Last week the world lost Sachio Kinugasa, who passed away on April 23 at the age of 71. Kinugasa was the Japanese Iron Man who broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record in 1987. Ultimately, he would play 2,215 consecutive games.
Kinugasa was born in 1947 in the Higashiyama Ward in Japan. He made his Japanese baseball debut on May 16, 1965, at the age of 18. He played for the Hiroshima Carp for his entire 23-year career and set the Japanese record for consecutive games played on August 2, 1980, after playing his 1,247th consecutive game. This earned him the nickname Tetsujin, (Japanese for Iron Man) after the robot Tetsujin 28 of Japanese Manga (known as “Gigantor” in the United States).
In 1996, Kinugasa’s consecutive games record was broken by Cal Ripken, Jr., who had broken Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive MLB games the previous year. Cal would go on to play in 2,632 consecutive games – 417 more than Kinugasa. (Cal ended his streak voluntarily in 1998.) Kinugasa retired in 1987 and went on to become a baseball commentator. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. After meeting Cal Ripken during Ripken’s streak, Kinugasa and Ripken maintained their friendship, even co-hosting youth clinics in Kyoto as part of Ripken’s work as a U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy.
Last week, upon hearing of Kingasa’s death, Cal stated: “I am very saddened by the news of Sachio Kinugasa’s passing. He and I shared an approach to the game we love, but for me, the friendship we shared was so much more valuable. Mr. Kinugasa was a great man and I was honored to call him my friend and the respect I have for him is immense. My condolences and thoughts are with his family, friends, and the wonderful baseball fans throughout Japan.”
Rest in peace, Sachio.