Hiromitsu Kadota, No. 3 on All-Time HR List, Dies at 74

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Kadota watches one of his 567 career home runs during a Nankai Hawks’ game against the Seibu Lions on Aug. 27, 1987, at Osaka Stadium.

Pro baseball Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Kadota, whose 567 career home runs are currently third on Japan pro baseball’s all-time list, has died, it was learned Tuesday. He was 74.

Kadota starred mainly for the Nankai Hawks, the predecessor of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, in a career that spanned 23 years and included the Pacific League MVP award in 1988.

No cause of death was given, but Kadota had in recent years been regularly visiting a hospital in Hyogo Prefecture. On Tuesday, the prefectural police received a call from the hospital that Kadota had not shown up for an appointment with a doctor that day.

Police contacted a local fire station, which dispatched officers to his home. There, they found him lying on the floor, and the police later confirmed his death.

A native of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kadota played for corporate team Kuraray Okayama out of Tenri High School before Hawks made him their No. 2 pick in the 1970 draft.

Kadota led the PL in runs batted in the following year, the first of numerous hitting titles he would win over his career. In the spring of 1979, he sustained a serious right Achilles tendon tear, but came back in 1981 to lead the PL in home runs for the first time.

In his MVP year of 1988, at the age of 40, he led the league in RBIs and home runs, earning him the moniker of “the middle-age star.”

Kadota spent two seasons with the Orix Buffaloes from 1989 before returning to the Hawks, who moved from Osaka to Fukuoka after being bought by Daiei. He retired in 1992 at age 44.

His 567 homers leaves him third all-time behind the Yomiuri Giants’ Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868, and the Hawks’ Katsuya Nomura, who hit 657. In 2,571 games, Kadota had 2,566 hits and 1,678 RBIs, with a career batting average of .289.

He was elected to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.