Hideki Matsui

Last updated
Hideki Matsui
Hideki Matsui in USA-7.jpg
Matsui with the New York Yankees in 2007
Outfielder / Designated hitter
Born: (1974-06-12) June 12, 1974 (age 45)
Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan
Batted: LeftThrew: Right
Professional debut
NPB: May 1, 1993, for the Yomiuri Giants
MLB: March 31, 2003, for the New York Yankees
Last appearance
NPB: 2002, for the Yomiuri Giants
MLB: July 22, 2012, for the Tampa Bay Rays
NPB statistics
Batting average .304
Home runs 332
Runs batted in 889
MLB statistics
Batting average.282
Home runs175
Runs batted in760
Career highlights and awards


Member of the Japanese
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg

Hideki Matsui(松井 秀喜,Matsui Hideki, born June 12, 1974), nicknamed " Godzilla " [1] , is a Japanese former professional baseball outfielder and designated hitter who played baseball in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and Major League Baseball (MLB). [2] He batted left-handed and threw right-handed.

Godzilla giant monster

Godzilla is a fictional monster originating from a series of Japanese films of the same name. The character first appeared in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla and became a worldwide pop culture icon, appearing in various media, including 32 films produced by Toho, three Hollywood films and numerous video games, novels, comic books and television shows. It is dubbed the King of the Monsters, a phrase first used in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, the Americanized version of the original film.

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

Outfielder defensive position in baseball

An outfielder is a person playing in one of the three defensive positions in baseball or softball, farthest from the batter. These defenders are the left fielder, the center fielder, and the right fielder. As an outfielder, their duty is to catch fly balls and/ ground balls then to return them to the infield for the out or before the runner advances, if there is any runners on the bases. As an outfielder, they normally play behind the six players located in the field. By convention, each of the nine defensive positions in baseball is numbered. The outfield positions are 7, 8 and 9. These numbers are shorthand designations useful in baseball scorekeeping and are not necessarily the same as the squad numbers worn on player uniforms.


After playing the first ten seasons of his career for the Yomiuri Giants of NPB, he played the next seven seasons, from 2003–2009, for the New York Yankees of MLB. As a free agent, Matsui then had one-year stints with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Oakland Athletics, and the Tampa Bay Rays. Matsui was successful in both leagues, winning the Central League Most Valuable Player Award three times in NPB, as well as the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in MLB. On July 28, 2013, Matsui signed a one-day minor league contract with the New York Yankees in order to officially retire as a Yankee. A pregame ceremony was held for him.

Yomiuri Giants Nippon Professional Baseball team in the Central League

The Yomiuri Giants are a professional baseball team based in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan. The team competes in the Central League in Nippon Professional Baseball. They play their home games in the Tokyo Dome, opened in 1988. The team's owner is the Yomiuri Group, a media conglomerate which includes two newspapers and a television network.

New York Yankees Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in the Bronx, New York, United States

The New York Yankees are an American professional baseball team based in the New York City borough of the Bronx. The Yankees compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) East division. They are one of two major league clubs based in New York City, the other being the New York Mets of the National League. In the 1901 season, the club began play in the AL as the Baltimore Orioles. Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchased the franchise and moved it to New York City, renaming the club the New York Highlanders. The Highlanders were officially renamed the Yankees in 1913.

Oakland Athletics Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Oakland, California, United States

The Oakland Athletics, often referred to as the A's, are an American professional baseball team based in Oakland, California. They compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) West division. The team plays its home games at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. They have won nine World Series championships, tied for the third-most of all current MLB teams. The 2017 season was the club's 50th while based in Oakland.

Early life

Hideki Matsui was born in Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan (later merged into Nomi, Ishikawa). According to an interview on YES Network's "CenterStage", Matsui originally batted right-handed as a child. However, when he started playing with his older brother and his friends, Matsui was such a good hitter that his embarrassed brother insisted that he bat left-handed or stop playing with them. Matsui soon became an overpowering left-handed batter, thereafter batting left-handed. [3]

Neagari, Ishikawa human settlement in Japan

Neagari was a town located in Nomi District, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.

