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First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB

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First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
I am doing a report on Japanese baseball. Does anyone know who and when was the first Japanese baseball player to play in the MLB was?
Comments
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: torakichi | Posted: Mar 26, 2003 11:42 AM | HT Fan ]

- I am doing a report on Japanese baseball. Does anyone know who and when was the first Japanese baseball player to play in the MLB was?

Incredible timing! There was a story about this in the Daily Yomiuri yesterday or the day before. True to form, they didn't publish it on their good-for-nothing website. I'll see if I can find the article at home. Otherwise, from memory:

A guy called Goro Mi... Mi... Something, played in the US in the mid 1910s. He was from Kofu, Yamanashi, and played on a university team that toured the U.S. He liked his time in the U.S., and enrolled at a university in the U.S. where he could continue to play ball as well as study. He later joined some team that I've forgotten (why is it I can remember the city and prefecture he came from but not his name or the team he played for?!). Anyway, true to the times, his real name being beyond people back then, he was often known as "Jap Mikado."
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Suraj | Posted: Mar 26, 2003 6:27 PM ]

I read the article in Daily Yomiuri Torakichi is referring to as well. He played from 1914-1915 for the All-Nations, who weren't a Major League team, but rather a roaming "farmhouse" team, who used to pick up games as they went along, as well as stage performances for entertainment. This was before minorities were allowed in MLB, and the team comprised of Blacks, Hispanics, Cubans, etc., and one Japanese.

As Torakichi pointed out, his nickname was Jap Mikado, but I think his last name was Mikami.

Again, this is not Major League, and there are no stats for his playing, although he did reportedly bat leadoff, and played third(?) and outfield. The team was disbanded during the war, and eventually became the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League. Many players joined the Majors from this team after 1947.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Jim Albright | Posted: Mar 26, 2003 12:23 PM ]

To the best of my knowledge, my article at: The Baseball Guru not only has the correct answer of Masanori Murakami in 1964-1965, but it discusses the situation in some depth, and also at the end of the article provides citations which may be useful.

Jim Albright
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Tim Hower | Posted: Mar 30, 2003 11:01 AM ]

Masanori Murakami also appeared on a 1965 Topps baseball rookie card with the San Francisco Giants.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Bob Whiting | Posted: Mar 30, 2003 6:08 PM ]

Goro Mikami played for the All-Nations in the old short-lived Federal League in the 1914 and 1915 season. At the time, the Federal League was regarded as a rival to the American and National Leagues, hence the view, in some quarters, that Mikami, a.k.a. "Jap Mikado" was the first Japanese major leaguer.

Author Kazuo Teyana wrote a book about Mikami's life, entitled "Jap Mikado." It was published in Japanese in 1997. But there is not a great deal of material about his actual Federal League playing career.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: 1908 | Posted: Mar 31, 2003 2:09 AM | HT Fan ]

Baseball-Reference.com lists statistics for the Federal League (for instance, here's the entire roster of the 1915 Chicago Whales), but it makes no mention of the All-Nations. I suspect Mikami's team part wasn't part of the FL; rather, they just played exhibition games against FL teams. Too bad too, I was hoping to find Mikami's stats.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Bob Whiting | Posted: Mar 31, 2003 6:01 PM ]

I stand corrected. BTW. Do your pre-MLB listings for Mikami's All-Nations' include teammates Virgil Burns (who later played for the NY Yankees) and Art Dunbar (who played later for the Chicago White Sox)?

The author's name is Kazuo Sayama and the book's title is "The Mystery of Japan Mikado." With apologies.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: 1908 | Posted: Apr 1, 2003 2:05 AM | HT Fan ]

No, the database makes no mention of a Virgil Burns or an Art Dunbar, which is very strange if they played in MLB at some point. Do you happen to know the years they played for their respective MLB teams? I consider Baseball-Reference.com to be a creditable source, but I doubt the site infallible. Maybe they made a mistake.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: bob whiting | Posted: Apr 1, 2003 11:55 AM ]

According to the book, it was sometime after 1915. But there's probably some problem in transliteration from the original English to Japanese and back (through yours truly) into English again. But thanks.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: bob whiting | Posted: Jun 25, 2003 11:58 AM ]

How do you know that the Japanese government sought Murakami's return to Japan in 1965, and that the U.S. State Department "weighed in" on the issue and supported that request? What's your source for this?
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Jim Albright | Posted: Jun 26, 2003 4:58 AM ]

I cited my sources at the end of the article. I did not originate these claims. However, I find them a credible way to explain why MLB went from belligerent on the Murakami issue to basically giving up without any apparent quid pro quo from NPB.

Jim Albright
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: bob whiting | Posted: Jun 26, 2003 10:10 AM ]

Jim:

You cited 8 sources at the end of a several hundred word article dealing with 75 years of Japanese baseball history, but you didn't say which sources relate to which sentences. The baseballibrary link you listed mentions the Japanese government demanding Murakami be returned, "afraid that its country's teams would be decimated," but there are no sources given there, either. Furthermore, the idea that the Japanese government would worry about losing further players doesn't make sense in light of the fact that the dispute had arisen over the interpretation of a one-of-a-kind contract that Nankai signed with San Francisco, one that, no matter how it was resolved, would have no future bearing on the ability of other players to move from Japan to the U.S.

