How can a legend be a mystery? That's exactly what Hiroshi Yamauchi was to Seattle, despite being one of the world's most famous people in a different industry. Yamauchi was the president of Nintendo, and oversaw industry-changing products from their inception to release, from playing cards to console units. Despite his fame and massive wealth, Yamauchi was never really involved in anything the Mariners did after he purchased them in 1992, saving the team from being moved to Tampa. Yamauchi famously never attended a game and virtually never spoke of the team. The Mariners were a business venture for Yamauchi, and a successful one at that. The team was purchased for $120 million back in 1992.
This morning, Yamauchi passed away from pneumonia at age 85. It's unclear what will happen to his share in the team, the ownership group, or what changes will come. There will be a time for speculation and reaction from a business side of things, but this isn't it.
It isn't a stretch to say that Hiroshi Yamauchi probably saved this franchise 21 years ago, and he opened some doors to Japan in the process. Ichiro, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Kenji Johjima, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Munenori Kawasaki all arrived under Yamauchi's reign. Yamauchi's entry into Major League Baseball changed the culture of professional baseball forever, and his connection certainly aided in bringing some outstanding players to the Mariners. Before Yamauchi purchased the team, there had been one Japanese player in MLB history. Masanori Murakami, in 1964. Hideo Nomo was the second, in 1995. The third was Mac Suzuki, who signed with the Mariners.
Regardless of what you think about the men in charge of this front office, Seattle might not have a team at all without this man. Baseball itself might not look anything like it looks today without the doors to Japan opening up. Today's a day to pay tribute to a man who has unquestionably done a lot of good for this organization, and for baseball in general.