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First Japanese player makes MLB debut

First Japanese player makes MLB debut


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On September 1, 1964, pitcher Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese man to play in U.S. Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets in front of 39,379 fans at Shea Stadium.

Murakami was a teenage baseball prodigy in Japan. In 1962, he signed with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Nankai Hawks while still in high school. After pitching a year in the minors, Murakami made his major league debut with the Hawks at just 19 years old. In 1964, the Hawks sent Murakami to the United States to pitch in the minor leagues for the San Francisco Giants as part of an exchange program. Murakami’s left-handed sidearm delivery proved an asset in the United States, where deceptive pitching still isn’t as common as in Japan. Murakami began his American career with an 11-7 record as a reliever with Fresno in the Class A California League. On September 1, he was ordered to report to the bigs and handed a plane ticket to New York. After arrival, he quickly signed a contract (explained by an interpreter since he spoke no English) and then headed to the bullpen.

Murakami’s arrival came just as the Giants, including star outfielders Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, was chasing the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League pennant. Meanwhile, the Mets, the Giants’ opponent on September 1, were in the midst of the third losing season in their three-year history. Murakami entered the game in relief in the eighth inning, and began with a strikeout of Met leftfielder Charlie Smith, before yielding a single to Chris Cannizaro. He then settled down, and struck out first baseman Ed Kranepool and shortstop Billy McMillan consecutively to complete his first inning in the major leagues. The Mets, however, proved a difficult opponent: Pitcher Al Jackson pitched a complete game, giving up just six hits and one walk to lead the Mets to a 4-1 victory.

In the end, Murakami’s first year in the majors proved a rousing success, with nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA, good for a 1-0 record with one save. After the 1964 season the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return to Japan, but the Giants refused on the grounds they had Murakami under contract. The Japanese baseball commissioner intervened, negotiating a compromise. Murakami spent 1965 with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight saves in 45 relief appearances. In 1966, he returned to Japan, where he went on to pitch for another 18 seasons.

The next Japanese player to join Major League Baseball was pitcher Hideo Nomo, who made his debut in 1995, more than 30 years after the trailblazing Masanori Murakami.


Ichiro Suzuki

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Ichiro Suzuki, (born October 22, 1973, Kasugai, Japan), Japanese baseball player who amassed the most total hits across all professional baseball leagues in the history of the sport. He was notably also the first non-pitcher to shift from Japanese professional baseball to the American major leagues.

Suzuki played baseball from an early age. Upon finishing high school, he was drafted by the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Pacific League (see also Japanese baseball leagues). He saw limited action during his first two seasons, because his manager disliked the young player’s unorthodox batting style—a sort of pendulum motion created by kicking the front foot back and then striding forward with the swing. In 1994 a new manager gave Suzuki a starting spot on the team and let him swing the way he liked. He responded in amazing fashion, lifting his batting average to .400 during the season and finishing at .385—the second best batting mark in the history of Japanese baseball. He collected 210 hits, a record for one season. Through 2000 he won seven consecutive Pacific League batting titles, posted a career average of .353, and led his team to two pennants. He was not a power hitter, but his speed and bat control were unmatched. He was also considered among the top outfielders, with the strongest, most accurate throwing arm in the league. Suzuki threw right-handed but batted left-handed.

By 2000 Suzuki had established himself as the best baseball player in Japan and had begun his quest for stardom in the United States. He spent two weeks in the Seattle Mariners’ 1999 spring training camp as part of a U.S.-Japan player exchange. A Japanese player in an American lineup was no longer quite the rarity it once had been several Japanese pitchers, most notably Hideo Nomo and Hideki Irabu, had crossed the Pacific to play in the major leagues. Suzuki became the first non-pitcher to make the transition when he signed a three-year contract with the Mariners in November 2000. Because pitchers in the United States threw harder than their Japanese counterparts, some observers believed that Japanese hitters would struggle at the plate.

