I had a few emails in Japanese about this when I woke up this morning from my Fighters friends -- "You probably already know, but Kobayashi-coach died of a heart attack..."
Shigeru Kobayashi died on Sunday at a hospital in Fukui at the age of 57. He was with the Fighters as a ni-gun pitching coach in 2009 and was set to become the ichi-gun pitching coach in 2010, with Masato Yoshii being assigned to a ni-gun coaching role.
The stupid thing is, I never actually talked to Kobayashi, nor do I even have any photos of him from this year. I mean, I certainly saw him around, but my friends were better friends with the other coaches like Shimazaki and Yamanaka and Arai and all, so those were the coaches I ended up talking to or taking photos of. (Well, and Hajime Miki-coach, who is a week older than me.) I best remember Kobayashi as being "that guy who goes on roadtrips when Shimazaki isn't there". Like, I remember seeing him at minor-league games at places like Sagamihara.
There's already a pretty good obituary in English on the Japan Times site. Kobayashi had an extraordinary career in some ways, or more like, he had a few years of greatness that unfortunately mostly left him as a historical footnote for a lot of people of my generation.
If you've heard of the "Egawa Affair", where hotshot pitcher Suguru Egawa came out of Hosei refusing to play for any team but the Giants, but was drafted by Hanshin and tried to sign with Yomiuri after holding out for a year, and eventually Hanshin was essentially forced to trade Egawa to the Giants (despite a rule that said you could not trade first-year draftees) for the Giants' "best" pitcher in 1978 -- the 1977 Sawamura-award-winning, sidearm righty Shigeru Kobayashi. The story says that Kobayashi was at the airport on the way to spring training in January 1979 when he learned of the trade, and was diverted from a flight to Giants' spring camp to the Hanshin camp instead. Despite Hanshin only being barely over .500 that year at 61-60-9, Kobayashi became a Giants-killer, went 22-9 in 1979 with a 2.89 ERA, including being 8-0 against the Giants, and won ANOTHER Sawamura Award.
He retired young, at the age of 31; according to his Wikipedia page, after going 11-9 in 1982, he said "If I can't get at least 15 wins next year, I'm giving up and quitting", and he went 13-14 in 1983 and thus retired. He went on to do various TV work including sportscasting and a few spots in TV dramas, and then became a coach for Kintetsu for a few years, also coached for the SK Wyverns in Korea, and then came to the Fighters for the 2009 season.
Some comments from Fighters staff are in the official team release, too. It's kinda sad, even Darvish is like "I never really got much of a chance to talk to the guy, but he was really enthusiastic and I was hoping to work with him this year at ichi-gun. This is a real shock."
If you're in Japan near the Tokyo area, they have a little... I'm never quite sure how to translate kenkadai (献花台), which is basically that place where people put a photo of a deceased person and offer flowers and other stuff to it. Kind of like an altar, but that's not exactly right either. Ojisan has a photo of the kenkadai up on his blog if you want to get an idea what it looks like; in this case they've put a photo and a uniform and cap, and allowed fans to come out with flowers and messages. According to the Fighters website, it'll be out there at Kamagaya from Monday to Wednesday.
I wonder what the team's going to do about it -- my guess is Yoshii's going to be back up at the top team for a year and we'll find someone else to work with the farm, but who knows.
Sanspo also has a photo gallery of Kobayashi up from when he was a player and such, including a great one of him with Nashida and Mayumi joining the Buffaloes in 1997.
First, the Japanese baseball card blog did a nice post about Kobayashi with some old cards.
Second... it seems that Takeshi Shimazaki is going to take over as the ichi-gun pitching coach. I'm happy for him but am going to miss him at Kamagaya this year :(