Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama, another Nisei All-Star, began his serious baseball days as a 12 year old farm boy in Exeter, California. During World War II, his family was relocated with thousands of other Japanese-Americans to Poston, Arizona, site of Internment Camp Number Two. While there, he started playing sand lot football and progressed to organized baseball within the camp's 32 team league.
Hirayama refined and developed his baseball skills with the competitive nature of camp ball. After the war, his family returned to California's San Joaquin Valley. He finished high school and was given a scholarship to play baseball at Fresno State College. There he lettered in football and baseball. His incredible base path speed led to two records that stood for more than 40 years: 76 stolen bases in a season and five stolen bases in one game. It was recently broken by Tom Goodwin, now with the Kansas City Royals.
His skills were world-class and it prompted a contract from the Stockton Ports, a farm team for the St. Louis Browns. He became one of the first Japanese Americans from Fresno to play professional baseball. But one year later Uncle Sam called, and from 1953-55, Hirayama continued his baseball days as a soldier at Fort Ord. Many of his teammates went on to Major League clubs.
After being discharged, Hirayama signed with the Hiroshima Carp in the Japanese Baseball League. Both Hirayama and fellow teammate Kenshi Zenimura were received with incredible fanfare and popularity. They were the first mainlanders to play in Japan. More than 100,000 fans showed up at the Horoshima train station to greet these two U.S. ballplayers. Hirayama became a two-time All-Star, and competed in Japanese-MLB All-Star games against men like Mickey Mantel, Whitey Ford, Casey Stengel and Stan Musial.
Hirayama played for Hiroshima for 10 years, and today he is a scout for the Carp organization in Japan and in the Dominican Republic. Hirayama exemplifies the competitive spirit of a young Nisei that rose to many of life's challenges. He pioneered baseball in California and abroad in Japan. He truly is one of the game's finest Nisei ambassadors that serves as an inspiration to many future generations of athletes and high achievers.
Kenichi Zenimura George "Hats" Omachi
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