Nomi, Ishikawa City in Chūbu, Japan

Nomi is a city located in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 March 2018, the city had an estimated population of 50,132 in 18585 households, and a population density of 600 persons per km². The total area of the city was 84.14 square kilometres (32.49 sq mi).

YES Network American regional sports network

The Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) is an American pay television regional sports network that is temporarily owned by The Walt Disney Company, with a minority stake by Yankee Global Enterprises until a sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group and The Blackstone Group becomes final in mid-2019. Primarily serving New York City, New York and the surrounding metropolitan area, it broadcasts a variety of sports events, as well as magazine, documentary and discussion programs; however, its main emphasis is focused on games and team-related programs involving the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, the WNBA's New York Liberty and New York City FC of Major League Soccer.

Matsui was recruited by Seiryo High School in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, a Western Honshu baseball powerhouse. During his high school years, Matsui participated in four National High School Baseball Tournaments at Koshien Stadium (once in the spring and three times in the summer). In 1992, he drew five consecutive intentional walks in a game at Koshien and became a nationwide topic of conversation. The intentional walks were considered excessive and unsportsmanlike but the strategy worked, as Matsui's team lost. Matsui's reaction to the intentional walks was widely commented upon by the media. "Matsui's stoic, emotionless conduct during those at-bats drew great praise from tournament officials and reporters alike", author Robert Whiting wrote. At the end of the tournament, a representative of the High School Federation declared that "All students should learn from Matsui's attitude." [4]

Honshu Largest island of Japan

Honshu is the largest and most populous island of Japan, located south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Straits. The island separates the Sea of Japan, which lies to its north and west, from the North Pacific Ocean to its south and east. It is the seventh-largest island in the world, and the second-most populous after the Indonesian island of Java.

High school baseball in Japan

In Japan, Kōshien (甲子園) generally refers to the two annual baseball tournaments played by high schools nationwide culminating at a final showdown at Hanshin Kōshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan. They are organized by the Japan High School Baseball Federation in association with Mainichi Shimbun for the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament in the spring and Asahi Shimbun for the National High School Baseball Championship in the summer.

Koshien Stadium baseball park in Nishinomiya, Japan

Hanshin Koshien Stadium, commonly referred to as simply Koshien Stadium, is a baseball park located near Kobe in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The stadium was built to host the national high school baseball tournaments, and opened on August 1, 1924. It was the largest stadium in Asia at the time it was completed, with a capacity of 55,000.

Professional Career

Yomiuri Giants

Following high school Matsui was drafted by the Yomiuri Giants in the first round. He was given the uniform number 55, which was the single-season home run record held by Sadaharu Oh. [5]

Sadaharu Oh Japanese baseball player

Sadaharu Oh, also known as Wang Chen-chih, is a retired Japanese-born Chinese baseball player and manager who played 22 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) from 1959 to 1980. Oh holds the world lifetime home run record, having hit 868 home runs during his professional career. He established many NPB batting records, including runs batted in (RBIs) (2,170), slugging percentage (.634), bases on balls (2,390), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.080). In 1977, Sadaharu Oh became the first recipient of the People's Honour Award. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Matsui's first three seasons were unspectacular. His breakout season came in 1996, when he batted .314 with 38 home runs and 99 RBIs. [6] A three-time MVP in the Japanese Central League (1996, 2000, and 2002), Matsui led his team into four Japan Series and winning three titles (1994, 2000 and 2002). He also made nine consecutive all-star games and led the league in home runs and RBIs three times (1998, 2000, and 2002). His single season mark for home runs was 50 in 2002, his final season in Japan. In the ten seasons he played in Japan, Matsui totalled 1268 games played, 4572 AB, 1390 hits, 901 runs, 332 home runs, 889 RBIs, a .304 batting average, and a .582 slugging percentage. His streak of 1,250 consecutive games played was the second longest in Japan. [7]

Central League Nippon Professional Baseball league

The Central League or Ce League is one of the two professional baseball leagues that constitute Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. The winner of the league championship plays against the winner of the Pacific League in the annual Japan Series. It currently consists of six teams from around the country. Unlike the Pacific League, designated hitters are not used during Central League home games.

