The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer
2015 - University of Nebraska Press
In the spring of 1964, the Nankai Hawks of Japan's Pacific League sent 19-year-old Masanori Murakami to the Class A Fresno Giants to improve his skills. To nearly everybody’s surprise, Murakami, known as Mashi, dominated the American hitters. With the San Francisco Giants embattled in a close pennant race and desperate for a left-handed reliever, Masanori was called up to join the Big League club—becoming the first Japanese to play in the Major Leagues.
Featuring pinpoint control, a devastating curveball, and a friendly smile, Mashi became the Giants’ top lefty reliever and one of the team’s most popular players. Not surprisingly, the Giants offered him a contract for the 1965 season. Murakami signed, announcing that he would be thrilled to stay in San Francisco. There was just one problem – the Nankai Hawks still owned his contract.
The dispute over Murakami’s contract would ignite an international incident that ultimately prevented other Japanese from joining the Majors for 30 years. Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami Japan’s First Major Leaguer is the story of an unlikely hero who gets caught up in a clash between American and Japanese baseball and is forced to choose between fulfilling his dreams in the United States or fulfilling his duty in Japan—a decision that he regrets to this day.
"Rob Fitts has fabulously transported us back to Mashi’s family roots, childhood passion for the grand game and his trajectory to become the first major leaguer from Japan. It is a discovery and rediscovery of culture, baseball dynamics/politics and the man who transcended the sport as a gigantic touchstone ‘Pioneer’ for future players from Asia."
Kerry Yo Nakagawa, author, filmmaker, historian
"Mashi Murakami's impact can still be felt in baseball stadiums on both sides of the Pacific. He is a pioneer in every sense of the word.....a true Ambassador for the game of baseball."
Allan H. "Bud" Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball)
"Robert Fitts has done it again, with an absorbing look at Japanese baseball."
Bob D'Angelo, Tampa Tribune
Interviews with Rob about Mashi