Satoshi Hirayama

Satoshi Hirayama
Fibber Hirayama 1956 (cropped).jpg
Hirayama with the Hiroshima Carp in 1956
Outfielder
Born: (1930-02-17)February 17, 1930
Exeter, California[1]
Died: September 15, 2021(2021-09-15) (aged 91)
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
NPB statistics
Batting average .229
Home runs 45
Runs batted in 251
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Satoshi Hirayama (平山智, Hirayama Satoshi, February 17, 1930 – September 15, 2021)[2][3] was an American baseball player who played for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's Central League.[4] Hirayama was an All-Star twice in Japan.[5][6]

Early life and amateur career

Hirayama got the nickname "Fibber" from his father's inability to pronounce "February", the month of his birth.[4] He was originally from Exeter, California.[7] At 12 years old, he was interned at the Poston War Relocation Center with his father and two brothers.[4][8] After three years, when World War II ended, he was released and began attending Exeter Union High School from which he graduated in 1947.[9]

Hirayama was a star athlete at Fresno State, playing both baseball and football as a halfback. Hirayama attended the school on a football scholarship and only played baseball because he did not want to play spring football. He wound up playing three seasons of each.[1] On the baseball field, he set a college baseball record with five stolen bases in a single game and had a .420 batting average in 1950.[10] He was voted "Nisei Player of the Year" in 1951.[4] In 1952, he led Fresno State to its first ever NCAA postseason appearance.[8] Hirayama set single-season and career school records in stolen bases which would not be surpassed until 1987 by Tom Goodwin.[11]

On April 30, 2017, he became the eleventh player to have his number retired by Fresno State's baseball program.[11]

Professional career

After college, Hirayama signed a professional contract with the St. Louis Browns and spent the 1952 season with the Stockton Ports. He was one of the first Japanese-American players to sign with a Major League Baseball club.[10]

In 1953, Hirayama was drafted into the military. From 1953 to 1955, he continued playing baseball as a soldier at Fort Ord.[12] After being discharged, Hirayama signed with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball on the insistence of fellow Japanese-American Kenichi Zenimura. In 1954, the Browns granted Hirayama his release and he and his wife moved to Japan. Hirayama did not speak Japanese upon arrival but became fluent after a few years.[1] Toward the end of his playing career, Hirayama was serving as a player-coach. His playing career was cut short when he ran into a wall and suffered a nerve injury which caused him to lose some vision in his right eye.[13]

After retiring as a player, Hirayama spent three years coaching and one year managing in the Japanese minor leagues before returning to the United States.[13] Hirayama returned to California where he worked as a scout for the California Angels and Hiroshima Carp. As a scout, he helped the Carp sign Tim Ireland.[10]

In 2009, Hirayama won the Al Radka Award.[14] At the time, he was the head of the Japanese Baseball Development Program in the Dominican Republic.[14]

Personal life

Hirayama met his wife, Jean, while they were attending Fresno State. They were married in February 1955 and had three sons, Colin, Kevin and Brian.[15] After returning to the United States, Hirayama also worked as a teacher and administrator in the Clovis Unified School District in addition to his scouting duties.[10][15] He retired from the school district in 1991 and his wife died that same year.[15]

In the 2+12 years before his former Fresno State teammate Tex Clevenger died of Alzheimer's disease in August 2019, Hirayama (then 89 years old himself) would drive from Fresno to Visalia, California every week to visit Clevenger, although Clevenger eventually stopped recognizing him and lost the ability to speak.[16]

Satoshi Hirayama died on September 15, 2021, at the age of 91.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Fitts, Robert K. (2005). Remembering Japanese Baseball. SIU Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-8973-5. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  2. ^ "Japanese American Internee Data File: Satoshi Hirayama". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Kuwada, Robert (September 17, 2021). "Former Fresno State two-sport dynamo Satoshi 'Fibber' Hirayama passes away at 91". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Harris, Mark (2007). "An Outfielder for Hiroshima". In Rob Fleder (ed.). Sports Illustrated: Great Baseball Writing. New York: Sports Illustrated Books. pp. 71–80. ISBN 978-1-933821-81-8. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  5. ^ "Stockton Ports to Honor Baseball Legend Fibber Hirayama". hokubei.com. July 8, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  6. ^ Tateishi, John (March 6, 2009). "Honoring Fibber". Pacific Citizen. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  7. ^ Godi, Mark (July 11, 2019). "Homecoming for a Ports pioneer". The Record. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Burkholder, Matt (March 8, 2017). "Fresno State has a 'Night to Remember'". The Sun-Gazette Newspaper. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  9. ^ Dillon, Patrick (December 13, 2017). "Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama went from internment camp to ambassador of the game of baseball in Japan". The Sun-Gazette Newspaper. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d "Ports to Honor "Fibber" Hirayama, Nisei Players". MiLB.com. Minor League Baseball. July 7, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Blanshan, Travis (April 26, 2017). "Fresno State Baseball set to retire Fibber Hirayama's #3 jersey on Sunday". Fresno State Athletics. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  12. ^ "NBRP: "Fibber" Hirayama". Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "HIRAYAMA, SATOSHI". www.fresnoahof.org. Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Hirayama To Be Honored With 2009 Al Radka Award". Our Sports Central. January 30, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  15. ^ a b c "Reflections of an Old School Star". Fresno State Athletics. February 9, 2001. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  16. ^ Anteola, Bryant-Jon (August 25, 2019). "A Fresno State legend who won two World Series with the New York Yankees has died". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved July 21, 2021.

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