ICHI MIYAGAWA PLAQUE DEDICATION AND CELEBRATION
MAY 5, 2018
The Dedication and Celebration was a phenomenal success. Everybody had a great time honoring and remembering Ichi and connecting with old friends and meeting new friends. Little League alumni and coaches from just about every time period when Ichi umpired, from 1955 through 1972, were in attendance.
Robert Stanton was the first speaker as "Co-Master of Ceremonies" (along with Derek Morris) and Robert started off the event describing "how we got here." In other words, what steps led up to this day's Dedication for Ichi Miyagawa?
Well, as Robert said, it actually all started when Robert and Derek were age four when they met in nursery school! Fast forward to 2015 during a Monterey High class reunion when Derek was in town from Santa Barbara visiting Robert and Annamarie. Robert's mother Jeanne stops by with a beautifully preserved photo album she had located in her attic - filled with all of Robert and Derek's Monte Vista Elementary class photos from Kindergarten through 6th grade! (They had been in the very same classes each year since nursery school!) Upon viewing the photos - many of which we had not seen in decades - Derek decided to create a website and to add his Little League and Babe Ruth team photo yearbooks. None of this stuff had ever been put online before - somebody had to do it! This was the beginning of an ever-expanding "Monterey memory lane" website.
So with those Monte Vista photos in front of us, Robert and Derek started talking about two things that had a big impact on us from 3rd through 6th grade at ages 9-12: Little League and Ichi! They both realized that though Ichi was a legend to them that they really knew very little about him.
And as they did a little more research, they learned more and more about what a great man Ichi Miyagawa was. It became apparent that it was about time that Ichi was honored! They initially and rather idealistically hoped to get the entire ballpark formally renamed after Ichi, which had been the intent of many and was even reported in his 2002 obituary. But, realizing that for many reasons a park renaming was not feasible, they developed the idea of installing at the park an engraved bronze tribute plaque shaped like home-plate showing Ichi "in action." It would be the first plaque ever installed at the ballpark in its sixty-three-year existence. It took more than two years to make it all happen, but things finally came together and the plaque unveiling and dedication took place on May 5, 2018.
(More details on the topic of "how we got here" are in the Addendum, below.)
So after Robert discussed "how we got here," Derek picked it up from there and the rest of the program was devoted to "why we are here." And to remember and honor Ichi Miyagawa, nine individual speakers walked up to the two microphones that were set up. They told often funny, moving and heartfelt stories. Speakers included Chuck Della Sala, Colin Kageyama, Phil Speciale, Carol Lancaster Brown, Del Brown, Donnie Enea, David Casas, Robert Stanton, and Derek Morris.
Keynote speaker Chuck Della Sala in particular encapsulated the undefinable "magic" of Ichi that still has an impact on us today. Chuck spoke of Ichi's "mystique," his professional black umpire uniform, black mask, black sunglasses, and powerful black motorcycle and his larger-than-life leadership personality. Many including Chuck echoed the sentiments that Ichi commanded respect and earned it through his firm oversight of the games coupled with a positive and understanding attitude towards every player he dealt with. Ichi was a perfect mix of "demanding and encouraging;" he elevated our game and brought out the best in us; we all wanted to do better when playing on ICHI'S FIELD. Sometimes Ichi's heavily accented choppy language was blunt and to the point - but we knew he had the best intent; we all laughed hearing many stories of Ichi's classic "comments." And as Chuck concluded (using a term which he pointed out is perhaps more common for kids today) Ichi for many of us was a "superhero."
With respect to Ichi's communication style, Monterey Little League alum and donor Steve Martin (winner of the "long distance voyager" award for traveling from Phoenix!) later wrote: "In hindsight, the slight language barrier/difference added to his aura of being from another world, and not just Japan as opposed to the USA. He was someone of action, and in control without being overbearing or overtly verbal. A great deal of freedom exists within the confines of certainty and structure, in knowing that the vagaries and upsets of uninvited unpleasantness are being kept safely away. People like Ichi create an environment that demands and appreciates responsibility, allowing for fun and success without being unnaturally free of disappointment, all within a space that permits the participant to experience the impervious mindset enjoyed by people completely in the moment."
