May 1, 1916|
Nizhny Tagil, Perm Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died: January 12, 1957
|1936, for the Tokyo Kyojingun|
|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. With 83 career shutouts, he ranks number one all-time in Japanese professional baseball.
Victor (or Viktor) Starffin was born in 1916 in Nizhny Tagil, in the Urals region of what was then the Russian Empire, but after the Russian Revolution he moved with his family to northern Hokkaidō, where he attended Asahikawa Higashi High School.
Starffin wanted to get into Waseda University, but he was 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. At that time, the Ministry of Education had a regulation stating that high school baseball players who played professionally forfeited their eligibility to enter higher education, so Starffin was reluctant to turn pro. However, he and his 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 effectively 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.
Tōkyō Kyojingun/Yomiuri Giants
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.
World War II
In 1940, as xenophobia increased in Japan, Starffin was forced to change his name to Suda Hiroshi. Later, during World War II, wartime paranoia resulted in Starffin being placed in a detention camp at Karuizawa with diplomats and other foreign residents.
After a brief period working as an interpreter for the U.S. Occupation authorities (SCAP), Starffin 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 several famous players, including Starffin, led to a serious conflict, and Pacific was forced to forfeit four games. However, this decision ultimately resulted 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, and the Kinsei/Daiei Stars (now the Chiba Lotte Marines) after 1948. He finally signed with the Takahashi/Tombow Unions (a forerunner of the 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 on the Tōkyū Tamagawa Line (now the Tōkyū Den-en-toshi Line) 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.
Starffin's oldest daughter, Natasha, worked for Japan Airlines as a flight attendant, opened the first tanning bed salon in Japan, and attended the renaming ceremony for the stadium named for her father, as a pitcher with the uniform number 17, which had been her father's number. She is now a dietician.
*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.
- Wilbert, Warren N. The Shutout in Major League Baseball: A History (McFarland, 2013), p. 108.
- 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