Masanori Murakami

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Masanori Murakami
村上 雅則
Pitcher
Born: (1944-05-06) May 6, 1944 (age 70)
Ōtsuki, Yamanashi, Japan
Batted: Left Threw: Left
Professional debut
NPB: June 1, 1963 for the Nankai Hawks
MLB: September 1, 1964 for the San Francisco Giants
Last professional appearance
MLB: October 1, 1965 for the San Francisco Giants
NPB: 1982 for the Nippon Ham Fighters
NPB statistics
Win–loss record 103–82
Earned run average 3.64
Saves 30
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 5–1
Earned run average 3.43
Strikeouts 100
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Masanori "Mashi" Murakami (村上 雅則, Murakami Masanori, born May 6, 1944 in Ōtsuki, Yamanashi, Japan) is a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

He is notable for being the first Japanese player ever to play for a Major League team. Sent over to the United States by the Nankai Hawks, Murakami saw success as a reliever for the Giants, debuting at the age of 20 in 1964. In 1965, he struck out over one batter per inning pitched, posted an ERA under 4 and earned eight saves. Following this season, however, Murakami headed back to his original Japanese club due to contractual obligations, where he continued his success for another 17 years.

Biography[edit]

Murakami entered the Japanese Pacific League professional team, the Nankai Hawks, in September 1962, while still attending high school. In 1964, his team sent him, along with two other young players, to the San Francisco Giants single-A team Fresno as a baseball "exchange student". He was originally only scheduled to stay in the United States until June, but the Hawks neglected to call him back to Japan, and he stayed with the Giants for the rest of the season. In August of the same year, he was promoted to the majors, and on September 1, 1964, he became the first Japanese player to play in the major leagues. Murakami pitched extremely well as a reliever, and because of it, the Giants refused the Hawks' order to return him to Japan. The argument escalated during the 1964 off-season, and the Japanese baseball commissioner was called in to make the final decision on which team Murakami would play with. The commissioner made a compromise; Murakami would return to the Hawks after he had played for another full season with the Giants. He wore number 10 with the San Francisco Giants.

Murakami returned to the Hawks in 1966, but failed to live up to the team's high expectations. He proved himself by winning 18 games in 1968, and contributed to the team's league championship in 1973, but was traded to the Hanshin Tigers in the 1974 off-season. He did not pitch well, and the Tigers released him after one year, but the Nippon Ham Fighters picked him up. He made a comeback in 1978, winning 12 games, and contributing to the team's league championship in 1981. Murakami retired in 1982, but returned to the San Francisco Giants spring camp in 1983. He was not signed as a player, but became a batting practice pitcher for Giants' home games.

He worked as a commentator from 1984 to 1986, and became a minor league pitching coach for the Nippon Ham Fighters from 1987 to 1988. He also served as a pitching coach for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and Seibu Lions. He also briefly worked as a scout for the San Francisco Giants, and is now a commentator for NHK major league baseball games, and writes for the Daily Sports newspaper.

In 2004, Murakami was presented with the Foreign Minister's Certificate of Commendation in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Japan-US relationship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.[1]

Murakami was honored by the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Friday, May 16, 2008, when a limited edition Murakami bobblehead was given away at the evening game against the Chicago White Sox as part of the team's "Japanese Heritage Night" promotion. He was again honored on the 50th anniversary of his debut on Friday, May 15, 2014 during the team's "Japanese Heritage Night" promotion and game attendees were given a figuring-style bust of Murakami, and threw out the first pitch of the game.

Pitching style[edit]

Murakami was not an overpowering pitcher. His fastball was only in the low to mid 80 mph range, even during his prime. His best pitch was a sharp screwball, which he learned in the majors, and he also threw a good changeup and curve. He was a valuable reliever, being a left-hander throwing from the sidearm. His total record in two years in the majors was 5–1, 9 saves, with a 3.43 ERA in 54 games.

Language skills[edit]

He could barely speak or understand English when he first came to the United States, and always had a dictionary on hand to communicate with teammates. When promoted to the majors, he was told to go to New York (where the San Francisco Giants were playing), and was given his plane ticket on the spot. In New York, he signed a major league contract even though he could not read a single word written on the contract.

Notes[edit]

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