Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Meeting Mashi

The book tour for Rob Fitts' latest book "Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer" got underway last week and I trekked up to New York City yesterday to see their event at the Barnes & Noble at 86th and Lexington Avenue.  I've corresponded with Rob many times over the 15 years or so I've been collecting Japanese cards but I had never met him in person until last night.

The event started around 7 in the evening.  Rob, Mashi and documentary film maker Yuriko Gamo Romer were introduced and came out and sat up at the front of the room.  After some preliminary comments from Rob, they ran a short clip from Yuriko's current work-in-progress - a film on US and Japanese relations over baseball that is centered around Mashi called "Diamond Diplomacy".  Rob then gave a talk describing the contents of the book, illustrated with a slide show and punctuated with comments from Mashi.  For example, Rob pointed out that Mashi's first base hit in the majors was off of Sandy Koufax.  Mashi then described the at bat in which he got the hit - a bunt up the third baseline - and expressed disappointment that he didn't get the ball.  (To be complete, Mashi's only other major league hit was off of Ted Davidson of the Reds - in fairness to him, as a relief pitcher he didn't get many at bats - only 16 in the 54 games he appeared in.)  Once the presentation was completed, Rob and Mashi took a couple questions from the crowd but they only had time for maybe three before they needed to get set up for the autograph session.  There were a lot of people at the event (one of the Barnes & Noble employees said that it could properly be referred to as a "throng") so there was a lot of autographing to be done.  Mashi was kind enough to sign both my copy of the book (that Rob had already signed as it was my premium for having donated to his Kickstarter campaign) as well as a promo baseball card that Rob had had printed up for the book:

Here's some photos from the event:

Outside the Barnes & Noble

Sign for the event

Yuriko, Mashi and Rob being introduced by the Barnes & Noble employee

Rob at the podium

Watching the clip from "Diamond Diplomacy"

Rob's presentation


More signing
The evening turned even more special afterwards.  I had sent an email to Rob last week asking if it would be possible to ask Mashi a few questions about baseball cards either before or after the event.  Not only was Rob gracious enough to agree, he invited me to join them for dinner at a nearby restaurant after the event.  He arranged the seating at the table so that Bob, a gentleman that had contributed enough to the Kickstarter campaign that his reward was getting to basically spend the day with the two of them, and I were seated with Mashi and Yuriko.  Mashi's English is quite good and Yuriko translated whenever there were any issues with understanding.  One thing that I learned was that Mashi had had no idea that there were baseball cards of him produced during his career - Rob had given him his Kabaya-Leaf card a few days previously and he had never seen it before.  He said something that Yuriko translated as "they have to ask permission now" but although I was curious about how BBM and Epoch contact OB players for their sets, I decided not to ask too much.  It was a bit noisy and I sensed (and he confirmed) that Mashi was a bit tired and jet lagged - he arrived in Chicago last Friday from Japan and had traveled to Boston before arriving in New York.  I had a great time talking with him, Bob, Yuriko and a friend of Yuriko's at dinner however (Rob was at the other end of the table with his wife and some friends of the family so I didn't talk a whole lot with him during the meal).  I'm very grateful to Rob inviting me along and I hope I didn't bug Mashi too much.

I want to close by talking a little bit about "Diamond Diplomacy".  The clip that Yuriko shared was very interesting, talking about the introduction of baseball in Japan by Horace Wilson in 1931, followed by some clips of the 1934 MLB All Star and the 1949 Seals tours before moving into the Mashi story.  At dinner I asked Yuriko about the clips from the 1949 Seals tour - I was surprised to see that she had color footage.  She said that the father of a friend of hers was a player on that tour and that they were home movies of his.  She added that her project originally was going to only be about the Seals tour but as she learned more about the context of the tour, the project grew much broader.  I really look forward to seeing the final film.

She had promo postcards for the film at Barnes & Noble:

 I also found this clip of hers on YouTube that shares some of the footage with what she showed last night:

The tour continues with stops in Rhinebeck, NY and at the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown this weekend before going to California next week.

UPDATE - Zippy Zappy was at the event as well.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE - NPB Reddit contributor kndy2099 attended Mashi's event in Fresno and contributed links to photos and a video in a post on the sub.


Zippy Zappy said...

Wait, you were at this event too? I was at this very event myself yesterday (just blogged about it too). I was practically the only guy who had brought Mashi's '65 Topps RC :P. And I could've translated for you if I had known...

Fuji said...

Dinner with Mashi!!! That's so awesome!

NPB Card Guy said...

Zippy Zappy - that was you? You were wearing a Staten Island Yankees hat? I was probably five people ahead of you in line. I think I said something to you when I noticed the card you had, although I was not one of the guys who asked you who the other guy on the card was.

You weren't the only one with that card there however. Bob, the Kickstarter contributer, gave Mashi several of them. Mashi actually has a small collection of baseball cards and not just his own cards. Bob had gotten an Al Jackson card autographed for Mashi as well (Al Jackson being the winning pitcher for the Mets in the game that Mashi made his MLB debut in).

Zippy Zappy said...

It's a good thing I said practically when I wrote my earlier comment then lol. If I had known that I would've prepared a bunch of cards to give to Mashi.

And yes, I was indeed the guy wearing a Staten Island Yankees hat and SIY windbreaker. I'll be honest, a handful of people spoke with me regarding the card so I can't exactly pinpoint who you were. Were you the person who talked about how other cards from '65 were rare/expensive by any chance?

NPB Card Guy said...

Well, you were the only one I saw getting the card autographed at least.

That was not me. To be honest, I'm not positive I actually spoke to you. If I did, it probably was just "oh, that's cool". I was the big guy in the blue shirt carrying the black and silver backpack, not that I'm expecting you to remember me.

kndynt2099 said...

That's wonderful that many of you made it. I wish I could have made it to the event!

NPB Card Guy - Thank you for sharing your photos and experience at the event!

Zippy Zappy - SI Yankees! Very cool!

Jason Presley said...

I got to see them in Cooperstown today, but don't have any story to go with it aside from seeing Mashi and Rob Fitts in the HoF Gallery while I was trying to get a photo of Red Schoendienst's plaque for my father. The documentary looks very interesting and I am eager for it to be released.