If you're not sure who Wally Yonamine is... he was a multi-sport athlete who was often referred to as the Nisei Jackie Robinson.
In 1947 he became the first Japanese-American player to play professional football. He was a running back on the San Francisco 49ers during their second season in the All-American Football Conference. His football career was cut short after he broke his wrist in an amateur baseball game.
A few years later, Wally broke into baseball with the Salt Lake City Bees (a minor league team in the Pioneer League). A year later... he headed across the Pacific to play in Japan.
Wally was the first American to play professional baseball in Japan. He signed with the Yomiuri Giants in 1951 and his career took off. He won three batting titles (1954, 1956, and 1957) and one MVP award (1957).
He spent 37 years in Japan as a player, coach, and manager... and in 1994 he was elected to the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.
After a few emails, Mzentko offered to send me this promo card of Mr. Yonamine:
The back of the card has a great biography of Wally, along with an advertisement for a book called: Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball. You can find out more about the book on their website: www.WallyYonamine.com
Mzentko also sent me a sweet vintage Japanese baseball card of Kaoru Betto, who along with Yonamine is also enshrined in the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.
This disc is from the 1948 Menko disc set. I asked my dad to translate the writing on the card and he said it reads "top batter". It's officially the oldest Japanese baseball card in my collection.
Oh... if you're familiar with the movie, The Big Lebowski... then you might remember Jeff wearing a shirt with Betto on it. I found this image on Google:
Anyways... I wanted to thank Mzentko for the cards. Both of them are amazing additions to my Japanese PC. I hope you enjoy the Bob Gibson card that I sent you.
Today's question of the day...
Who do you think is cooler? Wally Yonamine, Kaoru Betto, or Jeff Lebowski? What's your reasoning?
This one is tough... Lebowski is the man and I'm a huge fan of the movie... but I have to go with Yonamine. He was a pioneer who paved the way for other Japanese-Americans.
Well... enjoy the rest of your weekend. Sayonara!