Farewell to Gaku, great scribe, better guy

* Japan's Peter Gammons, Gaku (Head) Tashiro, a pioneer amongst ball writers and one of the best karaoke singers, has headed home after 13 years covering the major league ball. ....     

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By Bob Elliott

Gaku (Head) Tashiro came to North America to write about Ichiro Suzuki.

And when sadly it came time for him to leave he was given a uniform with Suzuki’s No. 51 on it.

Tashiro left for his native Tokyo Thursday to become an editor with Sankei Sports.

Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News and Tashiro were the first writers from Asian publications to get Baseball Writers Association of America cards and Hall of Fame votes.

He was Japan’s Peter Gammons, he was a pioneer.

As part of Sankei Sports 50th anniversary project, he wrote 50 columns in the “National Pastime” series. Take a look where he visited:

The birth place of Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.  

The grave of Joe DiMaggio, Billy Martin, Babe Ruth and Cy Young, as well as his house inside am Amish village.

Museums in memory of Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra, Little League, Roger Maris, Negro League, Cooperstown, the Cincinnati Reds, Ted Williams - both the old museum and new one at Tropicana Field,

Toured The Field of Dreams movie site, Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant, Polo grounds site, Candlestick Park, Ripken Fields, the Louisville slugger factory, Steiner Sports memorabilia company, MLB network studio and commissioner Bud Selig’s Milwaukee office,

He interviewed Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro, Johnny Bench, Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Yogi Berra.

Plus he did features on Don Larsen, Yadier, Jose and Bengie Molina, the catching Molina brothers, Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe, Roger Maris's sons, Bernie Williams and ball hawk Zach Hample who has collected 7,176 baseballs from 50 different big-league stadiums.


* * *

As the legendary George King wrote in the New York Post:

The New York baseball scene took a big personality hit this week when ball writer Gaku “Head’’ Tashiro headed home. In 13 years covering major league baseball Tashiro certainly left a mark.

This past World Series, Tashiro became the first official scorer from Japan. His signed Game 1 score sheet from Fenway Park -- an 8-1 Boston Red Sox win over the St. Louis Cardinals -- was sent to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He also served on the BBWAA’s board of directors.   

Beyond all that, his outgoing personality made him a favorite in press boxes and clubhouses throughout the major leagues.

When a going-away party Tuesday night at Mr. Dennehy’s in the West Village was winding down, the common thread running through Tashiro’s friends was unanimous: He will be missed.




* * *

Tashiro came to North America to cover Suzuki with the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Two years later Hideki Matsui joined the New York Yankees and Tashiro moved to the east coast.

“I’ve covered Matsui since 1993, his rookie year with the Yomiuri Giants and he has always called me “mister” as a sign of respect because I am older,” said Tashiro.

Tashiro was a regular visitor to the Rogers Centre, whether it was following the exploits of Boston Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish, Suzuki or Matsui.

Matsui was the most popular of players from Japan.

“Every game he would talk, even if he was 0-for-4,” Tashiro said of Matsui. “If he doesn’t get any hits ... we ask him about Jeter’s game.

Matsui won the World Series MVP in 2009 as the Yankees beat the Phillies. New York fans came to chant “Who’s your Daddy? Who’s Your Daddy?” at Pedro Martinez.

How do you say: “I’m your daddy” in Japanese?

“Ore ga Oyaji da,” according to Tashiro.

All Matsui did in Game 6, a 7-3 Series clinching win over the Philadelphia Phillies was: hit a two-run homer in the second against Martinez, a two-run single off Martinez to put the Yanks up 4-1 in the third and a two-run double off reliever J.A. Happ in the fifth.

Matsui hit .615 (8-for-13) with a double, three homers, eight RBIs and a 2.027 OPS.

He made an impression with Yankees staff from general manager Brian Cashman, to players, to clubhouse men to security guards.

"Gaku took so much pride in his job, and that’s a transcendent quality people in any business and with any background can appreciate," said Yankees crack P.R. director Jason Zillo. "As much effort he put into his work he still had a lot left in the tank to use to build relationships and friendships.  He was a pro, and a damn good guy."

When Matsui landed with the Anaheim Angels in 2010, Tashiro re-located to Costa Mesa, Calif. while his wife, Sachiko, and sons Rintaro, Johtaro and Gakutaro, remained in Paramus, N.J.

It was a long road trip: from spring training until the all-star break without being home: 113 days.

“Ichiro may have been a better player, but he’s not good for the media. Matsui is more popular in Japan. He talks to us before and after every game, shows respects for us, our job and fans,” Tashiro told us once. “He memorized the first names of all 10 Yankee beat writers.”


* * *

In Denver in 2007, Matsuzaka knocked in a pair of runs with a single as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-5 to take a 3-0 lead in the World Series.

Passing Gaku in the hall way of the press box after the game I mentioned Matsuzaka was the first Red Sox pitcher to have an RBI in the World Series since a lefty named Babe Ruth.

The next say Tashiro approached and said “Bob-san, thank you very much.”

For what?

“You told me about Dice-K -- my story made the front page of my paper, thank you.”


* * *

More than once we can recall being grumpy and talking to someone in the press box, hear someone buzz past behind me with a cheery “Bob-san” from a smiling Tashiro.

He flew into Toronto from Newark last November for a feature on Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and made a side trip to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys.

What set him apart from and made him stick out was because he wanted to know more than Matsui.

He wanted to know about Alex Rodriguez’s batting slump, whether Andy Pettitte would retire or if CC Sabathia’s struggles would continue.

Most North American writers are at the park at 2 o’clock in the afternoon for a night game and finished at the final deadline of 1 AM and asleep within a few hours.

Tashiro’s work day began at 2 PM and he could continue to write for his sport section until 10 AM the next day.

Now, he returns to a more normal life style with his wife Sachiko, and their sons Rintaro, 14, Johtaro, 10, and Gakutaro, 8.


* * *

At the end of the evening in New York he was presented a Team Canada jersey, purchased as a gift, with his name on the back, which Adam Morissette of Baseball Canada arranged to ship in time for the big party.



Any time Canada played Japan on the international stage or the World Baseball Classic there was constant needling between the two of us and others:

“Bob-san did you see the score in the game played between our two countries?”

“Heard all about it: bad umpiring, terrible strike zone -- but only when the Canadians were batting. There is going to be an investigation.”


“Hey Gaku, how ‘bout Canada beating Japan last night?”

“No one in my country cares about those competitions -- we only care about the WBC. We always win.”


And since we could not resist continuing the needling which went from time to time a baseball was slipped into his going away package:


Canada 6, Japan 5

(10 Innings)

Aug. 31, 2012

IBAF 18U World Cup


The way he cared so much about his profession and his passion game for the game itself is what set him apart.

It would be nice if everyone who does this for a living took it as seriously as he does

He has said he’s honoured to call King, others and myself his friends.

The honour is all ours.