Monday, November 8, 2010

More Foreign Flavor

This week, my post will be focusing on baseball in Japan, which I have found interesting even as I've often had a hard time understanding it. Back in June, I posted this little bit about a Japanese baseball card I have in my collection.

This time around, I have this:

This isn't a vintage card. It's a custom job by Gary Cieradkowski of The Infinite Baseball Card Set blog (check his stuff out, it's well worth the time) and sent to me by Rob Fitts, a historian, author and an old trading buddy of mine from way back. It shows Wally Yonamine, a Japanese Hall of Fame baseball player who comes from the U.S.A. Born in Hawaii and growing up just as World War Two began, his story is interesting. While he didn't play major league baseball in the U.S., he did manage to suit up for the San Francisco 49ers in 1947 (making him the first pro football player of Asian descent). By 1951, he was playing baseball in Japan; however, as an American just after World War Two, he was seen in a different light; however, looking like a native but not understanding the language or customs was likely even worse for him. Despite the problems, he went on to change the Japanese version of baseball by incorporating a heads-down, more aggressive style.

He went on to play and manage in the Japanese League for 37 years. When other Americans began playing over there beginning in the late 1950s, Yonamine was something of a cultural adviser.

While most Americans know few other players from Japan besides Sadaharu Oh and those who've been able to play in the major leagues (Hideo Nomo, Hieki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, etc.), it's worth mentioning that Yonamine was a big influence on Sadaharu Oh.

Again, this card (actually, two of them) was sent my way by Rob Fitts. He has written a book about Yonamine, which is available at Amazon:

Please check out the reviews there. In fact, feel free to go ahead and buy the book. I've known Rob for several years now. He's an author who looks at things from a historical standpoint (much like the way I like to add historical points right here on this blog). I'm willing to say that if you like the way I present the facts on this blog and also have a slight interest in Japanese baseball, you'll really enjoy this book.

In fact, if you click the link above and buy the book...the first person who sends me an email with their name and address and a note saying I talked you into getting a copy, I'll send along the card shown above to use as a bookmark.

1 comment:

  1. After finding out about Wally Yonamine a few years ago, I think his life story is fascinating and very compelling. I'm surprised that nobody has made any effort yet to make a biopic about him.

    I have a few Yonamine cards of interest to share--it'll be a good reason to fire up some posts on my infrequently updated blog.

    The best part is that if someone is so inclined, they can go meet him in person. He and his wife continue to maintain the pearl business that they started after his life in baseball.