I was in Japan when this incident happened in 1964-65. I followed it very closely, but I never heard nor read of any reference to governmental involvement on either side. The same was ture when I researched this for C&B in 1973-1976.

I'm in the process of doing an update an the Murakami story and have had to revisit this material (which is why your aticle piqued my interest). I recently interviewed a ex-diplomat and friend of mine named William Givens who was running the Japan Desk in the State Department at the time of the Murakami flap. He says he heard nothing to suggest any State Department or U.S. government interest or involvement -- or that of MOF and the Japanese government -- and said he couldn't construct a plausible scenario in which any State Department official would -- officially or unoffically -- have gone to Frick with such a proposition.

What would have been the quid pro quo for Frick to cause him to cave? Who could have spoken for the Japanese side? The links and leverages between the MLB and the war in Vietnam were so remote, he said, that he could not make a plausible connection.

Jim, I'm not saying it didn't happen. As Bill said, maybe LBJ or Mac Bundy might have had some connection to Frick and whispered in his ear, but even then it is hard to conjure up a set of terms that would make such a deal fly. If it did happen, it would be nice to see some documentation or eyewitness evidence to that effect.

I always assumed that Frick gave in either out of concern over Murakami, who had been cooling his heels all through April 1965 waiting for some kind of resolution, or, if not that, out of just a general weariness over dealing with the problem and a desire to avoid any more negative effects it might have on dealings between the MLB and Japan. (The Pittsburgh Pirates, after all, had had to cancel their planned tour to Japan in 1965 because of the dispute.)

But maybe not. I'd like to know more. If anybody out there can shed some more light on this subject, I'd certainly be very happy to hear from them.

Best wishes.

Bob
The Murakami Affair
[ Author: Guest: Jim Albright | Posted: Jun 27, 2003 1:57 AM ]

Bob:

I understand the issue you have with that. However, I cannot come up with a better explanation for why MLB and the SF Giants caved like they did. Certainly, if a party associated with the Japanese government expressed an interest, the logical place for them to do so would be with the State Department. Perhaps it wasn't that department, but it would almost certainly be with someone associated with the government, most likely the then Johnson administration. I have to believe someone from the U.S. government got into MLB's ear on this. I say this because the SF Giants, per my understanding, had a perfectly enforceable agreement and a kid pitcher they liked because of it. Certainly, no other Hawk players came to the Giants through the resolution of the Murakami affair. I've never seen any suggestion that the Hawks paid the Giants to modify the agreement. Those would be generally accepted quid pro quos for amending a baseball contract, I should say.

Even those resolutions of the Murakami affair wouldn't explain why the majors didn't do anything to get any other Japanese players (at least to my knowledge) for almost three more decades. They wouldn't even touch Nomo until his "retirement" maneuver passed muster in the Japanese courts.

The only other thing I could possibly imagine was a threat by NPB to engage in a bidding war for players. However, I cannot see the majors so meekly bowing to such a threat. First, I would think any such threat by NPB would have been a mere bluff -- and a knowledgeable observer of the time probably could have deduced that. Therefore, I would expect that MLB's reaction to such a threat would have been to call their bluff, and if necessary, put up with such a war for at least a year or two. At that point, if they weren't trouncing the NPB in the fight, they could seek peace. Frankly, I think at that time they also were better equipped to fight such a fight than NPB, and would have won, with the NPB winding up no better than today's Mexican League. So that option explains none of what happened, either, IMO.

Your explanantion is nice, but.... First of all, I don't think the majors of that time were that solicitous of the players -- and remember, this was a team that gave Murakami virtually zero support in adjusting to the States when he came. Why would they be so concerned about him later? Further, that wouldn't explain the MLB's hands-off approach to Japanese players for nearly 30 more years. They were playing against Oh and the other Giants at least, and knew there was talent in Japan that the MLB could use as a result.

Some contact from the Japanese government to a sympathetic ear in the U.S. government (maybe even a powerful senator or representative) who then made at least a veiled threat of legislation to revoke MLB's antitrust exemption could make the majors cave in suddenly and take a fig leaf compromise of only another year for Murakami and the hands-off approach for a good long time -- especially when they soon became embroiled in fights with the players, had to dip into their profits to pay higher salaries, and really couldn't let the antitrust exemption be lost in the environment of 1965-1993. They could have decided that if there was that much heat over Murakami, they would have been burned over Oh or some other established Japanese star. Let's face it, Murakami was no more than a prospect, even for the Hawks when he came over in 1964, which is why the whole situation came about when he (like pitchers sometimes do) caught fire that year.

As always, I remain willing to be educated. However, I think that no explanation will cause me to change my mind from what I have set forth above without said explanation satisfactorily:

  1. explaining why the SF Giants and MLB caved in on the matter so suddenly and accepted so little, and
  2. explaining the hands-off policy of MLB toward Japanese players for the next 28 years.

