Connect with us


Kensuke Kondoh and Domingo Santana Vying for Prestigious Triple Crown

The dual pursuit of the Triple Crown brings back memories of Randy Bass and Hiromitsu Ochiai, who dominated NPB batting in the mid-1980s.



Triple Crown
Kensuke Kondoh (left) and Domingo Santana (©SANKEI, KYODO)

As Shohei Ohtani pursues a potential Triple Crown in Major League Baseball, two players in Japan are also contending for the prestigious honor with the season just past the midway point.

As of Wednesday, July 10, Kensuke Kondoh of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks is currently leading the Pacific League with a .337 batting average, is tied for first in homers with 13 and is second overall in RBIs with 47, just three behind teammate Hotaka Yamakawa.

Triple Crown
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks star Kensuke Kondoh is having a terrific season at the plate. (©SANKEI)

Over in the Central League, Domingo Santana of the Swallows is first in batting average (.312), second in RBIs (42) and third in homers (11).

Triple Crown
Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger Domingo Santana (©SANKEI)

Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows became the youngest player at 22 to win the Triple Crown in 2022 when he belted 56 homers with 134 RBIs and .318 batting average.

Former Lotte Orions slugger Hiromitsu Ochiai, who won the NPB Triple Crown a record three times, in 1982, '85 and '86, commented on Kondoh's batting skills.

"His follow through has gotten a lot bigger," Ochiai said on TBS' Sunday Morning news program. "He has started to use his whole body to swing all the way through and I think that's a big factor for his improved numbers."

Triple Crown
Hiromitsu Ochiai in a 1985 file photo. (©SANKEI)

Memories of Triple Crown Winners

The dual pursuit this season brings back memories of the mid-1980s when Randy Bass of the Hanshin Tigers and Ochiai of the Lotte Orions remarkably both won the award two years in a row.

In 1985, Bass had a .350 batting average, 54 homers and 134 RBIs while Ochiai had a .367 batting average, 52 homers and 146 RBIs.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, the two players came back the next year and achieved the feat once again.

Triple Crown
Randy Bass in a 1986 file photo. (©SANKEI)

In 1986, Bass batted .389 with 47 homers and 109 RBIs while Ochiai had a .360 batting average with 50 homers and 116 RBIs.

It was an incredible time in NPB. Just to put it in perspective, prior to Murakami winning his Triple Crown in 2022, the only player to win it between '86 and 2022 was Nobuhiko Matsunaka of the SoftBank Hawks in 2004.

Sadaharu Oh in an undated file photo.

Oh was a Triple Crown Winner in 1973 and '74

Other than Bass and Ochiai, the only player to win back-to-back Triple Crowns was Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, who did so in 1973 and then again in 1974 for the Yomiuri Giants.

In total, only eight players in the history of NPB have won the award.

In addition to the aforementioned players, the others are Greg "Boomer" Wells of the Hankyu Braves in 1984, Katsuya Nomura of the Nankai Hawks in 1965 and Haruyasu Nakajima of Yomiuri, the first winner in 1938.

As for Ohtani, he is first in homers (28), first in batting average (.315) and tied for third in RBIs (65) in the National League.

The last Triple Crown winner in MLB was Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in 2012 when he had a .330 batting average with 44 homers and 139 RBIs.


Read baseball coverage throughout the year on SportsLook.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.