Last Wednesday, I got an email from my friend John Gibson that long-time Japan Times baseball columnist Wayne Graczyk had passed away. I didn’t know Wayne personally, but his passing saddened me. Wayne was one of my early guides to Japanese baseball, and his work made the league accessible to before I learned to speak and read Japanese.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I first heard Wayne’s voice in 1994. The MLB player’s strike had cancelled the World Series, and my local sports cable station showed the Japan Series, broadcast by the White Sox announcers and some guy who lived in Japan. That guy happened to be Wayne, and although I didn’t remember his name, I absorbed much of what he had to say. And so began my fascination with Japanese baseball.
Fast forward to 2001, when I was a youthful English teacher working at a Nova chain school somewhere near Osaka. Every time a Japan Times shows up in break room, I would immediately flip to the sports section and read Wayne’s Baseball Bullet-in column. Life in Japan was still new, and baseball was both comforting in it’s familiarity and fascinating in its differences. Wayne had a deep understanding of Japanese baseball, and I learned through his work, bit by bit, until I learned Japanese well enough to get by.
Fast forward again to 2008, when I started npbtracker.com. I was working on a blog post that was a collection of links, and I decided to call it “NPB Bullet Points,” as a nod to Wayne’s influence on my work. The name stuck and I wrote dozens, if not hundreds, more posts using that title.
I think that Wayne knew that Japanese baseball, like most things, could be enjoyed more thoroughly with a deeper understanding of it’s culture, nuances, and history. This was certainly reflected in his writing, and I’ve always tried to carry on the tradition in bringing Japanese baseball to new audiences.
I never met or exchanged emails with Wayne, but without his work, my development as a writer would have taken a different path. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and loved ones.
I never got to thank Wayne personally for his work. I’m lucky to have met my other early influences in Japanese baseball, Jim Allen and Michael Westbay, multiple times, and happily call them friends. But I’d like to show my appreciation to them once more, and say thank you. Without the work Jim, Michael, and Wayne have done to make Japanese baseball accessible to English-speaking audiences, there certainly would never have been an NPB Tracker.