Yutaka Enatsu

Highly touted as a rookie fresh from high school, the sidearming Enatsu won 12 games for the Hanshin Tigers. He followed with 25 victories, a Japanese record 401 strikeouts, and a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the powerful Yomiuri Giants in the game that decided the 1968 pennant. In 1969 he pitched 34 consecutive shutout innings against Yomiuri for six of his 15 victories in a season shortened by elbow pain. He rebounded to go 21-14 in 1970 but was suspended for two weeks over alleged involvement with gamblers. When he again lost the game that meant the pennant, he became Japan’s leading target of fan abuse and media criticism. He openly feuded with manager and fellow star pitcher Minoru Murayama over his workload.

Handicapped by arm trouble and a heart condition aggravated by chain-smoking, Enatsu still won 20 games in 1972 and 1973. Slumping the next two seasons, he was pronounced washed up at age 27. He scored a brilliant comeback following his trade to Hiroshima, becoming the first player to be named MVP in both Japanese major leagues. Working mainly in relief, he contributed a 9-5, 2.66 record to Hiroshima’s 1979 championship.

Enatsu was the winningest and highest-paid active pitcher in Japan when he was released by the Seibu Lions in 1984 after a shoving match with the manager. In 1985, at age 36, he signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, hoping to make the major league team in spring training. He didn’t, amid intense publicity. He refused a minor league assignment and returned to Japan.