On September 1, 1964, Masanori "Mashi" Murakami came in as a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants against the Mets in New York.

Though the Giants ended up losing 4-1, he allowed no runs in his debut, and to boot, he became the first ever Japanese man to play in Major League Baseball.


Murakami in his Giants uniform. Photo by National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, New York. Used with permission.

Murakami had been a baseball prodigy in Japan, playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball league while he was still in high school.

He made his Japanese pro debut in 1962 for the Osaka-based Nankai Hawks, when he was only 19 years old. According to the History Channel, Murakami threw his pitches with a sidearm delivery, a deceptive style that was then common in Japan but less so in the United States.

The Giants heard about Murakami through Tsuneo "Cappy" Harada, an American businessman who had been living in Japan (and apparently earning himself a great nickname). Harada had been scouting Japanese players for the Giants, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame blog, and Murakami stood out as exceptionally talented.

Throwing out the first pitch during a game at the Tokyo Dome in 2014. Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images.

In 1964, as a part of an exchange program, he left his home country and headed to Arizona, where he would participate in spring training with a Giants-affiliated minor league team.

Within the same year, a then-20-year-old Murakami found himself pitching in front of a crowd of about 40,000 people at Shea Stadium in his MLB debut against the Mets.

"I go to the fence and the door opens, and I go in," Murakami recently told The Guardian. "I'm walking to the mound, that time, wow. But [being] inside [the field] is very different. Maybe if I get nervous, it's not good. Now, I think OK, make me relax. The stands, the people. I can hear, but I don't know what they're saying. I understood a little English."

Murakami shakes hands with Chicago Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada at the Tokyo Dome in 2014. Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images.

Murakami, it seems, wasn't trying to make it big or be a hero.

"I was never thinking of the major leagues," he said in July. "I just wanted to pitch."

His impact on American baseball was long-lasting, even if his playing career was not.

Murakami was a relief pitcher with the Giants for the rest of the 1964 season and continued into the next year, but he only appeared in 54 games during that span. After a contract dispute between the Giants and the Nankai Hawks, he went back to play in Japan until the early-1980s.

Though he is now sometimes referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of Japanese baseball," his historic achievement did not immediately become a watershed moment.

Signing autographs before a July 1995 legends game at The Ballpark (now Globe Life Park) in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images.

Robert K. Fitts, who wrote "Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer," told Boston-based WBUR that Murakami's quick exit from the MLB was more about contractual obligations than his ability on the field.

"After Mashi returned to Japan, Major League Baseball and Japan Professional Baseball came to an agreement that each side would respect the reserve clauses of the other country's contracts," Fitts told WBUR in August. "Now back then there was no free agency, players were tied to their teams until they retired or were traded. So, in effect, that agreement kept all Japanese players in Japan."

Murakami being honored before a 1995 game in San Francisco. Photo by John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty Images.

There were no other Japanese players in Major League Baseball until Hideo Nomo played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995.

That helped create a pathway to the U.S. for more Japanese players, such as Ichiro Suzuki, a right fielder who still plays today and has already racked up numerous MLB awards, and Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher who spent seven seasons with the Dodgers and New York Yankees.

Pitcher Hideo Nomo became the second Japanese-born MLB player in history when he debuted against the San Francisco Giants on May 2, 1995. Monica M. Davey/AFP/Getty Images.

There's still lots of room for growth. Asians only made up 1.9% of the Major League players in 2012, according to data compiled by the Society of American Baseball Statistics.

Regardless, Murakami will be remembered as a trailblazer. "For a long time, he was kind of a footnote in history. He was a trivia-question answer," Fitts told TIME Magazine. “But he was a true hero."

Even though Murakami's achievement did not immediately lead to more Japanese players in the majors, he showed they could play ball — which continues today.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


Keep Reading Show less

"Top Gun: Maverick" reviews are raving.

If you're anything like me, when you heard that a "Top Gun" sequel was being made nearly three decades after the original, you may have rolled your eyes a bit. I mean, come on. "Top Gun" was great, but who makes a sequel 30 years later and expects people to be excited? Especially considering how scrutinizing both audiences and critics tend to be with second films.

Then I saw a trailer for "Top Gun: Maverick," and was surprised that it looked … super not terrible. Then more and more details about the film emerged, then more trailers and behind-the-scenes footage were released, then early reviews started rolling in and … you guys. You guysssss. I don't know how the filmmakers managed to pull it off, but everything about this film looks absolutely incredible.

And frankly, as a member of Gen X who saw the original "Top Gun" at least a dozen times, I could not be more thrilled. We deserve this win. We've been through so much. Many of us have spent the better part of the past two decades raising our kids and then spent the prime of our middle age dealing with a pandemic on top of political and social upheaval. We've been forgotten more than once—shocker—in discussions on generation gaps and battles. So to have our late-'80s heartstrings plucked by an iconic opening melody and then taken into the danger zone in what reviewers are saying is the best blockbuster in decades? Yes, please.

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less