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Working in cane fields as teenager, and how it helped in his athletic training (Japanese)

(Japanese) When I was in Maui, well, I was about 12 to 14 years old. I worked at a sugar plantation. I didn’t like the job very much. But at that time, we didn’t have very much money, and in whatever way possible, I had to help my father and mother. So I worked very hard. Because of it, when I played baseball and football, it really helped. Doing such hard work, when I played baseball and football, because they were very tough sports, I couldn’t forget about those early hardships. Even now, even though I am 78 years old, and it was almost 60 – 65 years ago, I will never forget.

Well, even when I played baseball in Japan, I also faced hardship, but I could get through it and do it. Well, my life changed a lot because of Japanese baseball.


baseball identity

Date: December 16, 2003

Location: Hawai'i, US

Interviewer: Art Hansen, John Esaki

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum.

Interviewee Bio

Wally Kaname Yonamine was born on Maui in Hawaii in 1925. He first gained public acclaim as an athlete in 1944 after moving to Oahu and leading Farrington High School to its first Honolulu city football championship. After World War II, he was signed to a professional football contract as a running back for the San Francisco 49ers, the first player of Asian ancestry to attain this milestone. An injury prompted a switch from football to baseball.

While with the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals, its manager urged him to consider a professional baseball career in Japan. After joining the Yomiuri Giants in 1951 as the first American to play in postwar Japan, he hit over .300. Considered the greatest leadoff batter in Japanese baseball history, he won three batting championships and, in 1957, was named the Central League’s Most Valuable Player.

Upon retiring as a player, he finished his thirty-eight-year career in Japan as a successful coach, scout, and manager. Credited with introducing to Japanese baseball such American practices as hard sliding, running out bunts and infield grounders, and diving for fly balls, Yonamine was initially the target of fan abuse. He later achieved great popularity, however, and in 1990 was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. (December 16, 2003)

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