Friday, April 26, 2024

Wally Yonamine Of The San Francisco Seals

I was surprised a few months back to discover that there was a baseball card featuring Japanese Baseball Hall Of Famer Wally Yonamine as a member of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League.  Yonamine was an American of Japanese descent who was born in Hawaii in 1925.  He was drafted into the Army just before World War II ended and spent most of his time in the service playing sports.  He briefly played football with the San Francisco 49ers after getting out of the Army but was released after getting injured playing baseball.  He was signed by San Francisco Seals manager Lefty O'Doul in 1950 but didn't play for them - they farmed him out to Salt Lake City in the Pioneer League.  After hitting .335 with the Bees he was expected to join the Seals for 1951 but instead was convinced by O'Doul to go to Japan.  The Yomiuri Giants owner wanted to bring American players back into professional baseball in Japan (there had been a handful of Americans playing in Japan before the war) and Yonamine became the first American to play in Japan after the war.  The rest is history.  (If you're interested in reading more about Yonamine, I highly recommend Rob Fitts' book "Wally Yonamine - The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball".)

The gist of all this is that while Yonamine had been the property of the Seals, he never actually appeared in a game for them.  So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I went over to the Trading Card Database and discovered this as the "Random Card Of The Day":

The card is from something that TCDB identifies as the "2015 Carl Aldana 1950 Sommer & Kaufmann San Francisco Seals" which is quite a mouthful.  It looks like it's a reprint of an original 1950 set but that's not the case.  There were apparently Seals sets in 1948 and 1949 done by Sommer & Kaufman, a boy's clothing shop in San Francisco.  In 2015 a collector named Carl Aldana produced a "1950" set in a similar style to the two previous sets.  So there is no 1950 Seals card of Yonamine, just a 2015 retro style card of him.  But it's still an interesting card.


Nick Vossbrink said...

Oh interesting. I've wanted a playing-days Yonamine card for a while but haven't pulled the trigger yet. I had no idea about his connection to the Seals though.

If you're interested in the cards that is based on I scanned my sample which someone sent to me as part of this post.

Fuji said...

Thanks for sharing this card. Wasn't familiar with Carl Aldana... but I learned about Mr. Yonamine about a decade ago when I received a promo card of his from Mr. Fitts. I did some searching on eBay for cards created by Aldana (didn't see this card of Wally available) and it looks like his cards go back to the early 70's.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Nick - I knew he'd been with the Seals but I hadn't realized or hadn't remembered that he hadn't played in a game with them. I'd be curious if anyone ever played both professional baseball and football for San Francisco teams - he got pretty close to it.

@Fuji - I was doing some looking around last night when I was working on this post and I saw that Aldana had done stuff as early as 1970. Really had no idea who he was but it looks he's been doing stuff like this for a while.

I should probably mention that I don't actually own this card - the image was swiped from TCDB. I actually asked Rob Fitts if he'd ever seen it before and he had not. I think he got one from Ebay.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post. Very informative and interesting!


Nick Vossbrink said...

I definitely know Deion Sanders did it with the 49ers in 1994 and Giants in 1995. Can't even think of any other possibilities.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Nick - Thanks! I guess I forgot Sanders had played for the Giants