I know this is a long response to your comment/inquiry, but I felt it was important to explain why I wrote about the State Department/Japanese government involvement.

Please let us know when you publish your findings on this issue. I for one will be most interested in your take on the matter.

Jim Albright

Re: The Murakami Affair
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Sep 24, 2003 8:15 AM ]

Jim,

With all due respect, I think the issue is too murky for you to leave the article as it is. Perhaps there is no better explanation, and maybe your conjecture is correct. But with no primary sources for that particular point, that's all it is. There's the possibility the respective governments got involved, but no proof of that. I think the article should be amended to reflect that.
Re: The Murakami Affair
[ Author: Guest: Jim Albright | Posted: Sep 25, 2003 10:34 AM ]

I feel otherwise, and, in any event, revising that article hardly qualifies as a priority for me right now.

Jim Albright
Re: The Murakami Affair
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Sep 28, 2003 5:07 PM ]

That's your choice, and I respect that. But I fear it hurts your credibility.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Shawn S. | Posted: Aug 14, 2003 3:29 PM ]

This is in reply to Bob Whitings' question about Art Dunbar and Virgil Burns.

I searched my 1987 copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and I could not find any record of either person having ever have played in MLB, and this book does list Federal League players and thier stats. The only Burns I came across who played near that time period was the infamous Sleepy Bill Burns (of the Black Sox scandal).

I hope this information has been of some use for you.

BTW are you the same Bob Whiting who wrote "You Gotta Have Wa"? If so, I would just like too let you know that I really enjoyed the book, and I have read it many times in the 15 or so years I've had it.

Shawn
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: Roger White | Posted: Sep 20, 2003 3:21 PM ]

The first Japanese player to play professionally in Major League Baseball was Masanori Murakami. Murakami was acquired by the San Francisco Giants in 1964 from the Nankai Hawks. Murakami played two seasons and completed his MLB career with a 5-1 record.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: lindsey | Posted: Nov 6, 2004 2:20 AM ]

Since everyone else answered that main question, I'll just put in a tidbit that Ichiro Suzuki is the first Japanese-born position player.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Nov 12, 2004 6:53 PM ]

Not so fast. In 2001, Tsuyoshi Shinjo actually played in a MLB game before Ichiro Suzuki did, making him the first Japanese position player in the major leagues.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: yakyuujin | Posted: Nov 13, 2004 8:36 AM ]

There is no way we can give Shinjo credit for being the first Japanese position player in the MLB. Ichiro signed before Shinjo did. Ichiro is the first Japanese position player in the MLB. Shinjo may have been the first position player to play because the Mets' game started earlier than the Mariners' game that same day. But that "title" of first Japanese position player is Ichiro's!
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: null | Posted: Nov 13, 2004 10:21 AM ]

I don't agree with you. Take this hypothetical situation - let's say back in 1973 someone on the Angels was penciled into a lineup card as the first ever DH in baseball history. But the player who first stepped into the batter's box as the first DH ever was Yankee Ron Blomberg. Does that Angels' player get credit for being the first ever DH? No way. Ron Blomberg gets credit for that.

Just because Ichiro signed first doesn't mean he's the first ever Japanese position player in MLB history. In the MLB history books Shinjo will go down as the first ever Japanese position player.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: John Brooks | Posted: Nov 13, 2004 10:44 PM ]

According to these Retrosheet box scores, Ichiro Suzuki was the first Japanese position player to take a bat in the majors. It shows Shinjo entered the game as a pinch runner for Benny Agbayani. Ichiro Suzuki led off for the Mariners in their opening day game.

April 2, 2001 Oakland A's vs. Seattle Mariners
April 3, 2001 New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: mijow | Posted: Nov 14, 2004 12:10 AM | HT Fan ]

Actually, I thought Shinjo signed before Ichiro. As a Tigers' fan, I remember thinking at the time how great it was that, although everybody was talking about Ichiro, here comes Shinjo stealing the limelight (in typical Shinjo style, I might add).
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: Guest: John Brooks | Posted: Nov 14, 2004 11:53 PM ]

According to Baseball Reference, Ichiro Suzuki was obtained from Orix on Novemeber 30, 2000 and Tsuyoshi Shinjo was obtained from Hanshin on December 11, 2000. [Ichiro's Profile] [ Click to reply to this topic  Reply to this post
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: mijow | Posted: Nov 15, 2004 10:23 AM | HT Fan ]

Eleven days between them. OK, I was wrong - but it was still great to see Shinjo at least share some of the limelight.
Re: First Japanese Player to Play in the MLB
[ Author: matteo | Posted: Nov 14, 2004 1:30 PM ]

Would it be out of line to suggest that not Ichiro, but Dave Roberts was the first Japanese position player? An American citizen, he was born in Japan to a Japanese mother.

If it were Japanese born, which Lindsey-san first said, then I think the title would go to Jim Bowie who played first base for the Athletics in 1994.
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