The Japan Championship Series, or Japan Series is the annual championship series in Nippon Professional Baseball, the top baseball league in Japan. It is a seven-game series between the winning clubs of the league's two circuits, the Central League and the Pacific League. The Series is the highest level of play in professional baseball in Japan. It is usually played in October or November. As in all of the best-of-seven series, the first team to win four games is the overall winner and is declared the Japan Series Champion each year. The winner of the Japan Series also goes on to be the Japanese representative team in the annual Asia Series.

Home run in baseball, a 4-base hit, often by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without 1st touching the ground; inside-the-park home runs—where the batter reaches home safely while the ball is in play—are possible but rare

In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without first touching the ground or running to home plate and scoring a point, resulting in an automatic home run. There is also the "inside-the-park" home run where the batter reaches home safely while the baseball is in play on the field.

His first trip to the Japan Series became well-known. Because of the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike, Matsui became known to the American media, as media outlets were covering the Series, which was referred in Sports Illustrated as "the" Fall Classic.

In Japan, Matsui earned the popular nickname "Godzilla." The origin of the name is derisive in nature, in reference to Matsui's skin problems early on in his career, but has since come to represent his powerful hitting. [8] [9] He even made a cameo in the film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

In 2001, Matsui turned down a $64 million, six-year offer from the Yomiuri Giants, the highest in NPB history. [10]

New York Yankees

Matsui signed with the Yankees in December 2002. A parade was held for him in Tokyo to celebrate his signing with the Yankees and many reporters and photographers followed him to the MLB from his home in Tokyo. In his first major league at-bat, he hit an RBI single. At the 2003 Yankee home opener, he became the first Yankee to hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium. Matsui went on to hit .287 with 16 home runs and 106 RBIs. On defense, he led the AL in errors by an outfielder, with 8. [11]

Hideki Matsui batting for the Yankees Hideki Matsui in USA-6.jpg
Hideki Matsui batting for the Yankees

In the postseason of that year, he became the first Japanese player to hit a home run in the World Series, in Game Two of the 2003 World Series against the Florida Marlins. In a controversial vote, Matsui narrowly lost the Rookie of the Year Award to Ángel Berroa after two writers, Jim Souhan and Bill Ballou, refused to include him on their ballots due to his age. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner responded by pointing out that this had not prevented either writer from voting for Ichiro Suzuki or Kazuhiro Sasaki, both of whom had previously played in the NPB for several years and were the two oldest players to have received the award, and stated that he felt Matsui had been robbed. [12]

In his second season, Matsui finished 2004 with a .298 average with 31 home runs and 108 RBIs. In 2005, Matsui hit a career high .305 and 116 RBIs. In 2006, Matsui finished his fourth season with a .302 average with 8 home runs and 29 RBIs after missing most of the season due to a wrist injury. He was the American League All-Star Final Vote winner in 2004.

Matsui retained the "Godzilla" nickname and the song "Godzilla" by Blue Öyster Cult was often played when he went up to bat.

Matsui signed a four-year deal for $52 million, surpassing Ichiro Suzuki as the highest paid Japanese player in baseball, and securing his place with the Yankees through 2009.

On May 6, 2007, Matsui recorded his 2,000th hit in combined hits in Japan and the United States during a game vs. the Mariners, which earned him a place in Japan's Golden Players Club, reserved for players who have hit 2000 hits, 200 wins or 250 saves professionally. It was originally ruled an error on Raúl Ibañez, who lost track of the ball due to the sun, but a scoring change gave Matsui the hit. Matsui went 2 for 4 that day; the second hit (#2001) was a clean single to right field. On August 5, 2007 Matsui became the first Japanese player in MLB history to hit 100 home runs. The home run came in the bottom of the 3rd inning off Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals.

