Monday, September 1, 2014

Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese player in MLB September 1, 1964

On this day in Baseball History September 1, 1964: Relief  pitcher Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese baseball player to play in the major leagues. Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Murakami contractual rights were owned by the Nankai Hawks of the Nippon Professional League (NPB). The Hawks had established a prospect exchange program with the San Francisco Giants Nankai Hawks in a temporary prospect exchange program. Murakami would start his United States baseball career with the Class A Fresno Giants. He would put up an 11-7 record with a 1.78 ERA in Fresno before being called up to the big leagues.

Murakami’s first year in the majors proved to be successful, with a 1-0 record in nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA and one save. After the 1964 season the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return to Japan, but the Giants refused on the grounds they had Murakami under contract causing some ill feelings between the two leagues.

After reviewing the contract that were signed by the league and Murakami, the Japanese baseball commissioner intervened, negotiating a compromise. Murakami spent 1965 with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight saves in 45 relief appearances with 85 strikeouts to 22 walks. In 1966, he returned to Japan, to pitcher for the Nankai Hawks. He would play for the Hawks (1963/1966-1974), the Hanshin Tigers (1975) and the Nippon Ham Fighters (1976-1982) of the NPB.

For an in-depth biography on Murakami, click on the link Masanori Murakami from the Baseball Bullpen page. Here is the boxscore to the September 1, 1964 matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets from the September 2, 1964 edition of the New York Times:

Here is the MLB Network video Remembering Masanori Murakami:

It would be until 1995, that a Japanese-born player would don a uniform for a Major League team when Hideo Nomo joined the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Recently the San Francisco Giants honored Masanori Murakami before a Giants game. Though his MLB career was short, he helped to build the path that many Japanese baseball players are using today in the MLB. As customary the last few offseasons, we've been watching to see who is the next player to leave the NPB for the MLB. Who will it be this year.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's minor league statistics for the 1964 season from Baseball
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's major league statistics for the 1964-1965 seasons from Baseball Almanac
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's Nippon Professional Baseball statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's complete professional statistics (Japan/US) from
- Click Here to access Growing the Game: The Globalization of Major League Baseball by Alan M. Klein from Google Books
- Click Here to access Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert K. Fitts from Google Books.
- Click Here to access The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2007-2008
 edited by William M. Simons from Google Books
- Click Here to access 50 Years Ago Today: Masanori Murakami Arrives in Arizona for Spring Training from Bill Staples Jr's blogpage dated March 14, 2014
- Click Here to access the article Japan’s Baseball Trail Blazer (Interview with Masanori Murakami by Matthew Hernon) from Tokyo Weekender dated March 8, 2012