Suzuki made his major-league debut with the Mariners on April 2, 2001. He answered his critics with a stellar season, capturing the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year award and a Gold Glove. His batting average in the 2001 regular season was .350, and it was .421 in the postseason games. In 2004 Suzuki broke George Sisler’s 84-year-old record for most hits in a single season, ending the year with 262 hits and a .372 batting average. Five years later, in 2009, he became the all-time leader in hits by a Japanese player, with 3,086 for his career in both Japan and the United States, and later in the year he recorded his 2,000th major-league hit, reaching that plateau faster than any other player in history except Al Simmons. He collected more than 200 hits—and was named to the AL All-Star team—in each of his first 10 seasons with the Mariners. Not only did his 10 200-hit seasons tie Pete Rose’s all-time record, they also set the mark for most consecutive years in which a player reached the 200-hit plateau.

Suzuki’s level of play fell off in 2011. That season he failed to hit .300 or amass 200 hits for the first time in his tenure in the major leagues. He was batting a career-worst .261 during the 2012 campaign when the Mariners suddenly traded the fan favourite Suzuki to the New York Yankees in July of that year. In 2013 he became the third person in top-flight professional baseball history—after Pete Rose and Ty Cobb—to record 4,000 total career hits (counting both his Japanese and American production). In his two and a half seasons with the Yankees, he batted .281, and his total of 136 hits in 2013 was his best single-year hit total with New York.

Suzuki signed with the Miami Marlins in January 2015. On June 15, 2016, he notched his 2,979th hit in Major League Baseball (MLB), which, combined with his 1,278 hits in Japan, gave him one more total career professional hit than MLB record holder Rose. Two months later he became the 30th player in MLB history to record 3,000 career hits. Suzuki served primarily as a substitute outfielder and pinch-hitter in 2017, amassing a career-low 196 at bats that season. In March 2018 he rejoined the Mariners on a one-year contract. Suzuki appeared in just 15 games with the Mariners before abruptly transitioning to a position with the team’s front office on May 8, ending his 2018 season.

In January 2019 he signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners, which contained a provision that he appear on Seattle’s major-league roster during the team’s season-opening games in Japan. He retired immediately after the two-game Japanese series. He finished his major-league career with 3,089 hits, bringing his combined professional hit total to 4,367. Suzuki also amassed 509 career major-league stolen bases (becoming one of only seven major-leaguers with at least 3,000 hits and 500 steals) and retired with a .311 lifetime batting average.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Famous First Foreign Born Baseball Players

In Alphabetical Order By Country and/or Territory | Birthplace Analysis

Baseball Almanac does not recognize those who played in the National Association (1871-1875) as "Major League players." Some resources/books do. If you do then the first player from Cuba was Esteban Bellan who made his debut on May 9, 1871, with the Troy Haymakers.

Did you know that during the late 1800s at least seven Canadians altered their birth certificates so they could play baseball and avoid the restrictions set forth by the 1894 Alien Exemption Act?

Ed Porray of the Buffalo Buffeds made his Major League debut on April 17, 1914 and his place of birth is listed as "At Sea - On Atlantic Ocean" &mdash another first.


The Ballplayers

A Comprehensive Baseball Player Encyclopedia

The classic baseball poem, Line-Up For Yesterday (used above as an intro for each alphabetical breakout section), was written by Ogden Nash in 1949, and it also appears in Baseball Almanac's Poetry & Song section.

Did you know that through today in baseball history, and since 1876 (first year of the National League), there have been a total of nineteen-thousand eight-hundred forty-three (19,843) Major League ballplayers?

In 2020, there were two-hundred sixty-one rookies of which 101 debuted in the American League, and 104 debuted in the National League. We literally update the new (2021) rookie pages within hours of a player's debut! [AL Debuts in 2021 | NL Debuts in 2021]


First Japanese player makes MLB debut - Sep 01, 1964 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

On September 1, 1964, pitcher Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese man to play in U.S. baseball’s major leagues. Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets in front of 39,379 fans at Shea Stadium.

Murakami was a teenage baseball prodigy in Japan. In 1962, he signed with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Nankai Hawks while still in high school. After pitching a year in the minors, Murakami made his major league debut with the Hawks at just 19 years old. In 1964, the Hawks sent Murakami to the United States to pitch in the minor leagues for the San Francisco Giants as part of an exchange program. Murakami’s left-handed sidearm delivery proved an asset in the United States, where deceptive pitching still isn’t as common as in Japan. Murakami began his American career with an 11-7 record as a reliever with Fresno in the Class A California League. On September 1, he was ordered to report to the bigs and handed a plane ticket to New York. After arrival, he quickly signed a contract (explained by an interpreter since he spoke no English) and then headed to the bullpen.

Murakami’s arrival came just as the Giants, including star outfielders Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, was chasing the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League pennant. Meanwhile, the Mets, the Giants’ opponent on September 1, were in the midst of the third losing season in their three-year history. Murakami entered the game in relief in the eighth inning, and began with a strikeout of Met leftfielder Charlie Smith, before yielding a single to Chris Cannizaro. He then settled down, and struck out first baseman Ed Kranepool and shortstop Billy McMillan consecutively to complete his first inning in the major leagues. The Mets, however, proved a difficult opponent: Pitcher Al Jackson pitched a complete game, giving up just six hits and one walk to lead the Mets to a 4-1 victory.

In the end, Murakami’s first year in the majors proved a rousing success, with nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA, good for a 1-0 record with one save. After the 1964 season the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return to Japan, but the Giants refused on the grounds they had Murakami under contract. The Japanese baseball commissioner intervened, negotiating a compromise. Murakami spent 1965 with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight saves in 45 relief appearances. In 1966, he returned to Japan, where he went on to pitch for another 18 seasons.

The next Japanese player to join Major League Baseball was pitcher Hideo Nomo, who made his debut in 1995, more than 30 years after the trailblazing Masanori Murakami.


Share All sharing options for: The First Japanese Player in Reds History

One of my best friends is a nerdlinger of some regard who teaches writing at the University of Dayton. He founded a collective called the Dayton Writers Movement a few years ago. They produce audio dramas like the old-time radio shows that were popular before we became fully civilized and started watching television. They release them as podcasts, of course, because they are now fully civilized like most of the rest of us. This whole intro is mostly a way for me to shamelessly plug the work of my good friend, but I’ll wing it back around to baseball, I promise.

As I said, this fella is a total nerdlinger. He’s strictly abstemious – he has never as much as smoked a cigarette or drank a drop of alcohol, much less tried some of the better and more enriching illicit drugs. Tom Waits once said that reality is for people who can’t face drugs and this friend of mine is real as fuck, man.

At this point in his life (dude’s approaching 40) it isn’t as much a point of conviction or idealism as it is a somewhat perverse exercise in self-denial. He’s more “well, I’ve made it this long without it” than anything else. He sees it kinda like board games or crocheting: some folks get their kicks from it, but it just ain’t his scene.

The Reds have been similarly abstemious with regard to Japanese players (I told you I’d wing it around!). The Cincinnati ball club is the only major league organization to never employee a Japanese baseball player in its long, long history. Which seems totally weird and obviously intentional on its face, a matter of conviction or idealism. But it’s the kind of thing that just never happened, for a number of totally unweird and unintentional reasons. Its not that the Reds have ever refused to do so (though I honestly wonder about the Marge Schott years), its just that they never have. I presume it’s more a function of cost than anything else: the Reds have always been notoriously stingy on the free agent market in general, and when you add in the extra cost of the posting system arranged between NPB and MLB that most Japanese players are required to pass through, its as good an explanation as any.

But with the Reds in a position to spend more money than ever on free agent acquisitions and a cohort of Japanese players looking to move stateside who present interesting fits on the Reds roster, 2020 is looking increasingly like the year the Reds might pop this cherry. So lets take a look at some of the prominent NPB players coming to MLB this winter and see what we can see.

Of course, all the boilerplate caveats apply here. What kind of contract will they command? Can their skills translate from NPB to MLB? And all that crap.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – LF/1B – Yokohama BayStars

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has been one of the biggest boppin’ big boppers in NPB for a number of years. He is a five-time All Star and he led the league in home runs and RBIs in his best season in 2016. His career slash is a legit .285/.382/.525 and he has hit 205 home runs in just over 4000 PAs. He hits left-handed but throws right-handed and he’ll be 28 next week. He is about 6’0” and 210 lbs and he most certainly qualifies as a galoot.

Of course, that means he has his limitations. He is not swift by any stretch of the imagination and some scouts think he is best suited to 1B or DH, though he could probably handle LF in MLB just fine. For the BayStars he played a fair amount of 3B as a younger man, but he’s been mostly in LF for the last few years. Though his range is limited in the outfield and some think his hands are a bit hammy for 1B, he does show a legitimate arm and could conceivably cover RF just fine under the right circumstances.

Yoshi was officially posted by the BayStars on Friday so negotiations are happening right this minute. I’ve seen a few estimates project that he could command a guarantee between $25 and $35 million.

Ryosuke Kikuchi – 2B – Hiroshima Carp

In a number of ways, Ryosuke Kikuchi is the exact opposite of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. He is the Juan Pierre to Yoshi’s Adam Dunn. Ryosuke is a five-time Gold Glove winner at 2B and a legitimate stolen base threat, averaging about 15 nabbed bags a season. He has maintained a career slash of .271/.315/.391 and he has been consistently healthy his entire career (NPB plays 143 games a season and he has played at least 138 in every full season). He’ll be 30 in March.

It is hard to overstate the quality of his glove. He is not just one of the best defensive middle infielders in Japan, it’s pretty clear he is elite by any standard. He isn’t likely to command the kind of salary that Yoshi will, and it has been speculated that if he were to only receive minor-league contract offers he will choose to stay with Hiroshima.

He acquitted himself quite well in the Premier 12 Tournament that just ended with Japan defeating Korea for the title. Ryosuke had eight hits in 24 ABs, slashing a clean .333/.417/.360 in the tournament. He is very similar to Jose Iglesias , who just spent 2019 as the Reds’ shortstop.

Shun had the best season of his career in 2019, throwing 181 innings with a slick 2.78 ERA. He had a WHIP of just 1.17 with a K/BB over 3.0. His career numbers (14 seasons now in NPB split between Yokohama and Yomiyuri) aren’t far off that peak, either. The Giants announced this morning that he has officially been posted.

Shun’s best pitch is a heavy split-finger fastball. His fastball averages just about 90 MPH, which is decidedly below average for MLB. He has been a successful starter for a number of years now, but he began his career as a reliever. He saved 64 games between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Yamaguchi did not fare as well as Ryosuke in the Premier 12. He started three games in the tournament (including the championship game against Korea), tossing nine innings to the tune of a 6.00 ERA. He struck out ten but gave up 11 hits, including two dingers.

Shogo Akiyama – CF – Seibu Lions (FA)

Shogo is a free agent, unlike the previous three players mentioned. That means he does not have to navigate the posting system and he is free to sign with whatever team he chooses. He is a five-time NPB All Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner in center field. In nine seasons with the Seibu Lions, he has slashed .301/.376/.454 in about 5300 PAs.

He is a restaurant-quality defender in center field, a stunningly consistent iron horse (he hasn’t missed a game since 2014), and a legitimate on-base machine (he has avoided outs at a .400 clip over the last five seasons). He set the NPB record for most hits in a single season back in 2015 with 216.

I think of the four of these, Shogo is the one I am most interested in. He would potentially solve a few significant issues for the Reds, as he could provide above-average on-base skills to the top of the lineup while also anchoring the outfield defense. He is 31 years old so he likely will not require a significant long-term deal (my guess is that two or three years will be enough). He does strike out a bit, but his walk and contact rates are more than enough to counterbalance that. And of course, he would allow the Reds to improve their defense at two positions, as they could move Nick Senzel back to second base where he is Gold Glove caliber. He is not an Ichiro or Yu Darvish-level talent (few are, of course), but I would not be surprised at all if he puts together a few years of 2-4 WAR production.


