Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball

Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball

by Robert K. Fitts
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Japan Times
I got to know Wally in 1977 while he was still managing the Dragons, but wish I had seen him play 25 years earlier. Reading this biography is the next best thing. [Robert] Fitts leaves no stories untold about Yonamine's life in this excellent book.—Wayne Graczyk, Japan Times

— Wayne Graczyk

Southern New England Chapter Society for American Baseball Research

"2005 Sporting News-SABR award winner Fitts deserves high marks for bringing forth this title sure to grasp pro football and baseball enthusiasts alike."—Southern New England Chapter Society for American Baseball Research
Choice
A great read about a Japanese baseball player who has been too long overlooked.—L. A. Heapy, CHOICE

— L. A. Heapy

baseballbookreview.com
This is a must-read and a must-add to the bookshelf for those with an interest in the history of Japanese baseball, and a worthwhile read for any baseball fan looking to broaden their knowledge of this great game that has spread around the globe.—Pat Lagreid, Baseballbookreview.com

— Pat Lagreid

Baseball Daily Digest
Extensively researched, well-written, and endlessly informative and fascinating, this book makes an excellent addition to anyone's baseball library and is absolutely required reading for anyone interested in Japanese-American baseball relations.—Michael Street, Baseball Daily Digest

— Michael Street

NINE
Fitts's expertise in Japanese baseball emerges throughout the narrative, as readers come to understand the evolution of baseball in Japan. Because the book covers such a broad time period—Yonamine stayed in Japan as a player, coach, and manager for thirty-seven years—it serves as a great primer on the general historical evolution of Japanese baseball, seen through the career of Wally Yonamine.—Eric B. Salo, NINE

— Eric B. Salo

NINE - Eric B. Salo

"Fitts's expertise in Japanese baseball emerges throughout the narrative, as readers come to understand the evolution of baseball in Japan. Because the book covers such a broad time period—Yonamine stayed in Japan as a player, coach, and manager for thirty-seven years—it serves as a great primer on the general historical evolution of Japanese baseball, seen through the career of Wally Yonamine."—Eric B. Salo, NINE
Southern New England Chapter Society for American Baseball Research - John Vorperian

"2005 Sporting News-SABR award winner Fitts deserves high marks for bringing forth this title sure to grasp pro football and baseball enthusiasts alike."—John Vorperian, Southern New England Chapter Society for American Baseball Research
Japan Times - Wayne Graczyk

"I got to know Wally in 1977 while he was still managing the Dragons, but wish I had seen him play 25 years earlier. Reading this biography is the next best thing. [Robert] Fitts leaves no stories untold about Yonamine's life in this excellent book."—Wayne Graczyk, Japan Times
Baseball Daily Digest - Michael Street

"Extensively researched, well-written, and endlessly informative and fascinating, this book makes an excellent addition to anyone's baseball library and is absolutely required reading for anyone interested in Japanese-American baseball relations."—Michael Street, Baseball Daily Digest
Choice - L. A. Heapy

"A great read about a Japanese baseball player who has been too long overlooked."—L. A. Heapy, CHOICE
baseballbookreview.com - Pat Lagreid

"This is a must-read and a must-add to the bookshelf for those with an interest in the history of Japanese baseball, and a worthwhile read for any baseball fan looking to broaden their knowledge of this great game that has spread around the globe."—Pat Lagreid, Baseballbookreview.com
LoveMyTeam.com
"[Wally Yonamine is] a fitting tribute to a ballplayer who shattered barriers and revolutionized a league, yet is unfailingly modest and gracious about it. No doubt this is the reason why so few of us have heard of Wally Yonamine. This book should go a long way towards rectifying that injustice-do your part by reading it."

— Michael Street, LoveMyTeam.com

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)

Meet 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.

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