Wally Yonamine

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Wally Yonamine
Wally Yonamine 1951 cropped.jpg
Date of birth: (1925-06-24)June 24, 1925
Place of birth: Olowalu, Hawaii
Date of death: February 28, 2011(2011-02-28) (aged 85)
Place of death: Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Career information
Position(s): Running back
Organizations
As player:
1947 San Francisco 49ers (AAFC)
Career stats
Playing stats at DatabaseFootball.com

Wallace Kaname "Wally" Yonamine (与那嶺要 Yonamine Kaname?), (June 24, 1925 – February 28, 2011), also known as Wally Yonamine, was a multi-sport American athlete who played in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.

Yonamine, a Nisei Japanese American, was born in Hawaii to parents Matsusai (September 1, 1890 – July 31, 1988) and Kikue (February 14, 1901 – February 26, 1999). A two-sport star, he played running back on the San Francisco 49ers in their second season (1947), becoming the first football player of Asian ancestry to play professional football.[1] In his one season with the team, he had 19 carries for 74 yards and caught 3 passes for 40 yards. His football career ended during the off-season, when he broke his wrist playing in an amateur baseball league in Hawaii.[1]

In baseball, Yonamine was the first American to play professional baseball in Japan after World War II. A multi-skilled outfielder, Yonamine was also noted for his flexible batting style and aggressive baserunning during his career with the Yomiuri Giants and Chunichi Dragons. In Japan, Yonamine was a member of four Japan Series Championship teams, the Central League MVP in 1957, a consecutive seven-time Best Nine Award winner (1952–58), an eleven-time All-Star, a three-time batting champion, and the first foreigner to be a manager (Dragons, 1972–77).[citation needed]

Wally Kaname Yonamine was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 for his achievements during his 12-year career with the Giants and Dragons.[1] He is the only American yet admitted into the Hall as a player.

He operated a highly successful pearl store—Wally Yonamine Pearls[2]—in Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan, with his wife Jane. They also had a branch of their store in California run by their children. In 2008, Wally Kaname Yonamine joined Master League team Nagoya 80 D'sers as a coach/part-time player.[1]

After an extended battle with prostate cancer, Yonamine died on February 28, 2011, aged 85, in Honolulu.[3]

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