May 1, 1916|
Nizhny Tagil, Perm Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died: January 12, 1957
|NPB: 1936 for the Tokyo Kyojingun|
|Last professional appearance|
|July 12, 1955 for the Tombow Unions|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the Japanese|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
Victor Starffin (Russian: Виктор Константинович Старухин, tr. Viktor Konstantinovich Starukhin, May 1, 1916 - January 12, 1957), nicknamed "the blue-eyed Japanese" (青い目の日本人 aoi-me no Nihonjin?), was an ethnic Russian baseball player in Japan and the first professional pitcher in Japan to win three hundred games.
Born in Nizhny Tagil, Ural area of Russian Empire, Viktor Starffin moved with his family to northern Hokkaidō, where he attended Asahikawa Higashi High School after the Russian Revolution. Although he wanted to get into Waseda University, he was first scouted by Matsutaro Shoriki in the autumn of 1934 as a member of the national baseball team for an exhibition game against the United States that year. At the time, the Ministry of Education had a regulation stating that high school baseball players who played professionally would forfeit their eligibility to enter higher education, and so Starffin was reluctant to turn pro. However, the family had entered Japan on transit visas, and his father, Konstantin Starffin, was in jail awaiting trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, both of which put the family at risk of deportation; Shoriki blackmailed Starffin, stating that if Starffin refused to play professionally, Shoriki would use his connections with the Yomiuri Shimbun to publicise the details of Konstantin Starffin's case.
Starffin was signed by the Tōkyō Kyojingun (now the Yomiuri Giants), outside the draft, in 1936, and played for them until 1944. He was one of the premier pitchers in the Japanese baseball "dead-ball era" (pre-1945), when many of Japan's best players were serving in the Imperial Japanese Army. He won two MVP awards and a Best Nine award, and won at least 26 games in six different years, winning a league record 42 games in 1939. He followed his record setting 1939 performance with another 38 wins in 1940. Later during World War II, wartime paranoia resulted in Starffin being placed in a detention camp at Karuizawa with other foreign diplomats and residents. He was already forced to change his name to be Japanized, "Suda Hiroshi", since 1940.
After short-term working as an interpreter of SCAP, he returned to professional baseball in 1946, but chose not to return to the Giants, instead signing a contract with a new team, the Pacific (an offshoot of the team now known as the Yokohama BayStars). The Pacific's contracts with some famous players, including Starffin, led to a serious conflict, and Pacific was forced to forfeit four games. However, this decision would ultimately result in the Giants losing the first Japanese championship after World War II, as one of Pacific's forfeited games had been a loss to Great Ring (now the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks); the change from a loss to a win gave Great Ring the title over the Giants.
Starffin also played for the Shochiku Robins (now the Yokohama BayStars) in 1947, Kinsei/Daiei Stars (now the Chiba Lotte Marines) after 1948, and finally signed with the Takahashi/Tombow Unions (an offshoot of today's Chiba Lotte Marines) in 1954-55. In 1955, his last season, he became the first career 300-game winner in Japanese professional baseball. He retired in 1955 with a career record of 303 wins and 176 losses. After retirement, he became an actor and presenter of radio programs.
In 1957, Starffin was killed in a traffic accident when the car he was driving was struck by a tram of Tōkyū Tamagawa Line (now Tōkyū Den-en-toshi Line, as a subway), in Setagaya, Tokyo. The exact circumstances of the incident are debated to this day, with speculation ranging from a simple accident to suicide or drunk driving. In 1960, he became the first foreigner elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Asahikawa City has nicknamed its municipal baseball stadium, as Asahikawa Starffin Stadium, since 1984. Starffin is buried in Tokyo's Tama Cemetery.
His firstborn daughter Natasha worked for Japan Airlines as a flight attendant, opened the first tanning bed salon in Japan, and attended the renaming ceremony of the stadium nicknamed from her father, as a pitcher with uniform number 17, same as Viktor. She is now a dietitian.
*Bold = lead league
- http://www.sports.ru/tribuna/blogs/insignificance/204537.html (Russian)
- "Victor Starffin". Japan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- Reaves, Joseph A. (2002). Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0-8032-3943-2.
- http://www6.plala.or.jp/guti/cemetery/AREA/list_00.html (Japanese)
- Puff, Richard. "The Amazing Story of Victor Starffin". The National Pastime, no. 12 (1992), pp. 17–20. ISBN 0-910137-48-X.
- Nippon Professional Baseball career statistics from Japanesebaseball.com
- Jim Albright's analysis of Starffin's candidacy for the American Baseball Hall of Fame
- Examples of Victor Starffin baseball cards
|Japanese Baseball League MVP