Wally Yonamine in 1951
June 24, 1925|
|Died: February 28, 2011
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
|June 19, 1951, for the Yomiuri Giants|
|October 12, 1962, for the Chunichi Dragons|
|Runs batted in||482|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the Japanese|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
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. 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.
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).
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. He is the only American yet admitted into the Hall as a player.
He operated a highly successful pearl store—Wally Yonamine Pearls—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.
After an extended battle with prostate cancer, Yonamine died on February 28, 2011, aged 85, in Honolulu.
- Fitts, Robert K. (2008). Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-1381-4.
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