Daisuke Matsuzaka

Copyright © 2000-2021 Sports Reference LLC. All rights reserved.

Much of the play-by-play, game results, and transaction information both shown and used to create certain data sets was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by RetroSheet.

Win Expectancy, Run Expectancy, and Leverage Index calculations provided by Tom Tango of InsideTheBook.com, and co-author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.

Total Zone Rating and initial framework for Wins above Replacement calculations provided by Sean Smith.

Full-year historical Major League statistics provided by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette of Hidden Game Sports.

Some defensive statistics Copyright © Baseball Info Solutions, 2010-2021.

Some high school data is courtesy David McWater.

Many historical player head shots courtesy of David Davis. Many thanks to him. All images are property the copyright holder and are displayed here for informational purposes only.


1962 Major League New Debuts

Copyright © 2000-2021 Sports Reference LLC. All rights reserved.

Much of the play-by-play, game results, and transaction information both shown and used to create certain data sets was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by RetroSheet.

Win Expectancy, Run Expectancy, and Leverage Index calculations provided by Tom Tango of InsideTheBook.com, and co-author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.

Total Zone Rating and initial framework for Wins above Replacement calculations provided by Sean Smith.

Full-year historical Major League statistics provided by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette of Hidden Game Sports.

Some defensive statistics Copyright © Baseball Info Solutions, 2010-2021.

Some high school data is courtesy David McWater.

Many historical player head shots courtesy of David Davis. Many thanks to him. All images are property the copyright holder and are displayed here for informational purposes only.


Ryne Sandberg

Sandberg was a great hitter in 16 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, but he might have been an even better fielder. He had 89 consecutive errorless games in 1989, and his career fielding percentage of .989 is tied for the best all-time. He was a prototype of power and speed, hitting .285 lifetime with 282 homers, 1,061 RBI, and 344 stolen bases in his career. In 1984, when the Cubs ended a 39-year playoff drought, he was named NL MVP when he hit .314 with 19 homers. And he was also the consummate professional, immensely popular in Chicago. He played in 10 All-Star Games.


Share All sharing options for: Straight To The Majors: The Players Who Skipped The Minors On Their Way to Pro Careers, Part II

In Part I of this series, published Thursday, we looked at the first ten players who went straight from high school or college to the majors since the amateur draft began in 1965.

Today, in Part II, we look at the last eleven players who bypassed the minors on their way to their major-league debut. We'll also consider why the straight-to-the-majors practice is used much less frequently now as compared to the 1970s.

Mike Morgan
After a five-year hiatus, baseball saw the next straight-to-the-majors player when the Oakland Athletics selected Mike Morgan fourth in the June 1978 draft. Morgan, eighteen years old, had just graduated from Valley High School in Las Vegas. He debuted with the A's on June 11, 1978, pitching a complete game, but taking a 3-0 loss to the Orioles. Morgan lost his next two starts, as well, and was sent to the minors for the remainder of the season. Morgan started 1979 at AAA, was called up mid-season, and posted a 2-10 record in thirteen starts. That earned him another year in the A's farm system and, eventually, a trade to the Yankees in 1980.

Thus began Morgan's career as a major league nomad. He pitched for twelve different teams over parts of four decades. His most successful season came in 1992 with the Chicago Cubs. In 34 starts, Morgan posted a 16-8 record, with a 2.55 ERA over 240 innings, for a 142 ERA+. Morgan played his final three seasons with the Diamondbacks, pitching mostly out of the bullpen. He pitched in his last game in September 2, 2002, a 19-1 drubbing at the hands of the Dodgers, going 1⅓ innings and giving up three hits and one run out of the bullpen. He ended his career with a 141-186 record and a 4.23 ERA over 597 games.

Bob Horner
The Atlanta Braves selected Horner first in the 1978 draft. Horner, out of Arizona State University, was the first ever recipient of the Golden Spikes Award, awarded to the best amateur baseball player each year. Horner debuted on June 16, 1978, playing third base for the Braves against the Pirates. He went 1-for-3, hitting a two-run home run in Atlanta's 9-4 loss. In 89 games his rookie year, Horner batted .266/.313/.539 with 23 home runs. He was the National League Rookie of the Year.

