued to romp through the 1980s, hitting 28 more bombs in 1986, including 5 straight games with round-trippers. He hit the last leadoff home run of his career in 1987, putting him second all-time (with 41), just two behind all-time great Yutaka Fukumoto (Hankyu Braves). By decade’s end, Mayumi had over 250 home runs to his name and was seen as one of the greatest leadoff men in Japanese baseball history.
In the twilight years of his career, Mayumi was used primarily as a pinch hitter. His ability to hit the long ball when needed most etched a permanent mark on fans’ hearts. In 1994, he would set a record for pinch hit RBIs in a single season: an incredible 30 on just 17 hits. After being used sparingly in 1995, Hanshin offered to give Mayumi a proper retirement ceremony towards season’s end, but he wanted to continue playing. Negotiations with the club did not result in a contract for him, and no other teams expressed an interest in signing him (he was, after all, 42 years old at this point), so he was forced into retirement before he was ready.
Mayumi took to the broadcasting booth and was a newspaper columnist for several years before joining the Kintetsu Buffaloes as hitting coach in 2000. He remained there for 5 seasons, but was forced out when the club merged with the Orix Blue Wave franchise. He returned to broadcasting and writing until after the 2008 season, when he was hired to replace Okada as Hanshin manager. Mayumi did not fare terribly well and often was the brunt of media and fan criticism for his in-game decisions. Despite being at the helm of the 2010 team that hit a collective .2895 (best mark for Hanshin in the two-league era), had 5 guys hit over .300, 5 guys with 90+ RBIs (including 3 with over 100), and a CL-record 1458 hits, the club sputtered down the stretch and finished in second place. After the 2011 season, in which the team finished a disappointing 4th place, Mayumi was asked to step down as manager. Currently, Mayumi occasionally works the broadcasting booth and continues to write a column for Nikkan Sports.
Another good English article can be found at Baseball-Reference.com