Wally Yonamine


Wally Yonamine

The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball

Robert K. Fitts
Foreword by Senator Daniel K. Inouye
With a new preface by the author

368 pages
20 photographs, 1 appendix


April 2012


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Wally Yonamine was both the first Japanese American to play for an NFL franchise and the first American to play professional baseball in Japan after World War II. This is the unlikely story of how a shy young man from the sugar plantations of Maui overcame prejudice to integrate two professional sports in two countries.
In 1951 the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants chose Yonamine as the first American to play in Japan during the Allied occupation. He entered Japanese baseball when mistrust of Americans was high—and higher still for Japanese Americans whose parents had left the country a generation earlier. Without speaking the language, he helped introduce a hustling style of base running, shaking up the game for both Japanese players and fans. Along the way, Yonamine endured insults, dodged rocks thrown by fans, initiated riots, and was threatened by yakuza (the Japanese mafia). He also won batting titles, was named the 1957 MVP, coached and managed for twenty-five years, and was honored by the emperor of Japan. Overcoming bigotry and hardship on and off the field, Yonamine became a true national hero and a member of Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
In addition to the foreword by Hawaiian senator Daniel K. Inouye, this Nebraska Paperback edition features a new preface by the author, commemorating Yonamine at his death in early 2011.

Author Bio

Robert K. Fitts is the author of Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game, for which he won the 2005 Sporting News–SABR Award for best baseball research.


"I got to know Wally in 1977 while he was still managing the Dragons, but wish I had seen him play 25 years earlier. Reading this biography is the next best thing. [Robert] Fitts leaves no stories untold about Yonamine's life in this excellent book."—Wayne Graczyk, Japan Times

"Fitts's expertise in Japanese baseball emerges throughout the narrative, as readers come to understand the evolution of baseball in Japan. Because the book covers such a broad time period—Yonamine stayed in Japan as a player, coach, and manager for thirty-seven years—it serves as a great primer on the general historical evolution of Japanese baseball, seen through the career of Wally Yonamine."—Eric B. Salo, NINE

"Extensively researched, well-written, and endlessly informative and fascinating, this book makes an excellent addition to anyone's baseball library and is absolutely required reading for anyone interested in Japanese-American baseball relations."—Michael Street, Baseball Daily Digest

"A great read about a Japanese baseball player who has been too long overlooked."—L. A. Heapy, CHOICE

"2005 Sporting News-SABR award winner Fitts deserves high marks for bringing forth this title sure to grasp pro football and baseball enthusiasts alike."—John Vorperian, Southern New England Chapter Society for American Baseball Research

"This is a must-read and a must-add to the bookshelf for those with an interest in the history of Japanese baseball, and a worthwhile read for any baseball fan looking to broaden their knowledge of this great game that has spread around the globe."—Pat Lagreid, Baseballbookreview.com

Table of Contents




Prologue: A Gamble

1. "Just a Country Boy from Olowalu, Maui"

2. Football Star

3. The San Francisco 49ers

4. Lucky Breaks

5. Of Seals and Bees

6. A Winter of Uncertainty

7. Debut

8. The Jackie Robinson of Japan

9. Settling In

10. Lessons from Santa Maria

11. Gaijin Dageki Oh--Foreign Batting Champion

12. World Travelers

13. Hard Labor

14. Lucky Seven

15. Young Giants

16. End of an Era

17. Coach

18. Yonamine Kantoku

19. Sometimes Nice Guys Do Finish First

20. Suketto

21. Hall of Fame


Bibliographic Essay


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