Wally Yonamine, a Maui native and holder of many firsts in the athletic arena, reportedly died yesterday at the age of 85, according to media reports throughout the state.
Yonamine began his professional career as a football player for the San Francisco 49ers, where he was recognized as the first player of Japanese ancestry to play in the NFL. His career path later shifted to baseball, where he gained the nickname, the Nisei Jackie Robinson.
Yonamine played in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants and Chunichi Dragons, becoming the first American to play professional baseball in the country after World War II, according to the wallyyonamine.com website. In the U.S., Yonamine played for the San Francisco Seals and Salt Lake City Bees.
Yonamine later established a foundation, that each year, sponsors the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) baseball tournament.