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Help bring Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese Major Leaguer, to the U.S. and celebrate the release of his biography with him
Help bring Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese Major Leaguer, to the U.S. and celebrate the release of his biography with him
75 backers pledged $6,462 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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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.

Tatsuhiko Tanaka, Hiroshi Takahashi and Masanori Murakami arriving in Arizona in March 1964
Tatsuhiko Tanaka, Hiroshi Takahashi and Masanori Murakami arriving in Arizona in March 1964

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.

Masanori Murakami
Masanori Murakami

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.

Author Rob Fitts with Masanori Murakami
Author Rob Fitts with Masanori Murakami

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!

Some of the great prizes
Some of the great prizes

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.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Baseball Card
    A standard-size baseball card of Masanori Murakami designed by renown artist Jesse Loving of Ars Longa Art Cards plus a big Thank You on our web site

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Earlier Book
    A paperback copy of Remembering Japanese Baseball signed by author Rob Fitts. This book contains 25 interviews with men who played in Japan including Masanori Murakami, PLUS A standard-size baseball card of Masanori Murakami designed by renown artist Jesse Loving of Ars Longa Art Cards plus a big Thank You on our web site

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Mashi Mug
    Coffee mug depicting Masanori Murakami

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Book
    a hardback copy of Mashi signed by author Rob Fitts

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    Autographed Baseball Card
    A large 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch Turkey Red Cabinet style limited edition baseball card of Masanori Murakami designed by renown artist Jesse Loving of Ars Longa Art Cards SIGNED BY MASHI (will be shipped in July)

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    Autographed Book
    a hardback copy of Mashi signed by MASANORI MURAKAMI (will be shipped in July)

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    15 backers
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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Autographed Baseball
    A signed baseball by Masanori Murakami (will be shipped in July)

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Rob Fitts Book Package
    Copies of all 4 books on Japanese baseball by Rob Fitts. Includes copies signed by Rob of Mashi, Banzai Babe Ruth, Wally Yonamine, and Remembering Japanese Baseball

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Mashi Autograph Pack
    A signed hardback copy of Mashi, a large 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch Turkey Red Cabinet limited edition baseball card signed by Mashi, and the standard size baseball card signed by Mashi. (will be shipped in July)

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Autograph Vintage Magazine & Book
    A copy of Asahi Graphic from 1966 autographed by Mashi and an autographed copy of the book Mashi (will be shipped in July)

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    Reward no longer available 2 backers
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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Private Reception in New York sometime from June 30 to July 3, 2015
    Join Mashi and author Rob Fitts for a small reception or dinner party PLUS receive an autographed hardback copy of the book Mashi. Exact date and location to be determined.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Private Reception in San Francisco on July 9, 10, or 11, 2015.
    Join Mashi and author Rob Fitts for a small reception or dinner party PLUS receive an autographed hardback copy of the book Mashi. Exact date and location to be determined.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Attend a SF Giants game as Mashi's Guest
    Join Masanori Murakami & author Rob Fitts at the July 10 SF Giants home game. Plus, get on the field access with Mashi for 15 minutes prior to the game. Plus get a copy of the book Mashi.

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Funding period

- (41 days)