Speaker Del Brown told the story of the day in recent years when a local Water Dept. crew was doing repairs in the street outside his house. During his conversation with the workers, Del's connection to Ichi somehow came up. Most of the people in that crew had played Little League under Ichi and loved Ichi. And at that point, each crew member started trying to "one-up" each other of why he was the better player and it was he that Ichi actually liked better! They were all brought back to the time when they were kids trying to impress Ichi! Another great example of Ichi's enduring impact.
A number of people spoke of the power and velocity behind Ichi's challenging throws back to the pitcher; when Ichi introduced a fresh baseball into the game he didn't just lob it to the pitcher or hand it to the catcher. Ichi threw it hard and directly AT the pitcher (with suitable "warning" to make sure he was ready) and that ball was thrown at high velocity with a smooth overhand motion, a perfect chest-high down-the-middle "strike" every time. We pitchers had to be on our toes just to handle one of Ichi's throws and to avoid getting the palms of our hands "stung" if we didn't catch the ball more towards the webbing part of the glove. This was Ichi's subtle "hey wake up!" call and perhaps his way of letting us know that he too could play the game. Ichi had a way of keeping us focused; and as funny as it sounds, we all wanted to impress Ichi and prove that we could catch his throws!
Regarding Ichi's hard throws: here is what donor Pete Casas said in a Herald article written by Dennis Taylor (printed below on this page) :
"One of his vivid childhood memories is the way Ichi, the home-plate umpire, would zip the ball back to the mound after a foul ball 30-some years ago.
Sssss — WHAP!
" 'He'd throw BB’s at you --- absolute bullets,' Casas recollects. It was always kind of scary for an 11- or 12-year-old pitcher. Everybody you talk to seems to have five or six memories of Ichi’s days as an umpire in Monterey -- who he was, how he handled the games — and that's definitely one of mine.'"
As Patrick Duffy (a donor who could not attend) wrote: "As the catcher for the Elks team, I had ample time behind home plate with Ichi. He was always watching out for all of us. My favorite memory of catching at Little League Park was; every once in a while, if I got ahead of myself during a game, and I was leaning toward the pitchers mound, catcher's mitt outstretched across the plate, without saying a word, Ichi would gently nudge me back towards the backstop, so the batter would not crack my skull with his swing... Great Guy, and now, with this plaque placed behind home plate, Ichi will continue to keep an eye on the safety of all the future Little Leaguers who play on our field."
As donor and event attendee Phil Speciale wrote: "I will always remember Ichi. He was an excellent umpire. Nothing but fond memories from back in the day (around 1970) when I was a 12-year-old catcher on my Little League Team, the Host Lions. I also used to love the way he said Schttttruuurriiiiiiikke."
This memory of Ichi's classic pronunciation of baseball terms was echoed by many. As a donor (who could not attend) Rob Mehlert wrote: "Steerike ... That's how I remember Ichi ... what a pleasant umpire .... great memories .... thanks Ichi!"
As a few people pointed out, "Schttttruuurriiiiiiikke" or "Steerike" - or however you spell it (!) was one of three classic and memorable Ichi "words." The other two were: "Battazzout" and to help kids get out of the way of errant pitches Ichi would say "Waaatch-eeet"!
David Casas provided an interesting "clarification" to the classic story told by his brother Pete in the Dennis Taylor Herald article about the time Ichi "booted" David's father from the ballpark. The article seems to imply that their father was protesting one of Ichi's calls. Well, David says that actually before the game started, someone discovered rocks scattered in the outfield grass (perhaps thrown onto the field the night before by mischievous kids?) and their father just wanted to have the rocks cleared before the game began in the interest of safety. David said that Ichi wanted to proceed on schedule and not bother with the rocks, and that was what upset the father. Regardless, not sure if Dennis Taylor misunderstood or if Pete Casas was misquoted, but what began as perhaps a simple request combined with a communication/language misunderstanding escalated into an ego clash and the father got booted not just from the game but from the entire facility. This story did illustrate that Ichi ran a tight ship and was never sympathetic to parental or coach complaints and protests. Ichi's decision was final and people learned to not question his authority. (By the way, the rocks got removed in the course of the game and nobody ever got hurt.)
