I’ve been neglecting the Japanese cards lately, so let’s kick it back in beginning with a name from the 1960’s which many of you are familiar with….
Masanori Murakami was the first Japanese-born player in the Major Leagues, having pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965. He made his Major League debut at Shea Stadium, pitching a scoreless inning against the Mets. Over his brief MLB career, he pitched 89.1 innings and had a 5-1 record with a 3.43 ERA, 0.985 WHIP and 9 unofficial saves. He returned to Japan in 1966 and pitched for the Nankai Hawks, Hanshin Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters.
When I first became aware of Japanese baseball, I didn’t know what to make of “Nippon Ham Fighters”, and I wasn’t aware that the teams were named after their corporate owners… So rather than the “Fighters” owned by Nippon Ham, I thought they were the “Ham Fighters” of Nippon.
…Hey, I was a kid. I liked to think that a Ham Fighter was some sort of Japanese warrior… Samurai, Ronin, Shogun, Ham Fighter.
My parents owned a couple of James Clavell novels with names like “Shogun” and “Noble House”, and even though I never read any of them, I wouldn’t be surprised if I that played some role in the misunderstanding.
Part of me is still a tiny bit disappointed that I was wrong about the name.
Murakami did make it on to a 1965 Topps card… one that, I’m slightly ashamed to say, I don’t own.