Eiji Sawamura

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Eiji Sawamura of past days

Eiji Sawamura (沢村 栄治; February 1, 1917 – December 2, 1944, born in Ujiyamada (Present: Ise), Mie prefecture, Japan) was a Japanese professional baseball player. A right-handed pitcher, he played in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.

On November 20, 1934, the 17-year-old Sawamura faced a team of visiting all-star players from Major League Baseball, including Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Charlie Gehringer. Entering the game in the fourth inning, the high school pitcher struck out nine batters and held the Americans to a single run over five innings pitched; a home run by Gehrig in the seventh saddled Sawamura with the loss. However, he did manage to strike out Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx in succession. Connie Mack, who was managing the American team, was so impressed by Sawamura's performance that he tried to sign him to a Major League contract. However, anti-American sentiment was strong in Japan at the time, and Sawamura declined, saying, "My problem is I hate America, and I can't make myself like Americans."

With the formation of the Japanese Baseball League, Sawamura joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1936 and became one of their aces. He pitched the first no-hitter in Japanese pro baseball, on September 25, 1936, as well as two others (May 1, 1937 and July 6, 1940). In 1937, he went 33-10 with a 1.38 earned run average. From 1937 to 1943, Sawamura accumulated 105 games pitched, a career record of 63-22, 554 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA.

In 1943, Sawamura enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army. He was killed in battle near Yakushima when his ship was torpedoed near the end of World War II.

Sawamura was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1959. The Sawamura Award (Japan's equivalent to MLB's Cy Young), which is given to the best pitchers in the League since 1947, is named in his honor.

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Preceded by
Japanese Baseball League MVP
1937 (Spring)
Succeeded by
Harris McGalliard