Derek Morris spoke of Ichi's "protective attitude" towards kids. As he wrote below: "If a wild pitch was headed towards a batter, Ichi would shout out 'Waatch Eet!' in a strong Japanese accent to get the batter to jump out of the way. Ichi would even occasionally reach out to block a pitch that was about to hit a batter if the kid could not get out of the way in time. And every once in a while Ichi would pause briefly between pitches to correct a young inexperienced player’s stance if Ichi felt he needed instruction. It always occurred to me back then that giving batting instructions to an inexperienced unconfident kid in 'real time' while he is at the plate in the middle of a stressful game, while everybody was watching, was not necessarily the most effective way to teach batting skills! But everybody knew Ichi was just trying to help!"
About 60 people attended the Ichi Dedication. A total of 45 burritos were served afterward in the ballpark's picnic area to those who had reserved in advance, along with light food, dessert, cake and beverages for all.
As promised, prior to the event the City of Monterey Parks and Recreation Department completed a beautiful renovation of Peter J. Ferrante Park. Improvements include repainting of the park's building in a "Monterey Adobe / Monterey Green Wood Trim" color scheme, cosmetic exterior wall repairs, a new roof, new backstop boards and backstop padding, resurfacing of the infield skin with the same custom volcanic cinder + clay material used in the best baseball/softball parks, and upgrading of the picnic area behind the tall right field fence. The City also did an excellent, thorough job in installing the Ichi Miyagawa tribute plaque.
Special thanks to Annamarie Stanton and to Rick and Ellie Hattori for helping make the event such a success.
And thanks to those who donated to the Ichi Miyagawa memorial fund: The Miyagawa Family, John Pira, Donna Aldrete Bua, Craig Smith, Colin Kageyama, Thomas Williams, Mel Hagio, Patrick Duffy, Rick and Ellie Hattori, Mike Marotta, Ed Leonard, Rob Mehlert, Gary Hutchinson, Monterey Buddhist Temple, Randall Harris, Jack Frost, Mark and Chris Smith, Phil Speciale, Chris Thomas, John Casas, Tom Russo Sr., Mikeal Culala, Josette Harris Quinn, Peter Casas, Mike Ventimiglia, Paul B. Martin and Steve Martin, Derek Morris and Robert Stanton
Derek Morris and Robert Stanton
A few more words about the May 5 Dedication event: Robert Stanton was the first speaker as "Co-Master of Ceremonies" (along with Derek Morris) and Robert started off the event describing "how we got here." In other words, what steps led up to this day's Dedication for Ichi Miyagawa?
Well, It all started about two and a half years ago in 2015 during a Monterey High class reunion when Derek was in town from Santa Barbara visiting Robert and Annamarie. Robert's mother Jeanne stops by with a beautifully preserved photo album she had located in her attic - filled with all of Robert and Derek's Monte Vista Elementary class photos from Kindergarten through 6th grade! (They had been in the very same classes from nursery school through 6th grade.) This was a total mind-blower! And upon viewing the K-through-6 photos - most of which we had not seen in decades - Derek decided right there to create a website and to add their Little League and Babe Ruth team photo yearbooks which he had saved.** None of this stuff had ever been put online before - somebody needed to do it!
So with those Monte Vista elementary class photos right in front of us, Robert and Derek started talking about our recollections of something that had a big impact on us - Little League! And one of the first things to come up, of course, was Ichi ! We had always loved Ichi; we all really looked forward to playing games at Monterey Little League Park where he umpired. To us, it was always "ICHI'S FIELD!" Ichi umpired each and every Little League game there without exception. He ran the place and it was his domain. But still at this point in time - October 2015 - we didn't even know Ichi's last name! The guy was a childhood legend to us, yet years later we still knew absolutely nothing about the man! We wondered, is Ichi still alive? Does he live in Monterey? What is his story? And if he is still with us, it sure would be nice to connect with him!