Horner played nine years with the Braves and finished his career with one season in St. Louis after a detour to play in Japan in 1987. Over his ten seasons in the majors, Horner posted a triple-slash of .277/.340/.499 and hit 218 home runs.

Tim Conroy
The A's weren't done drafting kids in 1978 when they drafted Morgan. Later in the first round, the A's selected Conroy, a left-hander, out of Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Conroy debuted on June 23, 1978, getting the start for the A's against the Royals. Conroy went three-and-a-third innings, giving up one run on two hits and five walks. He started only one other game for the A's in 1978, taking another no-decision.

Conroy then spent the next three years in the A's farm system and didn't pitch in the majors again until 1982. His only full seasons in the majors came in 1983 and 1984, when he pitched in 47 games, starting 32 games and pitching 15 in relief. Conroy finished his career with the Cardinals in 1987. Overall, he compiled a 18-32 record and a 4.69 ERA.

Brian Milner
Milner was the first and only catcher to go directly from the draft to the majors. The Blue Jays drafted Milner in the seventh round of the 1978 draft out of Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Texas. He debuted the same day as Conroy, June 23, 1978, going 1-for-4 in a losing effort for the Blue Jays against the Indians. He played only one other major league game that season and, as it turns out, in his career. Milner spent several years in the Blue Jays farm system, where he sustained a series of career-ending injuries.

Pete Incaviglia
The Expos drafted Incaviglia out of Oklahoma State University in the first round of the June 1985 draft. Incaviglia was a successful power hitter in college in fact, he still holds the college baseball record with a career .915 slugging percentage. Incaviglia wanted no part of the minor leagues. The Expos had other ideas, so they traded him to the Texas Rangers. Thereafter, MLB enacted a rule prohibiting a team from trading a player until he'd been under contract with the team for one year, not surprisingly termed the Pete Incaviglia Rule.

"Inky," as he was known, debuted for the Rangers on April 8, 1986, played right field, and went 1-for-4 with a run scored. He hit 30 home runs his rookie year but couldn't sustain that kind of power over the course of his twelve-year career. In addition to the Rangers, Incaviglia played for the Tigers, Astros, Phillies, Orioles and Yankees. His career triple-slash is .246/.310/.448 with 206 home runs.

Jim Abbott
Abbott is one of the best baseball stories in the history of the sport. He was born without a right hand, but learned to pitch with this left hand, using his hand-less right arm to rest his glove. He led the University of Michigan to two Big Ten Championships in baseball and, in 1987, received the James E. Sullivan Award for top amateur athlete in the United States and the Golden Spikes Award.

The California Angels selected Abbott eighth in the June 1988 amateur draft and he debuted the following April in a game against the Mariners, taking the loss. He finished his rookie season 12-12 with a 3.92 ERA. His best season was 1991, when he posted an 18-11 record with a 2.89 ERA over 243 innings, and finished third in Cy Young Award voting.

Two years later, Abbott, then with the Yankees, threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on September 4, 1993. An accomplishment for any pitcher, but for Abbott, it was something special. Here's Bob Costas with a short video on Abbott's no-hitter:

Your browser does not support iframes.

Abbott went on to pitch for the White Sox, Brewers, and Angels, again. In all, an 87-108 record and a 4.25 ERA in 263 career games. Remarkably, he also had two hits in 21 at-bats when he played for the Brewers, who by then had moved to the National League. Abbott pitched his last game on July 21, 1999.

John Olerud
Olerud was a standout pitcher and slugger at Washington State University but was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in June 1989 as a first baseman. He debuted for the Blue Jays on September 3, 1989 in a game against the Twins, replacing Fred McGriff at first base in the ninth inning. He smashed a single in his first major league at-bat. Olerud's breakout season with the Blue Jays was 1993, when he led the American League in batting average (.363), runs created (156), intentional walks (33), on-base percentage (.473) and OPS (1.072). But Olerud could not sustain that level of performance for the Blue Jays, who traded him to the Mets after the 1996 season.

