For nearly a century and a half the shared love of baseball has bound the United States and Japan together. Baseball exchanges have been used to forestall war in the 1930s, reunite the two countries in the late 1940s, and seal political alliances in the 1950s and 60s. More recently, the dozens of Japanese playing in the Major Leagues have allowed the two countries to share their diamond heroes. 2014-15 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Japanese to play in the Majors.
In March 1964, the Nankai Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League sent three teenagers to the United States to train with the San Francisco Giants’ minor league teams.
To everybody’s surprise 19-year-old reliever Masanori Murakami became the California League’s top pitcher, earning him a September call up to the Big League club. With an inning of relief against the New York Mets on September 1, 1964, Murakami became the first Japanese to appear in a Major League game.
Mashi went on to become the Giants top left-handed reliever and one of the most popular players on a star-studded team. 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 would force the young man to choose between fulfilling his dreams in the United States or fulfilling his duty in Japan--a decision that he regrets to this day.
For the past three years, I have worked with Mashi to bring his story to an English-speaking audience. His biography, Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer, will be published this spring by the University of Nebraska Press but I need your help for a very special undertaking.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mashi becoming the first Japanese in the Majors, I want to bring Masanori Murakami to the United States in the summer of 2015 for a three-week lecture tour to meet his fans.
At each event, I will speak about Mashi’s career and importance to U.S.-Japanese relations; filmmaker Yuriko Romer will show a short film on baseball diplomacy and discuss the topic, and we will then conduct a short on-stage interview with Murakami before opening the floor for questions. Afterwards, Mashi will meet with fans and sign copies of his biography.
Proposed Tour Schedule
June 26, 2015: Chicago- Society of American Baseball Research
June 28: Boston- Japan Society of Boston
June 29-July 2: New York City - To Be Announced
July 3: Rhinebeck, NY - Oblong Books
July 4: Cooperstown, NY - National Baseball Hall of Fame
July 6: Los Angeles - To Be Announced
July 7: Los Angles - Whittier College
July 8: Fresno CA - Buddhist Temple
July 9: San Francisco - SF Public Library
July 10: San Jose - San Jose Public Library
Completing a tour of this scope is expensive. I need to pay for Mashi's travel expenses, room and board, and a translator to help fans speak with him. That's where you can help make this amazing opportunity possible. Our modest goal of $3,000 will only cover about half of the tour's expenses but it would be enough to insure that it happens. Sponsors will also get some great prizes, including autographed copies of the book Mashi, signed photos and baseball cards, and even an opportunity to attend a private reception with Mashi. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated!
Risks and challenges
The most daunting challenge for the project is raising the funds needed for Masanori Murakami's travel expenses. With your help, we can make it happen. The logistics of the tour are already worked out. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of Mashi's many fans, we have found many local organizations to sponsor our events at large venues.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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