East meets West
I wasn’t exactly nervous. After all, I don’t understand English and everything was so new. I thought only about pitching. Besides, I felt I had nothing to lose.
He began the 1964 campaign with the Single-A Fresno Giants of the California League, posting an impressive 11-7 record, a 1.78 ERA, and 159 strikeouts and only 34 walks in 106 innings, and captured the loop’s Rookie of the Year Award. By the end of the season, he was contributing to the big league team fighting for the pennant.
“I wasn’t exactly nervous. After all, I don’t understand English and everything was so new. I thought only about pitching. Besides, I felt I had nothing to lose,” he added. “I’m kind of overwhelmed by it all. But I’m glad I came through all right, especially because of everyone in Japan. Actually, I was more jittery when I pitched for the first time for the Nankai Hawks in Osaka Stadium in June 1963.”
During his recent Hall of Fame event, held on the afternoon of July 4, the now 71-year-old Murakami recalled that he hummed the tune “Sukiyaki” as he walked to the mound from the bullpen.
“And also the announcement: ‘Now pitching for the San Francisco Giants, No. 10, Masanori Murakami,’” he added with a smile. “A couple of days before this, people watching my games numbered about 400, 500, maybe 1,000. Now I was pitching in front of 40,000 people.”
Murakami finished his 1964 big league season with a 1-0 won-loss record, one save, and a 1.80 ERA in 15 relief innings, in which he struck out 15 and walked one.
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum