18 January: Google Doodle celebrates Sachio Kinugasa Birthday

OV Digital Desk

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Today’s Doodle honors the 76th birthday of Japanese baseball player Sachio Kinugasa (18 January 1947 – 23 April 2018). He broke the record for most consecutive baseball games played in 1987 and held it for nine more years.

Life and Career

Sachio Kinugasa was born 18 January 1947 in Kyoto, Japan, to a Japanese mother and an African American father. As a young boy, he was taunted for being mixed race. He reported that he never met his father, an African American serviceman stationed in Japan after World War II.

As an infielder in the national high school tournament, he gained popularity at Heian Buddhist high school. He was signed by the Hiroshima Carp baseball team in 1965. As a third baseman, he became part of the starting lineup a few years later and was a consistent hitter who averaged around 15 home runs per season for over 20 years.

In spite of fractured bones, Kinugasa played a record-breaking 2,215 games in a row. It was more painful for him to miss a game than to play one while injured, earning him the nickname Tetsujin (Iron Man). Kinugasa is best known for his consecutive game streak. However, he was an all-around player who ranked seventh in career home runs with a total of 504, fifth in career hits, and tenth in career runs batted in. It was he who helped the Carp win their first ever league championship in 1975.

On 23 April 2018, Kinugasa passed away from colon cancer.

Award and Legacy

As a result of his athletic performance, he received a number of awards. As a result of winning the Japanese championship series in 1984, Kinugasa was named Central League MVP. In 1996, he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and became the second baseball player to receive the People’s Honor Award from the Prime Minister of Japan. Prior to him, Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, and Hideki Matsui received the award.