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49 years ago today, Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese Major Leaguer

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Image via Sports Illustrated

On September 1, 1964, Masanori Murakami made his debut for the San Francisco Giants, becoming the first Japanese-born ballplayer to compete in the Major Leagues.

Murakami was sent to the States by Nippon Professional Baseball's Nankai Hawks in a temporary prospect exchange program. After an impressive turn in the Minors, he was called up to pitch for San Francisco at Shea Stadium on this date. The Giants fought to keep the 20-year-old reliever -- who posted a 3.54 ERA and earned eight saves over the course of the next season -- on their side of the Pacific for good, but the Hawks ultimately won the ensuing contract dispute.

Murakami returned to the Hawks in late 1965, and enjoyed a successful career in the NPB until his retirement in 1982. It wasn't until 1995 that a second Japanese player, Hideo Nomo, found his way to the Majors.

Here's to Masanori, who paved the way for a few more ballplayers you might've heard of -- say, Ichiro Suzuki. Or Yu Darvish. Or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Or Hiroki Kuroda. Or ...

You get the point.


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