Bridge across the Pacific
Prewar and postwar Nisei’s play Professional Baseball in Japan

Ambassadors of San Francisco

As early as 1914, Japanese-Americans have traveled across the Pacific to play baseball in Japan. They helped to pioneer and innovate the game of baseball with an American spirit of style and play. Seattle and Hawaii Nisei teams played the Universities in Japan from 1914 to1923. California teams from Fresno, Stockton, San Jose, Los Angeles and Alameda made there early tours starting in 1924 to 1937. The long ocean journey took 15 days on a boat.

In 1934, an American major league Hall of Fame team came to Japan led by Babe Ruth. The All-Japan Team was selected from the best players of the nonprofessional teams to compete with these legendary players. With these members as its core, the first professional team, the Dai Nihon Baseball Club, was organized at the end of 1934, and by 1936 seven professional teams had been formed.

Prewar Hawaiian all-stars Henry ‘Bozo’ Wakabayashi,(Japan Hall of Fame), Hisashi Koshimoto ( Keio University Coach-Japan Hall of Fame),Jimmy Horio and Kaiser Tanaka became legends in Japan. Eighteen prewar players came from Hawaii and California to play professionally in Japan.

Professional baseball rapidly grew into Japan’s most popular spectator sport in the postwar years, with an annual attendance of over 14 million, and televised games became top-rated programs.

After playing professional football for the 1947 Forty-Niners, Wally Yonamine signed with the Yomiuri Giants in 1951 and played till 1962 leaving the game with one of the highest lifetime batting averages at .311 Wally went on to Coach and Manage from 1963 to 1988. He was inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame in 1994.

Currently there have been 22 Japanese-American players since the early 50’s that have played professionally in Japan. Only two Japanese players have come from Japan to play major league baseball in America. Matsunori Murakami signed with the San Francisco Giants in1966, and 30 years later Hideo Nomo brought his Rookie of the Year and All-Star status to the United States.

The present two-league system, consisting of the Central League and the Pacific League, was set up in 1950. Each league has six teams, all of which are owned and sponsored by large corporations. The Central league has the Yakult Swallows, Chunichi Dragons, Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers, Yokohama BayStars and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp Team. The Pacific League has the Seibu Lions, Nippon Ham Fighters, Orix BlueWave, Kintetsu Buffaloes, Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.Each team plays 230 games between early April and early October. The regular season is followed by the Japan Series, a seven- game match between the two league champions.

Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio once said that he hopes that one day a true Global World Series would be a reality. Countries that have a long legacy of baseball would compete in a game that we all love, and it would convey to the world our goodwill intentions and relations seen through the prism of baseball.

The history of baseball is becoming increasingly relevant, as more and more players from Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, and in the sandlots of our ethnically diverse ballparks in America. Baseball is internationalizing rapidly across the world, and as our national pastime spreads, so should our bridges of goodwill and brotherly love.

 

 

BRIDGE ACROSS THE PACIFIC-NISEI PLAYERS

1936-41 (Prewar)

1. Kiyomi “Slim” Hirakawa ( Nagoya Kinko-1b/Pitcher

2. Fumito “Jimmy” Horio ( Hankyu-OF)

3. Yoshio Takahashi ( Nagoya-INF)

4. Henry Tadashi “Bozo” Wakabayashi ( Osaka Tigers-Pitcher)

5. Masao Furukawa ( Eagles-Pitcher)

6. Jiro Moriguchi (Tokyo Senators-OF)

7. Fujio Ueda ( Hankyu-INF)

8. Tadashi Kameda ( Eagles-3B/Pitcher)

9. Yoshio “Kaiser” Tanaka ( Osaka Tigers-C)

10. Yoshio Ueda ( Nankai-INF)

11. Toshio Kameda ( Osaka Tigers-C)

12. Shigekazu Hasegawa ( Kurowashi-Pitcher)

13. Chikayoshi Honda (Nagoya-1B/OF)

14. Kiyo Nogami ( Hankyu Braves-INF)

15. George Matsuura ( Nagoya-Pitcher)

16. Frank Yamada ( Hankyu-INF)

17. Tuts Iwahashi ( Dairen-INF)

18. Shiro Kawakami ( Dairen-INF)

1942-Current (Postwar)

1. Chikayoshi Honda ( Nagoya-1B/OF/Manager)

2. Isao Odachi ( Mainichi Orions-OF)

3. Wallace Kaname”Wally” Yonamine ( Yomiuri Giants-OF)

4. Tsutomu Yamichi (Nishitetsu Lions-INF)

5. Masato Morita ( Mainichi Orions-Pitcher)

6. Dick Kitamura ( Mainichi Orions-INF)

7. Jun Hirota ( Yomiuri Giants-C)

8. Katsuji Kojima ( Hanshin Tigers-OF)

9. Bill Nishita ( Yomiuri Giants-Pitcher)

10. Richard Fumiharu Kashiwaeda ( Yomiuri Giants-OF)

11. Ben Mitsuyoshi ( Hiroshima Carps-Pitcher)

12. Kenso Zenimura ( Hiroshima Carps-OF)

13. Kenshi Zenimura ( Hiroshima Carps-OF)

14. Tomoharu Kai ( Kintetsu Pearls-OF)

15. Mitsuru Watanabe ( Kintetsu Pearls-C)

16. Mitsuru Matsuoka ( Yomiuri Giants-Pitcher)

17. Andy Miyamoto ( Yomiuri Giants-OF)

18. Jun Hirota ( Yomiuri Giants-C)

19. Stanley Hashimoto ( Toei Flyers-INF)

20. Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama ( Hiroshima Carps-INF)

21. Allen Yamamoto ( Daiei Unions-INF)

22. Carlton Hanta (Nankai Hawks-INF)

23. George Fujishige ( Hanshin Tigers-C)

24. Eddie Takei (Toei Flyers-INF)

25. Dick Kamiya ( Daimai Orions-C)

26. Fred Kuhaulua ( Chunichi Dragons-Pitcher)

27. Mike Lum ( Taiyo Whales-INF)

PLAYERS FROM JAPAN

1. Matsunori Murakami ( San Francisco Giants-Pitcher) 1966

2. Hideo Nomo (Los Angeles Dodgers-Pitcher) 1995

3. Shigetoshi Hasegawa ( Anaheim Angels-Pitcher) 1997

4. Hideki Irabu ( New York Yankees-Pitcher) 1997

5. Takashi Kashiwada ( New York Mets-Pitcher) 1997

6. Makoto Suzuki ( Seattle Mariners-Pitcher) 1997

7. Masato Yoshii ( N.Y. Mets- Pitcher). 1997

Yonsei Players ( 4th generation)

1. Don Wakamatsu ( Chicago White Sox) 1980

2. Onan Masaoka ( Los Angeles Dodgers) 1999

 

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