In 2007, he was 3rd in the AL with 10 sacrifice flies, and 9th in walks per strikeout (1.00). In the winter of 2007, it was widely reported in the New York media that the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees were in talks to send Hideki Matsui to the Giants in exchange for one or two pitchers.

Hideki Matsui rounding the bases Hideki Matsui in USA-8.jpg
Hideki Matsui rounding the bases

On June 12, 2008, Matsui hit a grand slam on his 34th birthday, helping the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the A's. Later that month, Matsui went on the disabled list with knee pain. He returned on August 19 against the Toronto Blue Jays and became the everyday designated hitter until undergoing knee surgery after the final game in Yankee Stadium. Through 2008, Matsui batted .294 against right-handed pitchers in his career and .295 against lefties. [13]

On June 12, 2009, Matsui hit a three-run home run on his 35th birthday, giving the Yankees a 7-6 lead over the New York Mets in the 6th inning. On July 20, he hit a walk-off solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Yankees their fourth win in a row after the All Star break, their 9th walk-off win, and a tie for 1st place in the division with the Boston Red Sox. A month later, on August 21, Matsui hit two home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs in the Yankees' unusual 20-11 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He became the first Yankee to drive in seven runs in a game at Fenway since Lou Gehrig in 1930. Two games later, Matsui would hit two home runs for his third time in just seven games. Matsui was voted by fans as the MLB Clutch Performer of the Month Presented by Pepsi for August after his performance through the month. [14] On September 19, Matsui hit his 26th home run of the season, breaking the Yankees' record for home runs in a single season by a designated hitter which was previously held by Don Baylor.

In the 2009 World Series, Matsui helped the Yankees defeat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2, by hitting .615 (8 for 13) with 3 home runs and 8 RBI, including tying Bobby Richardson's single-game World Series record (Game Three of the 1960 World Series) with six RBIs in Game 6. Since the designated hitter position was not used in the three games in Philadelphia, he only started the three games in New York; nevertheless, his performance earned him the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He also joined his 1994 Japan Series teammate Dan Gladden (1987 and 1991, Minnesota) as players to have won premiership titles in North America and Japan. [15] He became the first Japanese-born player to win the award, as well as the first player to win it as a full-time designated hitter in the Series. [16] He also became the third player in Major League history to bat .500 or above and hit 3 home runs in the same World Series, joining only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.[ citation needed ]

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Matsui greeted by his former teammates during the Yankees' 2010 home opener, as he receives his 2009 World Series ring Matsui greeted by Yankees 4-13-10.jpg
Matsui greeted by his former teammates during the Yankees' 2010 home opener, as he receives his 2009 World Series ring

On December 16, 2009, Matsui agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim worth $6.5 million. [17] He told Yomiuri Shimbun that he "loved the Yankees the best" but that he no longer felt valued and when his agent called to negotiate, "The Yankees had nothing prepared [in terms of contract conditions]." He made up his mind to sign with the Angels quickly. "I really felt their high expectations of me", he said. "They also acknowledged that I want to give fielding a shot." [18] On Opening Day 2010, Matsui went 2 for 4 with a home run in the Angels cleanup spot. [19] While playing in 145 games for the Angels, he produced a .274 batting average, 21 home runs and 84 RBIs. Matsui returned to free agent status following the close of the season, and on November 23, 2010 the Angels announced that they would not offer him salary arbitration. [20]

Oakland Athletics

Matsui with the Athletics in 2011 Hideki Matsui 2011.jpg
Matsui with the Athletics in 2011

On December 14, 2010, Matsui signed a one-year contract worth $4.25 million with the Oakland Athletics for the 2011 season. [21] On April 3, 2011, Matsui collected career hit number 2,500 (between NPB and MLB) at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum versus the Seattle Mariners and on July 20, 2011, Matsui hit career home run number 500 versus the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. [22]

Tampa Bay Rays

Hideki Matsui with the Tampa Bay Rays Hideki Matsui on July 24, 2012.jpg
Hideki Matsui with the Tampa Bay Rays

