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Katsuya Nomura, a Mainstay of Japanese Baseball, Dies at 84

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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 on 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, 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.

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 Most Valuable Player five times.

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, 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.

Nomura spent the bulk of his playing days with the Osaka-based Nankai Hawks. (The team later moved to Fukuoka and is now owned by the technology giant SoftBank.) The Hawks dominated the less popular Pacific League during most of Nomura’s tenure with the club, winning two championships but also losing four times to the Giants.

“When I first met him, he was the all-time leading home run hitter, but I had never heard of him,” Don Nomura said of his future stepfather. (Katsuya Nomura later adopted Don and his brother Kenneth, the sons of his second wife.) “All I knew was Oh and Nagashima, because they were always on TV. I had to go to the bookstore and look him up.”

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.

According to Robert Whiting, who has written about baseball in Japan for five decades, Nomura learned about the use of statistics from his Hawks teammate Don Blasingame, who had also served as a head coach during Nomura’s tenure as player-manager, from 1970 to 1977. 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.)

Nomura spent three years with the Hanshin Tigers, from 1999 to 2001, but resigned after his second wife, Sachiyo, a television commentator, was convicted of tax evasion. (He stepped down as manager of the Hawks in 1977 because of reports that his wife meddled in club affairs.)

After managing in Japan’s industrial league from 2003 to 2005, Nomura returned to the pro ranks in 2006 to manage the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who had entered the Pacific League a season earlier. After three losing seasons, the Eagles made the postseason in Nomura’s fourth and final year with the team.

As a manager, Nomura won 1,565 games, lost 1,563 and tied 76 times.

Nomura was often called “Grumpy Grandpa” for his gruff and unsparing manner. Some players felt the tough love helped them.

“Nomura taught me what pitching is and what baseball is from scratch,” said the Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who started his career with Rakuten. “That I met Nomura from my first year as a pro when he instructed me was the luckiest thing in my baseball life.”

Other players saw Nomura’s style differently, particularly those he berated in person and in the news media. He was also cold to some foreign players, according to Robert Whiting. After taking over the Swallows, Nomura released Larry Parrish, who had led the league in home runs the year before. He also released Tom O’Malley, who hit over .300 in his two seasons with Yakult. When the Hanshin Tigers refused to release the pitcher Darrell May in 1999, he issued a statement that accused Nomura of being xenophobic.

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

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U.N.L.V. Ends San Diego State’s Unbeaten Streak

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SAN DIEGO —Elijah Mitrou-Long scored 19 points, including two free throws with 11.5 seconds left, and U.N.L.V. handed No. 4 San Diego State its first loss of the season, a 66-63 defeat on Saturday, ending the Aztecs’ 26-game winning streak.

San Diego State, which had been the only remaining undefeated men’s team, erased most of a 14-point deficit when it pulled to within 64-63 on Malachi Flynn’s 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds left. Mitrou-Long was fouled by Matt Mitchell with 11.5 seconds left and made both free throws.

Flynn missed a contested 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left and the ball went to the Runnin’ Rebels (15-14, 10-6 Mountain West Conference). After a long pass down the court, Mitchell ended up with the ball and his desperation shot at the buzzer fell short.

San Diego State (26-1, 15-1) unveiled a banner for winning the regular-season conference championship before the game and then looked nothing like the team that raced to the best start in program history. The Aztecs trailed by 14 midway through the second half and were down 11 with 4:32 remaining.

They were uncharacteristically porous on defense and sloppy on offense, missing easy shots and committing careless turnovers.

San Diego State had been projected as the No. 1 seed in the East Region in the N.C.A.A. tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Providing the Aztecs do not falter again, the loss could keep the Aztecs in the West as the No. 2 seed. Gonzaga is the projected No. 1 seed in the West, where the regionals will be at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Aztecs will drop from their No. 4 spot in the Top 25, which matched the highest ranking in school history. The Top 25 was also shaken by No. 3 Kansas’ 64-61 win over No. 1 Baylor.

U.N.L.V.’s Amauri Hardy scored 17 points, and Bryce Hamilton added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Flynn scored 24 points, Mitchell had 13 and Jordan Schakel had 10 for San Diego State.

The Aztecs pulled within 62-60 on Flynn’s two free throws with 1:47 left and Arop Aguek’s layup with 25.6 seconds left. Mitrou-Long then made two free throws with 19.9 seconds left for a four-point lead.

Hardy’s jumper gave U.N.L.V. a 44-30 lead three minutes into the second half before San Diego State pulled within seven. But Hardy then made a free throw and a layup to put the Runnin’ Rebels back up by double digits.

U.N.L.V. took advantage of numerous breakdowns by the Aztecs to take a double-digit lead midway through the first half and were up 37-25 at halftime after a steal and dunk by Mitrou-Long.

San Diego State never led after going up 14-13 on a Flynn 3-pointer, and then allowing U.N.L.V. to go on a 10-0 run. Mitrou-Long started it by converting a 4-point play when he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Flynn.

The Aztecs’ only points in a four-minute span were two free throws apiece by Mitchell and Flynn. U.N.L.V. kept connecting, though, getting a bank shot by Hamilton and a 3-pointer by Mitrou-Long to take its first double-digit lead, 28-18 with 7:12 before halftime.

