Japan Society Celebrates U.S.-Japan Baseball at Award of Honor Gala

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Masanori "Mashi" Murakami

SAN FRANCISCO — The Japan Society of Northern California (JSNC) celebrates leaders in U.S.-Japan baseball diplomacy and the contributions of the Bay Area’s Major League teams to Japanese earthquake relief at its 25th annual Award of Honor Gala at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Ryozo Kato, commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, former ambassador of Japan to the U.S. (2001-08), and San Francisco’s own Japanese consul general (1994-95), will accept the 2011 Award of Honor by video message.

The first Japanese player in the Major Leagues, former San Francisco Giants pitcher Masanori “Mashi” Murakami, will be on hand to receive the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The former Nankai Hawks pitcher opened the doors of the Major Leagues to Japanese players when he signed with the Giants in 1964.

Japanese homerun king Sadaharu Oh will accept a Lifetime Achievement Award by video. With 868 career homeruns, Oh now serves as Japan’s baseball ambassador and is co-founder and chairman of the World Children’s Baseball Foundation.

This year the society is also presenting special Japan Society Citizenship Awards to Northern California’s own Major League teams, the Giants and the Oakland Athletics. After the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s Tohoku region, the A’s and Giants stepped up to the plate to raise tens of thousands of dollars through dedicated Japan relief nights and other special events during the year.

Giants owner William Neukom and A’s owner Lewis Wolff will accept on behalf of their teams, and will then join Murakami on stage for a special panel on baseball diplomacy moderated by KCBS sports broadcaster Steve Bitker.

The 106-year-old JSNC, the second-oldest Japan-America society in North America, has presented the Award of Honor and other special awards for a quarter century. Since the first awards in 1987 to legendary U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer and his wife, Haru Matsukata Reischauer, the society has honored diplomatic, business and cultural bridge-builders from both countries who have helped shape the U.S.’ strongest partnership in Asia.

This year the JSNC is committing 25 percent of the earnings from the gala live auction to earthquake relief.  There will also be a special “fund-a-cause” drive to provide continuing funding for the society’s “Japan in the Schools” initiative to support Japanese language classes at financially strapped public schools in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

The doors will open at the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., at 6 p.m. In addition to the award ceremony banquet, there will be a reception, silent and live auctions, and jazz by the George Yamasaki Quartet.

Tickets must be reserved in advance. For more information, call the Japan Society at (415) 986-4383, or visit the “Events” section on the JSNC website at www.usajapan.org.

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