The Mystery of Kishi Ichiro: The Unexpected Manager of the Hanshin Tigers

The photo is for illustrative purposes only. Photo:PIXTA

There is a man who is considered the “biggest mystery” in the history of the Tigers. In the 1955 season, a man over 60 with no professional baseball experience was suddenly appointed manager of the Hanshin Tigers. Who was Kishi Ichiro, who appeared at the inauguration press conference with a smile on his face while leaving the bewildered reporters behind? This article is an excerpt and edited version of Murase Hidenobu’s “Tiger Blood: The Mysterious Old Manager of the Hanshin Tigers” (Shueisha).

The strange old man who came to the team office
He was the new manager of the Tigers!

A prime location in Umeda, Osaka. This location is now the Hanshin Umeda main store, and was once the office of the Osaka Tigers baseball team. On November 22, 1954, nearly 70 years ago, the story begins when an old man comes to visit this location.

“What’s up, grandpa? You’ve come again today. This is the Osaka Tigers baseball team office. I told you this is not a place for grandpa to come…”

Giichi Tanaka, executive director of the Osaka Tigers, spotted an elderly man at the entrance being chased away by a staff member, and the moment he saw the cloaked figure standing there he had a bad feeling.

For an old man, he is tall at 5’7″ (about 173cm). His complexion is as tanned as an eggplant. And yet, he is dressed in a well-tailored suit, and his deeply carved face, unlike that of a typical Japanese person, somehow exudes elegance.

Could he possibly be the man in question? Tanaka couldn’t sit still any longer, so he called out to the old man who was about to be turned away from the front door.

“Excuse me. What can I do for you?”

“Yes… I came yesterday too, but I would like to ask you to let Yoshikazu Tanaka of the baseball team know that Kishi has arrived.”

As if my bad hunch was right, this old man turned out to be the new Tigers manager that I had been waiting for.

“I’m sorry. I was away yesterday for personal reasons. I was told that the contract was to be concluded at 2 p.m. today.”

“Well, I wanted to see what kind of company the Tigers were before signing a contract.”

Was he just here for a sightseeing trip? He must be feeling good about himself. None of the team staff knew that this old man was going to be the new manager of the Tigers. The contract negotiations were being conducted in strict secrecy, and no one knew that the manager’s contract was going to be signed that day except for the owner, Seizo Noda, and Tanaka.

On November 19, 1954, three days before the election, Tanaka was summoned by Hanshin Electric Railway President and third-generation owner of the Osaka Tigers, Seizo Noda, who announced to him, “We have decided on Ichiro Kishi as manager.” He was at a loss for words.

2024-05-26 23:04:57
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