Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball

Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball


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Wally Yonamine was both the first Japanese American to play for an NFL franchise and the first American to play professional baseball in Japan after World War II. This is the unlikely story of how a shy young man from the sugar plantations of Maui overcame prejudice to integrate two professional sports in two countries.


In 1951 the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants chose Yonamine as the first American to play in Japan during the Allied occupation. He entered Japanese baseball when mistrust of Americans was high—and higher still for Japanese Americans whose parents had left the country a generation earlier. Without speaking the language, he helped introduce a hustling style of base running, shaking up the game for both Japanese players and fans. Along the way, Yonamine endured insults, dodged rocks thrown by fans, initiated riots, and was threatened by yakuza (the Japanese mafia). He also won batting titles, was named the 1957 MVP, coached and managed for twenty-five years, and was honored by the emperor of Japan. Overcoming bigotry and hardship on and off the field, Yonamine became a true national hero and a member of Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.


In addition to the foreword by Hawaiian senator Daniel K. Inouye, this Nebraska Paperback edition features a new preface by the author, commemorating Yonamine at his death in early 2011.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803245174
Publisher: UNP - Nebraska Paperback
Publication date: 04/20/2012
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Robert K. Fitts is the author of Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game, for which he won the 2005 Sporting News–SABR Award for best baseball research.

Table of Contents



Prologue: A Gamble

1. "Just a Country Boy from Olowalu, Maui"

2. Football Star

3. The San Francisco 49ers

4. Lucky Breaks

5. Of Seals and Bees

6. A Winter of Uncertainty

7. Debut

8. The Jackie Robinson of Japan

9. Settling In

10. Lessons from Santa Maria

11. Gaijin Dageki Oh--Foreign Batting Champion

12. World Travelers

13. Hard Labor

14. Lucky Seven

15. Young Giants

16. End of an Era

17. Coach

18. Yonamine Kantoku

19. Sometimes Nice Guys Do Finish First

20. Suketto

21. Hall of Fame


Bibliographic Essay


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