August 5, 2021

Before Ichiro: Masanori Murakami

January 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Ichiro Suzuki, of the Seattle Mariners, has established himself as one of the most reliable players in Major League Baseball.  In 2009, the Japanese sensation broke a 108-year-old mark of eight straight 200-hit  seasons set by Wee Willie Keeler in 1901.  Since his rookie season, the incomparable Ichiro has tormented  MLB pitchers by amassing hits in every conceivable manner from legging out infield hits, slapping pitches to  the opposite field, and even a few occasions on bounced pitches.  The ten-time American League All-Star has compiled a lifetime .331 batting average and amassed 2244 hits.  In 2004, Suzuki set an all-time MLB record  of 262 hits breaking George Sisler’s old  mark of  257 hits in 1920.  Ichiro has accomplished all of these feats despite playing the first nine seasons of his professional career for the Orix Blue Wave of  the Japanese Central  League.  At his current pace, Ichiro will surpass the 3000 hit plateau during the 2014 campaign.  Baseball fans everywhere should come out and watch this all-time  great exhibit  his legendary batting skills and who  knows, you might just witness something that you have never  seen before.

Long before Ichiro became a household name, a left-handed screwball pitcher paved the way for future Japanese players. Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player ever in Major League Baseball.  He debuted in September 1964 for the San Francisco Giants at the age of 20.  Earlier in the season, the Nankai Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League sent him to the San Francisco Giants Class A Fresno team as a baseball exchange player.  Originally, Masanori was suppose to return to the Hawks in June but the team never called.  Murakami remained under contract with the Giants organization for the remainder of the 1964 season and pitched exceedingly well during his September debut.  An off-season dispute between the two teams resulted it the Japanese baseball commissioner making the final decision. The commissioner ruled that Murakami would return to the Hawks following the 1965 with the Giants.  It would take another thirty years for another Japanese player to cross the Pacific when Hideo Nomo debuted for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995.

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