So after some further investigation and digging, with the help of the Monterey Public Library research librarian Victor Henry and historian Dennis Copeland, Monterey Buddhist Temple's Rev. Jay Shinseki, and 1960's era coaches Don Davison (Derek's Herald coach) and Eddie Leonard (who coached Schulken - later Shulken & Morton - with Stoney Bruno), we finally located two detailed articles about Ichi Miyagawa written in the Herald by veteran feature writer and reporter Dennis Taylor. At last, we finally knew Ichi's full name! One article was a detailed 1999 feature story about Ichi where he at age 86 threw out the "first pitch" at the national Bronco World Series game in Monterey; the other piece sadly was an extensive Ichi Miyagawa obituary from 2002. The 1999 feature story and 2002 obituary (copies of which are lower down on this webpage) told a fascinating story of Ichi's life. The article had many tributes to Ichi from some people we grew up which echoed many of the memories and feelings we had of Ichi. The articles pointed out a few key facts: Ichi actually had co-founded the Monterey Little League program in 1952, had served as the chief umpire at Monterey Little League Park since the park was completed in 1955, AND Ichi volunteered at Monterey Little League Park as an unpaid umpire for eighteen years. Ichi donated his time for free!
Significantly, the 2002 obituary also reported that Monterey Little League Park at that point was now going to be renamed after Ichi Miyagawa! Whaaat...???! Well, obviously this never happened. The momentum was not sustained and the "political will" to rename the park never fully developed, although Dennis Taylor's reporting implied that park renaming was a "done deal." (When asked, Dennis today doesn't remember the circumstances and politics taking place back in 2002).
So the more Robert and Derek thought about it, the more we thought that this great man Ichi Miyagawa really needs to be honored. Our initial intent was the never-quite-accomplished renaming of the ballpark after Ichi, though we knew this was a bit of a pipe dream. Robert did a reality check with former mayors Dan Albert Sr. and Chuck Della Sala. They both essentially confirmed that realistically any park "name change" today wasn't very likely. Too much time had passed, memories fade, it is a different group of people now in both elected and in many City staff positions, and the "institutional memory" for Ichi had faded. And besides Monterey Little League Park had already been "renamed" in the late 70's - from "Monterey Little League Park" to "Peter J. Ferrante Park." Politically, a park renaming was a non-starter.
As we explored further, we did think that there might be another route to honoring Ichi. We came up with the concept of a beautiful bronze engraved "tribute plaque" showing Ichi "in action" as an umpire; a plaque in the exact shape of the home plate where Ichi umpired for eighteen years. The plaque could be installed on the wall directly facing the infield, in perfect alignment with home plate and pitcher's mound, and would be the first plaque ever to be approved for the ballpark in its sixty-three-year existence.
And that is how this project all started. It was a long process of getting City Parks and Recreation Department management engaged and of educating them about Ichi's great story, of rallying support of local community leaders (including Chuck Della Sala and others who played Little League under Ichi, and Dan Albert Sr.) and local Monterey PONY league officials. It involved developing design alternatives and wording for the plaque, and of working with a City-recommended foundry in coming up with the final approved design. There were at least eight or nine different plaque design iterations. Not to mention the task of finding a "useable" photo of Ichi to incorporate into the plaque design itself! Surprisingly we were only able to locate one photo of Ichi! But with some "Photoshop magic" and additional graphics help from the foundry, a great plaque design resulted which was enthusiastically approved by the City.
