Japan's Sandy Koufax: The Yutaka Enatsu Story
TOKYO — Not much is known in North America about Yutaka Enatsu, a southpaw who was perhaps the best pitcher who ever played the game in Japan, and that includes Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. Americans who had the chance to see him throw, certainly never forgot the experience.
Red Schoendienst who watched Enatsu dominate his touring St. Louis Cardinals in a goodwill exhibition game in 1968, said, “He is one of the best lefthanded pitchers I have ever seen. He could teach Steve Carlton a thing or two.” Said former Yankee Clete Boyer, who batted against Enatsu while playing for the Whales from 1972 to 1975, “He was something else. At his best, he was as good as anyone I ever faced and that includes Bob Gibson. His fastball literally exploded at you.” Jim Lefebvre, an ex-Dodger who also played in Japan during that era compared him to Sandy Koufax.
Had Entasu played at a time when there was free agency in Japan and when selling one’s baseball talents to MLB was not considered an act of national betrayal, he would have unquestioningly been a star in the U.S. He might also have wound up in a federal prison — but more on that later.