The fans wanted to see the league's new stars. In 1958 and 1959, an incredibly talented crop of exciting rookies entered Japanese professional baseball. These players did not play the slow, passive game of the 1940s. They had grown up watching Yonamine and his Giants while playing high school and college ball during the 1950s. They were faster, stronger, and more aggressive than their predecessors -- and the fans loved them. [...]Wally joined the Giants in 1951, and less than a decade later, Yonamine's style of play had gone from being the exception to the norm as the next generation of players came up. You could argue that other foreigners had brought over similar dynamics, sure. But none had the national exposure that Yonamine had with Yomiuri's vast media empire.
Yonamine's success came at an important time for the Nisei community. With World War II raging, anti-Japanese sentiment was high. Japanese Hawaiians were not treated as poorly as mainland Japanese Americans, as their sheer numbers made them vital to the economy, but they still faced discrimination and hostility. Over three thousand people, mostly community leaders, were incarcerated and many Japanese Hawaiians faced hiring discrimination as well as racial slurs. There were not many Japanese American football players -- many Japanese parents, not wanting their boys to get hurt, discouraged football and pushed them toward baseball. Wally's triumphs made him a celebrity in the Nisei community and a source of pride in that troubled time. [...]One of the truly interesting thing about this biography is how Fitts-san will tie in what is going on in Wally's life within the social and historical context of the time. I can't say that I really learned much about history growing up. At least, it doesn't seem like it when I feel that I've learned more about history from watching The Discovery Channel than in middle and high school. This biography brings even more history to light, and makes it relevant as one watches Wally grow up in the midst of these social changes.
One day, perhaps on this home stand, an eleven-year-old boy stood in the crowd. He had tried many times to get players to sign, but, as he remembered later, "The players would walk past me as though I didn7t exist. My brother would tease me because I always wound up feeling so hurt that I wanted to cry." On that day, too, the players walked by him. Then the last player, Yonamine, stopped, looked directly at the boy and smiled. "He took my board, asked my name -- which I could barely get from my lips -- and signed his autograph."Excuse me while I blow my nose. I was on the train when I read that passage, and had to do my best to restrain my swelling eyes. With this one selfless act, it seems to me that Wally did much more than just change Japanese baseball.
Sadaharu Oh still treasures that shikishi. [...] Oh commented, "When I became a player it was always remarked how readily I gave autographs -- which is true -- but I did so for the best of reasons: because of the joy Wally Yonamine brought into my life one afternoon in my boyhood.
This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.
It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.