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|Born: August 18, 1946|
Hohoku, Toyoura District, Yamaguchi, Japan
|Nippon Professional Baseball debut|
|April, 1965, for the Nishitetsu Lions|
|May, 1970, for the Nishitetsu Lions|
|Career highlights and awards|
Masaaki Ikenaga (池永 正明, Ikenaga Masaaki, born August 18, 1946, in Hohoku Town, Toyoura-gun, Yamaguchi, Japan) is a former Japanese professional baseball player. A right-handed pitcher, he played in Japan for the Nishitetsu Lions. Ikenaga was one of the top pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball before a scandal derailed his career at age 23. Before being implicated in the Black Mist Scandal, he made five consecutive All-Star teams at the beginning of his career, and was in the top 10 in ERA every season of his career.
He made his debut for the Nishitetsu Lions in 1965 at age 18, winning 20 games (3rd in the league) with a 2.27 ERA (5th in the league), and establishing himself as the team's ace. That year he made the Pacific League (PL) All-Star team, and was named the PL Rookie of the Year.
In 1966 he posted a 15-14 record with a 2.18 ERA, again fifth in the PL.
1967 was Ikenaga's most productive season, as he went 23-14 with a 2.31 ERA. He led the PL in wins, complete games (19), shutouts (6) and innings pitched (335-1/3).
1968 saw Ikenaga go 23-13, with a 2.45 ERA (3rd in the PL). The 1969 season saw Ikenaga post an 18-11 record and a 2.57 ERA, finishing 3rd in the league in wins.
Black Mist scandal
In 1970 Ikenaga started the season 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA.
On April 1 of that year, disgraced former Lions pitcher Masayuki Nagayasu gave an exclusive tape-recorded interview to the Shūkan Post newspaper that revealed other players on his former team were also involved in game-fixing during the 1969 season. Of the seven players summoned by the league to testify on their involvement, one of them was Ikenaga. Ikenaga admitted taking money from gamblers via fellow pitcher Tsutomu Tanaka of the Chunichi Dragons (a former teammate — Tanaka pitched for Nishitetsu from 1961–1967), but said he did not let it affect his play. (Nonetheless, he did not return the 1 million yen he had received from Tanaka.)
On May 25, the NPB commissioner committee banned Ikenaga for life. Ikenaga's banning was fiercely contested by both Nishitetsu's front office and Ikenaga's own family. He finished his NPB career with a 103-65 record and a 2.36 ERA.
Ikenaga's case was not taken up by NPB until March 2005, when commissioner Yasuchika Negoro and owners agreed on a bylaw that allowed banned players who have reformed themselves to petition for a removal of the ban. This occurred after a nine-year campaign by baseball fans and residents of his hometown.
Ikenaga requested a removal soon afterwards, and on April 25, 2005, he was allowed to return to baseball.
In popular culture
- Associated Press. "3 Suspended for Baseball for Life," The Day (May 28, 1970).
- McKenna, Brian. Early Exits: The Premature Endings of Baseball Careers (Scarecrow Press, 2007), p. 17.
- "Japan welcoming back players who fixed games," Yomiuri Shimbun (March 23, 2005). Archived on MarlinsBaseball.com.
- West, Mark D. (2008-09-15). Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States. ISBN 9780226894119.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference