baseball stories: honoring masanori murakami, metrodad's all-star asian fantasy team, cubs' most valuable employee

Some baseball history for you. In 1964, the San Francisco Giants drafted Japanese pitcher Masanori Murakami, who became the first foreign-born Asian player to play in the major leagues. Although he only played for two years due to contractual obligations with his team in Japan, he played amongst some fo the best ball players in Giants' history—Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, among others. In many ways, he's the Asian Jackie Robinson.

So what happened to that guy? Next month, the Giants will invite 63-year-old Murakami back to the mound to commemorate and honor his contributions to Major League Baseball during Japanese Heritage Night on May 16. The evening is part of the Giants' annual Asian Heritage Week celebration: A 'Giant' Impact on The Asian American Community. Fans will get a limited edition Masanori Murakami bobblehead with pre-game ticket purchase. Cool! (The Giants will be playing the Houston Astros that night.)

Since we're talking about baseball, along similar lines... this is pretty cool. MetroDad, one of my favorite blogs, has put together his roster for an all-Asian fantasy baseball team: Field of Dreams: My All-Asian Fantasy Baseball Team. Because, as he explains, two of his greatest passions in life are "(1) being a proud Asian-American man, and (2) baseball" ...and he believes that Asian baseball players "are our greatest weapons in battling mainstream media's perception of the emasculated Asian male." Indeed. Here are the players he's drafted, and their positions:
CF Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)
2B Tad Iguchi (Chicago White Sox)
RF Kosuke Fukudome (Chicago Cubs)
LF Hideki Matsui (NY Yankees)
3B Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Devilrays)
C Kenji Johjima (Seattle Mariners)
SS Chin-Lung Hu (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1B Kaz Matsui (Houston Astros)
DH Johnny Damon (NY Yankees)

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
SP Chien-Ming Wang (NY Yankees)
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers)
SP Akinori Otsuka (Texas Rangers)
SP Kei Igawa (NY Yankees)

RP Hideki Okajima (Boston Red Sox)
RP Chan Ho Park (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RP Cha Seung Baek (Seattle Mariners)
RP Takashi Saito (Los Angeles Dodgers)
When you put them all together like this, damn, that's a pretty awesome lineup of players. Impressive, considering there were no players of Asian descent in the Major League when I was growing up. To read the full blog post, with MetroDad's reasoning and commentary (he put a lot of thought into it), go here.

And finally, here's an interesting story on Yosh Kawano, famed clubhouse manager for the Chicago Cubs, who turns 87 this year after 65 seasons with the team: Cubs change role for clubhouse fixture Yosh Kawano. Having been with the Cubs since shortly after World War II, the guy is an old timer, a recognizable dugout fixture and a living history of the franchise.

This season, however, Kawano will be given "new duties" because of concerns about his health. He's not the young guy he used to be. But don't fret— he's apparently the only Cubs employee with a guaranteed job. When the Wrigley family sold the team to Tribune Co. in 1981, a clause in the deal mandated that Kawano be retained and have a job for as long as he wanted. That's a valued employee.

And finally, columnist Furman Bisher is an idiot: Sayonara, baseball tradition.

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