Obituaries

Katsuya Nomura, a mainstay of Japanese baseball, dies at 84

Katsuya Nomura, a mainstay of the baseball world in postwar Japan who was one of the country’s greatest catchers before going on to a long second career as a manager, died Tuesday in Tokyo. He was 84.

The cause was a heart attack, his son Don Nomura said.

In his 26 years as a player and a player-manager, Mr. Nomura hit 657 home runs and had 1,988 runs batted in, both second on the all-time list to the great slugger Sadaharu Oh. He also collected 2,901 hits in 3,017 games, also the second-highest totals in Japan.

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Mr. Nomura’s best season was 1965 when he became the first Japanese player in the postwar era to win the triple crown, hitting 42 home runs, driving in 110 runs, and batting .320. He led the Pacific League in home runs nine times and was the league’s MVP five times.

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He was voted the best catcher in Japanese baseball 19 times and elected to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

For all his success on the field, though, Mr. Nomura never achieved the celebrity status of stars like Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, who played for the more glamorous and successful Tokyo Yomiuri Giants of the Central League.

Mr. Nomura spent the bulk of his playing days with the Osaka-based Nankai Hawks. The Hawks dominated the less popular Pacific League during most of Mr. Nomura’s tenure with the club, winning two championships but also losing four times to the Giants.

Mr. Nomura’s stature grew after he retired as a player at 45 in 1980. He became a full-time manager after a decade as a baseball analyst, starting with the Yakult Swallows, perennial cellar-dwellers who also played in the shadow of the Giants, their crosstown rivals in Tokyo.

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According to Robert Whiting, who has written about baseball in Japan for five decades, Mr. Nomura learned about the use of statistics from his Hawks teammate Don Blasingame, who had also served as a head coach during Mr. Nomura’s tenure as player-manager, from 1970 to 1977. Mr. Nomura used that knowledge to lead the Swallows to championships in 1993, 1995 and 1997. (He had also won a Pacific League crown with the Hawks in 1973.)

Katsuya Nomura was born June 29, 1935, in Amino, a town in Kyoto prefecture near the Sea of Japan. Mr. Nomura’s father, who was stationed in China, died when his son was a young boy.

After graduating from Mineyama High School, Mr. Nomura joined the Nankai Hawks. He went hitless in nine games in 1954 and was demoted for a season, then returned to the top club for good in 1956.

Mr. Nomura had one son, Yoichi, with his first wife. He and his second wife, Sachiyo, had a son, Katsunori Nomura, a backup catcher who is now a coach with Rakuten. Mr. Nomura adopted Sachiyo’s sons after he married her. She died in 2017. In addition to his sons, Mr. Nomura is survived by seven grandchildren.