Mariners Owner Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes Away

Dave · September 19, 2013 at 5:42 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Sad news — regardless of what your feelings about the current state of the organization is — out of Japan this morning, as the Mariners principal owner, Hiroshi Yamauchi, has passed away at the age of 85. Yamauchi is best known for buying the Mariners in 1992, a last second deal to prevent the team from moving to Tampa, and more recently, for never having attended one of the team’s games, even last year’s season opener in Tokyo. For the 21 years that he owned the franchise (either directly or more recently through Nintendo, a transfer that was done for estate planning reasons), he held an extremely low profile, only granting a single interview in his entire ownership, which aggravated portions of the media and fan base that were used to more hands on, outwardly public ownership groups.

While popular opinion about the Mariners ownership right now is quite low, the simple fact is that Yamauchi invested a large portion of his own money into an entity he had to be convinced to purchase, and without his willingness to buy the team in 1992, there’s a decent chance that most of the last 20 years don’t happen. It’s easy to focus on the negative when the last decade has been so fruitless, but Seattle has a baseball team in large part due to Hiroshi Yamauchi.

We can save the speculation for what this means in terms of ownership transfers — long rumored, even before today’s news — or the continuing employment of the current executives for another day. Today, I’ll simply thank Mr. Yamauchi for his part in keeping the Mariners in Seattle. Rest in peace, sir.


13 Responses to “Mariners Owner Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes Away”

  1. Arron on September 19th, 2013 6:05 am


    One of the passions in my life is Mariners baseball. Without him, there might not be Mariners baseball.

    Forever thankful to Mr. Yamauchi.

  2. wabbles on September 19th, 2013 6:06 am

    Well said.

  3. Westside guy on September 19th, 2013 7:00 am

    Thank you, Mr. Yamauchi. If I look back far enough, I can find a lot of happy memories that your purchase of the team made possible.

  4. SeattleSlew on September 19th, 2013 8:08 am

    I have respect for him for choosing to stay out of the public eye and living a very private life.

    My Japanese friends have told me that in Japan there are several extremely wealthy people who have never been seen or given an interview so nobody knows what they look like.

  5. Coug1990 on September 19th, 2013 9:53 am

    Prayers and thoughts go out to his family.

  6. Jimmie the Geek on September 19th, 2013 10:19 am

    Rest in peace, Yamauchi-san.

  7. MKT on September 19th, 2013 10:40 am

    It’s also worth remembering the xenophobia (and possibly racism) that Yamauchi and Nintendo had to overcome to buy the Mariners. This was the man and the company that would save baseball in Seattle, but some owners and the commissioner, Fay Vincent, opposed having a team owned by … umm foreigners. When people pointed out that Toronto and Montreal were not in the USA, they had to quickly amend themselves and say that it was crucial that baseball teams be owned by errr uh “North American” owners, because after all, baseball, hot dogs and apple pie are the traditional icons of “North American” culture.

    Globalism and diversity work. Baseball and most fans are better off thanks to Yamauchi’s ownership, to say nothing of the introduction of Ichiro, Nomo, and nowadays Iwakuma to MLB (and Balentien to Japanese baseball). The bad old days of “you guys stay in Japan while we here in North America do our thing” are thankfully long gone. Ironically the group which has lost the most is probably fans of baseball in Japan, now that some of their best players jump to the USA to play.

  8. Typical Idiot Fan on September 19th, 2013 10:55 am

    I know you wont read this, Yamauchi-san, but I will say it anyway:

    Hontoni domo arigatou gozaimashita, souhite sayonara…

  9. Paul B on September 19th, 2013 12:32 pm

    I remember when the Commissioner said there would be no foreign ownership allowed and Seattle would therefor lose the team.

    I sent a FAX (remember them? It was kind of like email, kids) to the office of the Commish (along with lots of other people). Later I tried to send another but they had disconnected the FAX machine.

  10. MrZDevotee on September 19th, 2013 2:57 pm

    I still remember feeling somewhat euphoric when he stepped forward to save the M’s at the last minute… Seemingly out of nowhere.

    It was the equivalent to somebody’s house being foreclosed on, and an eviction notice on the door, and some rich guy knocks and says– “People around here have supported my business for a long time now… So I’m gonna make your house payments from now on, you guys just keep living here.”

    And in the next decade we went to the playoffs, knocked the Yankees OUT of the playoffs (Thank you, Edgar), tied the record for most wins in a season ever– rooted for 3 of the best to ever play this game (A-Rod, Junior, the Big Unit)… And broke attendance records.

    Thank you for those memories, Mr. Yamauchi! Sincerely…

  11. wabbles on September 19th, 2013 4:50 pm

    MKT talked about what I was going to bring up. In the beginning, Yamauchi didn’t own the team himself per se. MLB required the new owners to go through this convoluted, embarrassing and wholly unnecessary charade so the team would be owned by “an ownership group” or some such because we couldn’t have “foreign” owners. I’m so glad everyone is past that. Anyway, thanks Mr. Yamauchi for stepping forward when asked and saving baseball in Seattle.

  12. Breadbaker on September 20th, 2013 1:03 am

    Mr. Yamauchi is justly credited for saving major league baseball in this city, and for all the years he, directly or indirectly, owned the team he was the most patient owner in baseball.

    May his passing result in the Mariners leadership deciding it’s time to win one for Hirochi!

  13. Madison Mariner on September 20th, 2013 4:12 pm

    Sad to hear of this news, and many thanks to Mr. Yamuchi and Nintendo for what he did for the Mariners and baseball in Seattle.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but he hadn’t been the actual principal owner of the M’s since 2004, when he sold off his remaining share in the team to Nintendo of America? I know it was only a procedural move done for business reasons, but I don’t that either for much before that move and definitely not after that did he have much to do with the day-to-day operations of the team.

    (But, as former chairman and CEO of Nintendo, he was in charge of all of Nintendo assets, I suppose).

    Anyway, RIP, Mr. Yamauchi. 🙂

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