Olerud flourished with the Mets, both offensively and defensively. In his three seasons in New York, he posted a triple-slash of .315/.415/.501 with 109 doubles and 63 home runs. The September 6, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated featured Olerud and his Mets teammates Edgardo Alfonzo , Rey Ordonez and Robin Ventura, with the headline: The Best Infield Ever? Olerud finished out his career with the Mariners (four-and-a-half seasons), Yankees (half season) and Red Sox (one season). He played his last game on October 2, 2005.

Over the course of his career, Olerud played in 2,234 games, batted .295/.398/.465, and hit 500 doubles and 255 home runs. He was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner.

Darren Dreifort
Dreifort was a standout pitcher at Wichita State University and was named 1993 NCAA Player of the Year. The Dodgers picked Dreifort second overall in the 1993 draft (behind only Alex Rodriguez ). He made his debut on April 7, 1994, pitching a perfect inning in relief in a game against the Marlins. Dreifort threw 29 innings in 1994 over 27 games, going 0-5 with a 6.21 ERA.

Dreifort missed the 1995 season due to injuries and returned to the Dodgers bullpen in 1996. He transitioned from reliever to starter in 1998. By the end of the 2000 season, he'd compiled a 39-46 record with a 4.49 ERA. Even with those mediocre numbers and a history of injuries, Dreifort (via agent Scott Boras) still somehow negotiated a 5-year/$55 million contract with the Dodgers before the 2001 season. He never pitched anything close to a full season other than in 2004, when he appeared in 60 games. Injuries forced him to retire after the 2004 season.

Ariel Prieto
Prieto was born and raised in Cuba, and then emigrated to Puerto Rico where he pitched in the winter leagues. The A's selected Prieto fifth overall in the 1995 draft. He debuted on July 2, 1995 in a game against the Angels, pitching two perfect innings in relief. The A's made him a starter in 1996 but injuries kept him from pitching a complete season for Oakland. He was traded to the then-Devil Rays before the 2001 season but pitched in only three games for Tampa Bay. Over the course of six seasons, he pitched 352 innings, compiling a 15-24 record with a 4.85 ERA.

Xavier Nady
Nady played college baseball at the University of California at Berkeley and holds the Pac-10 record for highest slugging percentage in a season (.729). The Padres drafted Nady in the second round in 2000 he debuted that year, playing his one and only major league game of the season on September 30, 2000. He singled as a pinch-hitter and scored a run. Nady didn't see the majors again until 2003.

His career has been marked by injuries, including two Tommy John surgeries and an emergency appendectomy. Over ten seasons, he's played in only 880 games, for the Padres, Mets, Pirates, Yankees, Cubs and Diamondbacks. To date, Nady's posted a career slash of .275/.328/.438. He is a free agent with hopes of playing in 2012.

Mike Leake
Leake was a standout pitcher for Arizona State University, compiling a 40-6 record with a 2.91 ERA and 2 saves for the Sun Devils. The Reds selected Leake eighth overall in 2009. He debuted with Cincinnati on April 11, 2010, going 6⅔ innings, giving up one run on four hits and seven walks against the Cubs, for a no-decision. In two seasons with the Reds, Leake has appeared in 53 games (48 starts) and is 20-13 with a 4.03 ERA. Leake is perhaps best known for shoplifting $60 worth of American Rag shirts from a Macy's in Cincinnati in April, 2011.

The practice of debuting players in the major leagues without any minor league experience has slowed considerably since the 1970's. Kevin Goldstein, an expert in scouting and prospects at Baseball Prospectus, believes that the level of play in the majors is far superior to what it was even in the 1970's and 1980's, making it much more difficult for players to transition directly from college to MLB. John Sickels, editor of SBNation's Minor League Ball, echoed Goldstein's comments and added:

Both Goldstein and Sickels also noted that teams are reluctant to start a player's arbitration clock running until they they believe the player is ready to make an impact at the major league level.


Watch the video: First Japanese player makes MLB debut September 1, 1964 - This Day In History (June 2022).


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