One great early "indicator" that we were on the right path: Both Robert and Annamarie are at PJF Park about to take pictures of the proposed plaque as it would be situated on the wall, using a "real size" laminated photo/cardboard mock-up they had fabricated which was about to be part of the "final submission" to the City. This mockup would give the City an idea of how the plaque would appear once installed; the city had been concerned about a real-size home plate being "too big" etc. We wanted to assure the City of their concerns that the overall look of the plaque when mounted on the building would be appropriate. So just as Robert is positioning the mock plaque to take some photos, he hears a voice from behind him! Here is how Robert describes it:
"Upon placing a laminated photocopy of Ichi’s Homeplate Plaque for the very first time, I immediately heard these words of enthusiasm behind me: 'Ichi was great. He was an icon. Best ump ever!' This spontaneous response came from the girls' softball coach who was coaching his daughter's team on the field. The synchronicity of his comment at this moment struck me as a confirmation of the placement, size, and impact of the plaque! He was able to read Ichi’s name from just behind home plate His response after coming up to read the text was 'PERFECT!' " ~ Robert Stanton
As it turns out, the softball coach had played Little League under Ichi and though they initially didn't recognize each other, Robert (and Derek) both knew the coach from the past - they had all gone to high school together. We took this as a great sign that Ichi fans are everywhere and that there still was a lot of "pent-up demand" for an Ichi tribute!
So once full approval was secured from the City, money was then raised from a group of supportive and enthusiastic donors. The plaque was expertly fabricated by a City-recommended foundry based in Illinois and then installed by the City at the newly refurbished, repainted and renovated Peter J. Ferrante Park. (Thanks to Louie Marcuzzo of Monterey Parks and Rec for his great help.) And the May 5 Dedication pictured here took place!
Robert Stanton added one interesting perspective at the Dedication: the Ichi Miyagawa Tribute Plaque is now a permanent physical part of the ballpark; the plaque will outlast any potential park "renaming" that might ever take place in the distant future if political winds change direction.
So the Tribute Plaque and the inscribed Memorial Bench now finally and forever announce to all that this park truly is "ICHI'S FIELD!"
And as we announced at the May 5, 2018 event, surplus donations over and above our target goal have been applied towards the purchase of a beautiful Memorial Bench that was installed June 21, 2018. The bench is permanently embedded in asphalt directly under the Ichi Miyagawa plaque. The bench is inscribed with a 2" x 10" plaque that simply reads: "ICHI'S FIELD"
The substantial 135 lb. bench purchased directly from a specialty park bench manufacturer recommended by the City, is anchored at an ideal location - at the base of the wall directly facing the infield. The bench is in alignment with home plate, pitcher's mound, and 2nd base, right under the Ichi Miyagawa Plaque. For some, this spot may become the most popular seating location, because it provides the best "behind-home-plate" game views - similar to Ichi's perspective of the game as he worked directly with an estimated 3000 kids as a volunteer umpire for eighteen years!
We hope that the bench will also assist people in the "Ichi discovery process." Those watching the game from that location might notice the ICHI'S FIELD nameplate, then look behind them and learn more about the "Legend of Ichi!" And as many have remarked, with the Ichi Miyagawa Plaque and his Memorial Bench directly behind home plate, Ichi's spirit will continue to keep an eye on the well being of all future Little Leaguers/youth baseball/ softball players who play on the field!
The City of Monterey absorbed costs of installing the bench. Installation involves anchoring the rugged 135 lb. synthetic wood, fiberglass and steel bench into the asphalt, as well as permanently attaching the inscribed nameplate.
Thanks to Louie Marcuzzo of Monterey Parks and Recreation for working with us in recommending "City-approved" bench manufacturers and for coordinating direct-to-the-City delivery logistics. The City also arranged for us to purchase the bench directly from the manufacturer "at cost," with no markup or city administrative fees attached. Thanks also to Federico Shoe Service (Henry Federico) for the donation of the bench inscription plate; Henry played in Monterey Little League and also loved Ichi!
As said earlier, bench purchase was from surplus donations over and above our fundraising goal. Our initial target was $1800 and we ended up receiving $2651 from 27 donors. Special thanks to the Miyagawa Family for helping put the campaign "over the top" with their final contribution, assuring completion of the bench purchase. Summary of funds raised and spent is below.
