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Murakami recalls MLB debut in ’64

Kyodo

Masanori Murakami, a trailblazer who became the first Japanese to play in the major leagues, celebrated the 50th anniversary since his debut on Monday.

Murakami, 70, a right-hander who left the Nankai Hawks to sign with the Class A Fresno Giants before his call-up to the big leagues, pitched the ninth inning at Shea Stadium of the San Francisco Giants’ 4-1 loss to the New York Mets on Sept. 1, 1964.

Coming on as the third pitcher, he allowed one hit and struck out two in a scoreless frame.

“I didn’t understand the language and it was a difficult time,” said Murakami. “Fifty years have passed, and so many people have come out (to celebrate at my party). I am really happy,” he said.

A true pioneer, Murakami paved the way for the likes of Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka to play in the major leagues.