Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review of "Mashi" and giveaway

When I received a request to review this book from the author, little did I know what an experience I was going to have.  Most importantly, I loved reading this book and the review will reflect that. Also, I ended up receiving two hardcover copies of the book.  I am holding a giveaway for that copy, with the drawing to be held on Monday, April 27.  To enter, simply leave a comment on this review.  Short or long, even just a greeting - that's enough to have a chance to win a copy of the book.  Then cross your fingers, because you will certainly want to read this one. 

“Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer” by Robert K. Fitts

Baseball, history, Giants, Japan, race

April 1, 2015

221 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Jackie Robinson was not the only baseball player who was a pioneer for his race in the game.  In 1964, a nineteen-year-old pitcher named Masanori Murakami, known as “Mashi”, was sent by his Japanese team to the minor leagues’ class A Fresno Giants.  Later that season, the parent club, the San Francisco Giants, called up the young left-hander as a relief pitcher.  As a result, Murakami became the first Japanese player in the major leagues.  His journey to the major leagues and the subsequent squabble between the Japanese and American clubs is chronicled in this wonderful book by Robert K. Fitts.

This book doesn’t read like the typical biography of an athlete. The reader is taken into the life of Murakami in both Japan and the United States. Mashi’s experiences in the Japanese baseball leagues and its training camps and methods are well researched and written in a manner that will inform the reader as well as entertain him or her. There are many stories that illustrate the passion that Murakami had for the game and yet he never wavered in his loyalty to family, even while pitching in the United States.

The dialogue in the book about Mashi’s experience learning the culture and customs in America reads much differently than that in books about the struggles of African-American players in the early days of baseball integration. While there are a few instances of this type of discrimination documented, the focus is how he interacts with people while struggling to learn English.  There are many more humorous stories about this than ones that will anger or upset the reader.

One of the best ones told of Mashi’s teammates giving advice to him on what to tell the manager when he came out to the mound to take Mashi out of the game.  When manager Herman Franks took the ball, he was greeted by some very colorful language from Mashi.  Immediately Franks realized the prank played by Mashi’s teammates and everyone had a good laugh over it.

However, this baseball story doesn’t have a happy ending for Mashi, as a contract dispute between his Japanese team and the Giants will result in an ugly exchange that became a major sticking point for future opportunities in major league baseball for Japanese players.  The Japanese baseball officials believed that they simply loaned Mashi to America in order to sharpen his game.  Major League Baseball, concerned that the reserve clause would be threatened if they let Mashi return to Japan, claimed that he was under contract with the Giants and therefore was obligated to pitch for them.  Like every other conflict he encountered in his baseball career on both continents, Mashi gets anxious to have it resolved but eventually makes the best of his opportunities, no matter where they occur.

If a reader wishes to learn more about Japanese baseball and the differences in the way the game is run between the two countries, this book is a very good source for that.  If the reader just wants to read a good story filled with humor and inspiration, this book does that too, thanks to the excellent writing by the author. 

I wish to thank Mr. Fitts for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
The writing style lends itself to be an easy read as it flows very well.  Because I was not familiar with many of the Japanese baseball references, it was a little slower for me so I could learn as much as I could about baseball in Japan.

Do I recommend?
Any reader interested in baseball history, whether in the American Major Leagues or in Japan will appreciate this well-written and well-researched book.

Book Format Read:

Buying Links:


  1. Sounds good to me lance. I'll gladly accept the book and I will treat it with love if I win. Harold

  2. Wow, impressive timing for the first entry! Thanks Harold.

  3. sounds like a very interesting read, Lance. & I would love to receive a copy for my birthday (4/28). ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Hi Lisa...long time no talk. Surprised you would want a book on a player for the hated Giants! :)

  4. I remember when he pitched for the Giants. I saw him lose a game to the Astros in the Astrodome in 1965. Joe Gaines homered off him. It turned out to be his only loss in the United States major leagues. He had another milestone event in Houston in 1964. He pitched in the game that was Larry Dierker's first major league start, September 22nd, 1964, although Dierker only lasted a couple of innings and was gone by the time Murakami came into the game. Murakami notched his first major league save in that game, Giants defeating the Houston Colt .45s, 7-1.

  5. That post above was written by Mark Wernick. Couldn't figure out how to get my name attached to the post.

    1. No problem're in the drawing

  6. Sounds like an interesting book! Would love it!

  7. Thank you for posting this review and offer. If memory serves, in Japan, Mr. Murakami played with the Nankai Hawks, a team based in the Osaka region. I am eager to read more about his experiences.

  8. Great review. I might have to track this book down.

  9. I am looking forward to reading this book. I have been fascinated with Japanese baseball and the culture since I picked up The Chrysanthemum and the Bat at my local library when I was a kid. I have enjoyed Mr Fitts writing very much.

  10. Marc, who are your favorite people in Japanese baseball?

  11. and what fascinates you about Japanese baseball and culture?

  12. You can meet Masanori Murakami this summer during our 8 city book tour. Please visit my website for more details

  13. Thank you, Rob. I enjoyed your book on Wally Yonamine. I look forward to meeting you at one of the events in New York this summer.

  14. I as a library director of a small-town library, and the readers and sports fans who patronize my library, would be delighted to accept a copy of this book.