San Diego next hosts Colorado State on Tuesday.U.N.L.V. will play Boise State in its home finale on Wednesday.

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New Hockey Folk Hero, David Ayres

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That was quite the story tonight. Carolina could really bond over this game and the result. For Ayers, he has a story for the ages as he gets the victory.

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NCAA tournament bubble watch: Providence, Memphis help cause

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Three weeks away from Selection Sunday means NCAA tournament bubble teams are feeling the pressure to bolster their profiles in hopes of keeping their postseason hopes alive. 

Here’s a look at which teams enhanced and stained their résumés the most in Saturday’s action. 

PROFILE WINNERS

Providence: The Friars (16-12) started the day as one of the “last four in” the projected field of 68. Their 84-72 home victory over Marquette (and Markus Howard’s 38 points) moved them closer to the safety zone. Providence’s NCAA profile is peculiar in the sense that it features four résumé-staining Quadrant 4 losses. However, it also showcases seven Quadrant 1 victories, which is more than any bubble team. 

STATEMENT WIN: Kansas makes case as NCAA tournament’s top No. 1 seed

Memphis: The Tigers (19-8) picked up a much-needed 60-59 win over fellow bubble team Houston. Memphis has regrouped with two consecutive wins after losing three in a row before that. This victory alone over a Houston squad leading the American Athletic standings won’t push coach Penny Hardaway’s team into the projected field of 68 because a NET score in the 60s doesn’t do any favors, but beating Houston counts as a marquee win, which Memphis was desperately lacking on its résumé. 

Arkansas: The Razorbacks (17-10) are currently on the outside looking in as a bubble team that needs to keep winning to have a shot at the NCAAs. So beating SEC foe Missouri 78-68 on Saturday was necessary to keep those hopes alive. Arkansas only has a 4-9 record in league play (the committee doesn’t look at that), but has a top-50 NET score, top 15 non-conference strength of schedule and no Quad 3 or Quad 4 losses on its profile. 

Syracuse: The Orange (15-12) have a way to go to really enter the at-large bid discussion but winning games it should like Saturday against Georgia Tech will only help that cause. Syracuse’s NET score in the 60s isn’t good and neither are just two Quadrant 1 wins on the NCAA portfolio. But if Syracuse can pick up a couple of marquee victories in the final weeks of ACC play, it’s in business to push to the right side of the bubble. 

PROFILE LOSERS 

Purdue: The Boilermakers (14-13) fell 71-63 to Michigan at home in a must-win game to stay in the NCAA tournament hunt. It’s the fourth consecutive loss for Purdue, which now slips further to the wrong side of the bubble with a near-.500 record. The Boilermakers have an appealing NET score of 34 (and the committee has proved in the past how much it harps on this) and no horrible losses to go with four Quadrant 4 wins. But if there aren’t enough wins on the profile, it won’t matter.

Florida: The Gators (17-10) entered the day as a projected No. 11 seed and Saturday’s 65-59 loss to Kentucky won’t change that seed line. But if it gets close on Selection Sunday the loss could matter considering it would’ve given UF a résumé-lifting Quad 1 road win. Florida has a NET score in the 30s an top-15 strength of schedule, but it’s also one bad loss away from drifting to the wrong side of the bubble. 

Rhode Island: The Rams (19-7) fell in overtime to Davidson 77-75 and could potentially see their seeding line dip from No. 10 to a less safe No. 11. Rhode Island has an exceptional NET score in the low 30s but also owns only one Quadrant 1 win on its résumé. Another Quad 2 win over Davidson would have helped offset those profile shortcomings. 

Richmond: The Spiders (20-7) had won five in a row to leapfrog to one of the “last four in” the projected field this February. But mid-majors don’t have much room for error — meaning Saturday’s 75-71 loss to St. Bonaventure will likely shove Richmond out of the field. A NET score in the 40s is decent, but only two Quad 1 wins means the committee will already be harping on one portfolio shortcoming. 

North Carolina State: The Wolf Pack (17-10) came up with a huge win over Duke earlier this week, but couldn’t pull off another Quadrant 1 victory in falling to Florida State 67-61. A NET score in the 50s is the biggest profile flaw right now if the committee conducted a blind resume test. But adding to N.C. State’s five Quad 1 wins would have catapulted the Wolf Pack much further to the safety zone. Expect them to stay at the No. 10 seed line. 

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (17-10) lost to SEC foe Texas A&M after starting the day as one of the “first four out” on the projected bracket. Expect MSU to slip further to the wrong side of the bubble after this road loss. It’s not a résumé stain, but it is a loss that makes the next few weeks look bleak as far as tournament hopes go. Ben Howland’s team needs to start winning or it’s NIT. 

Oklahoma: The Sooners (16-11) lost to Oklahoma State 83-66 and as a result will take a hit from a projected No. 10 seed to a No. 11 seed — which is much closer to the wrong side of the bubble than fringe teams would prefer. Even though it was a road loss, now this puts OU in a position of needing to enhance its credentials in the final two weeks of the regular season. This team has a NET score in the 40s but is drastically lacking in the Quadrant 1 win department with just one. 

***

NCAA tourney explainer:

  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins, losses: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins, losses: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note:  Mostly all statistical data are used from USA TODAY Sports veteran bracketologist Shelby Mast. WarrenNolan.com and the NCAA’s NET rankings are also a reference point. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.

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