Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Seattle Mariners principal owner Hiroshi
Yamauchi passed away Thursday in his native Japan, the team has announced. He
was 85 years old.
Yamauchi, the retired chairman of video-game giant Nintendo who purchased the
team from Jeff Smulyan in 1992 to help keep the club in the Pacific Northwest,
had been suffering from pneumonia.
"The Seattle Mariners organization is deeply saddened by the passing today of
Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi," the club said in a statement. "His leadership of
Nintendo is legendary worldwide. His decision in 1992 to purchase the Mariners
franchise and keep Major League Baseball in Seattle as a 'gesture of goodwill
to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest' is legendary in this region."
Yamauchi's presence was instrumental in the Mariners' ability to lure several
top Japanese players to the major leagues, most notably 10-time All-Star and
2001 AL MVP Ichiro Suzuki. Current pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, former All-Star
closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, catcher Kenji Johjima and reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa
also had varying degrees of success during their tenures in Seattle.
"Mr. Yamauchi will be remembered for his role in moving forward the
opportunity for Japanese baseball players to play in the United States," the
statement continued. "He will forever be a significant figure in Mariners
Seattle became the first major league team to be owned by a non-North American
entity under Yamauchi, who relinquished daily operations of the Mariners to
Nintendo of America in 2004.
The Sports Network