Before there was Godzilla, before there was Dice-K, beofre there was Nomo, there was Masanori Murakami.
Murakami was the first Japanese player to make it to the Major Leagues, making his MLB debut with the San Francisco Giants on September 1, 1964 at Shea Stadium in New York City, at the ripe old age of 20. The international transfer from the Nankai Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, Murakami struck out two Mets in a scoreless eighth inning of relief. Make the jump to learn more about this trail blazer of Japanese baseball.
His first year in the majors was rather impressive, making nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA, good for a 1-0 record with one save over the last month of the season. During the offseason the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return from his transfer to San Francisco back to Japan, but were refused by the Giants on the grounds of their contract. The Japanese baseball commissioner eventually intervened, eventually coming to an accord.
Murakami would spend the 1965 season with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA along with eight saves in 45 appearances. He would return to Japan in 1966, effectively ending his tenure in MLB. Murakami would go on to pitch for another 18 seasons in Japan.
Since that September night in 1964, 43 Japanese-born players have made it to the Major Leagues, but may never have had the chance without Mr. Murakami.