Thursday, February 21, 2019

"Ah so!" "Banzai." Pittsburgh Pirates and Chunichi Dragons.

Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh and Chunichi Dragons manager Wally Yonamine, 1975.

In 1975, the Chunichi Dragons spent spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida. The Dragons were the reigning Central League champions, and were managed by Japanese-American---and Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer---Wally Yonamine. A book on Yonamine, Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball, says the visit was a reward for his leading the team to the Central League championship.
For winning the pennant, Chunichi's board of directors gave the team two rewards. The first was a new clubhouse.
. . .
The second was a trip to Florida for spring training. Yonamine made arrangements with Joe Brown, Pittsburgh's general manager, for the Dragons to train with the Pirates. The Dragons arrived in March, already in shape from their February camp at Hamamatsu, and played exhibition games against the Pirates and nearby Major League teams. Though everybody knew the American teams were not yet in top form, Chunichi did well, taking two of three games against Pittsburgh and beating the Chicago White Sox 1-0.

The Dragons team fielded two other future Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Shinichi Eto and pitcher Senichi Hoshino, and would beat the Pirates 9-2 in an exhibition game on March 9 and 9-7 on March 13. "Banzai--Chunichi Dragons Overwhelm Pirates, 9-2" wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Ah so!" read the headline four days later, "Dragons Feast on Bucs." A Post-Gazette columnist introduces the visitors in a March 5 note:
There's a Japanese flag flying alongside an American banner outside of Pirate city. There's a small Land of hte Rising Sun flag atop Danny Murtaugh's locker. Dock Ellis was carrying one in his hand today. There are others all over the place.

These are in welcome to the Chunichi Dragons, Japan's championship baseball team, training on a couple of fields adjacent to the Pirate playgrounds.

Wally Yanomine, a bespectacled, 49-year-old Hawaiian, manages the Dragons. Yanomine played football for the San Francisco 49ers years ago and speaks English well. His Japanese is passable. "I have trouble at times but I get along," he smiled. "I've lived in Japan 18 years and manage to get by."

Disciplined, No Gripes
The Dragons drill military style, disciplined like soldiers, tireless, and "never gripe" according to Yanomine. "If they don't like what they have to do we never hear about it. They follow orders if they have to work out all day."

Another good impression whether hair stylists here like it or not--the Japanese boys are clean shaven, their hair short.

Eight of the 35 players are 6 feet or slightly over, unusual. "Mainly, they're small," Manager Yanomine said. "They're so small they look with awe at your tall players."

"Ah, so," agreed a bowing Japanese newspaper man. "Your American ball players are so big they make the baseball field look small."

There are 40 writers, TV and radio men travelling with the Chunichi Dragons as against 35 players on the team. And, everyone in the group owns a camera, some two or three.

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