On April 30, 2012 Matsui signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. [23] He joined the Rays' Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls, on May 15, 2012. On May 28, 2012 it was reported that the Rays were going to call Matsui up for a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 29, 2012. Upon joining the Rays, due to his preferred number 55 belonging to pitcher Matt Moore, he elected to wear uniform number 35 for his former teammate Mike Mussina. On the first pitch of his second at bat against the Chicago White Sox on May 29, 2012, Matsui hit a two-run home run. [24]

However, Matsui's hitting was unimpressive during the next two months as he posted a .147 batting average. He was designated for assignment by the Rays on July 25, 2012 and was released on August 1. Upon playing for the Rays, Matsui succeeded in playing 10 top-tier professional seasons in both America (MLB) and Japan (NPB), [25] the first player in history to do so.[ citation needed ]


On December 27, 2012, Matsui officially announced his retirement from baseball. [26] His retirement ceremony was held on May 5, 2013 at the Tokyo Dome, during which the Japanese government awarded him, and Shigeo Nagashima, with the People's Honour Award inside the ceremony.

On July 28, 2013, Matsui signed a one-day contract with the New York Yankees, and formally retired as a member of the team, the Yankees organization granting his last wish in honor of his years as a successful player with the team. [27]

On January 15, 2018, Matsui was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame with 91.3% of the vote. [28] Elected at the age of 43, he became the youngest player to be inducted to the Hall, breaking a record held by Hideo Nomo. [29]

Playing streak

Matsui did not miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, putting together a streak of 518 games played. Before that, he played in 1,250 consecutive games with Yomiuri, for a total professional baseball streak of 1,768. Matsui holds the record for longest streak of consecutive games played to start a Major League Baseball career. [30]

On May 11, 2006, in his 519th game with the Yankees, Matsui fractured his left wrist on an unsuccessful sliding catch in the top of the first inning against the Boston Red Sox. Matsui, despite the injury, threw the ball back to the infield before gripping his wounded wrist in obvious pain. The game did not count toward Matsui's streak, as a player must field for at least half an inning or take an at-bat to be credited with a game played (MLB rule 10.24). [31] Matsui underwent surgery on May 12, 2006, the next day. He returned to the Yankees starting lineup on September 12 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and had an RBI-single in his first at-bat back, and proceeded to go 4 for 4 with a walk and scored twice. [32]

Personal life

Matsui personally donated $500,000 towards charity relief for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. [33] [34] He also donated $620,000 to relief efforts for victims of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 in the Tōhoku region of Japan.[ citation needed ] On March 21, 2015, Matsui and former teammate Derek Jeter held a baseball charity event to support children affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, at the Tokyo Dome. The event included a baseball clinic and a home run derby between Matsui and Jeter. [35]

Matsui announced to the press on March 27, 2008, that he had married in a private ceremony in New York. His bride's name was not announced, but it was reported that she was 25 years old and had been formerly working in a "reputable position at a highly respected company". They met in Japan after the 2006 off-season. [36] He and his wife have a son, and reside in an apartment on the Upper West Side and a house in Connecticut. [37]

Hideki Matsui with the Angels Hideki Matsui tips hat.jpg
Hideki Matsui with the Angels

During his playing career in the United States, thirty-five Japanese reporters were assigned to cover Matsui's playing career. [38]

See also

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  20. Spencer, Lyle (November 23, 2010). "Angels decline to offer arbitration to Matsui". mlb.com. Major League Baseball. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
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  22. Wilmoth, Charlie (20 July 2011). "Hideki Matsui Hits 500th Career Home Run". SBNation.com.
  23. "Rays sign Hideki Matsui to minor league contract". mlb.com.
  24. "Matsui homers in debut; Rays lose second straight". MLB.com. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
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  27. Rapp, Timothy. "Hideki Matsui Formally Retires with New York Yankees".
  28. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-01-15. Retrieved 2018-01-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. McIntosh, Whitney (January 16, 2018). "Hideki Matsui was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame". SB Nation. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
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Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Alex Rodriguez
American League Player of the Month
July 2007
Succeeded by
Magglio Ordóñez