We are pleased to report that 100% of the $2651 in donations has now been fully disbursed! The account balance is zero. Breakdown of donations and expenses is below.
And thanks to all campaign donors: The Miyagawa Family, John Pira, Donna Aldrete Bua, Craig Smith, Colin Kageyama, Thomas Williams, Mel Hagio, Patrick Duffy, Rick and Ellie Hattori, Mike Marotta, Ed Leonard, Rob Mehlert, Gary Hutchinson, Monterey Buddhist Temple, Randall Harris, Jack Frost, Mark and Chris Smith, Phil Speciale, Chris Thomas, John Casas, Tom Russo Sr., Mikeal Culala, Josette Harris Quinn, Peter Casas, Mike Ventimiglia, Paul B. Martin and Steve Martin, Derek Morris and Robert Stanton.
ICHI MIYAGAWA MEMORIAL
PLAQUE & BENCH CAMPAIGN
FUNDRAISING & EXPENSE SUMMARY
TOTAL DONATIONS $2651
1) !chi Plaque Fabrication $1177
2) Memorial Bench Purchase $975
3) Bench Nameplate $0.00 (Donated by Federico's)
4) Plaque Installation $0.00 (Provided by City of Monterey)
5) Bench Installation $0.00 (Provided by City of Monterey)
6) May 5 Dedication Event Burritos $295
7) gofundme.com fees $204
TOTAL EXPENSES: $2651
TOTAL DONATIONS: $2651
(Less: gofundme.com fees): ($204)
TOTAL NET DONATIONS: $2447
TOTAL HARD COSTS $2447
(Excluding gofundme.com fees):
ACCOUNT BALANCE: 5/20/18 $0.00
Update March 29, 2018:
The plaque dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 5 at 1:00 -2:00 PM at Peter J. Ferrante Ballpark in Monterey. Immediately following the ceremony, there will be a party and celebration "next door" at the beautiful newly renovated picnic area behind the very tall and protective right field fence. Food will be provided and RSVP's are requested. For more details, visit:
As promised, the City of Monterey Parks and Recreation Department just completed a beautiful renovation of Peter J. Ferrante Park. Improvements include repainting of the park's building in a classic "Monterey Adobe / Monterey Green Wood Trim" color scheme, cosmetic exterior wall repairs, a brand new roof, new backstop boards and backstop padding, resurfacing of the infield skin with the same custom volcanic cinder + clay material used in many of the best amateur and professional baseball/softball parks, and upgrading of the picnic area behind the 30-foot-tall right field fence. Many thanks to Parks & Rec. staff members Cindy Vierra, Kim Bui-Burton, Louie Marcuzzo and their crews for getting the renovations completed in such a timely fashion!
(Photos by Robert and Annamarie Stanton)
So now the building wall in alignment with home plate, pitcher's mound, and second base is ready for the installation of Ichi's tribute plaque!
We are honoring beloved Little League umpire Ichiro "Ichi" Miyagawa with an engraved bronze tribute plaque which will be installed at Peter J. Ferrante Park (formerly Monterey Little League Park).
Organizers of this campaign are fellow Monterey Little League alumni Derek Morris and Robert Stanton.
The plaque will be 17" x 17" with a single-beveled border, in the exact size and shape of a regulation "home plate" used in all organized baseball, from Little League to the Major Leagues.
The size limitations of this gofundme site do not allow the viewer to fully appreciate the quality of the plaque. Click here to view a higher resolution image.
We believe that the home plate theme is a perfect way to honor Ichi. The plaque will be mounted on the building wall facing the ballfield behind the backstop, in alignment with the pitcher's mound, second base, and the home plate where Ichi volunteered as an umpire for eighteen years!
We are very excited about the engraved bronze technology being used here, which is perfect for our application. This process is best when including photos and a significant amount of text. Engraved plaques can accommodate more text than cast plaques and the photos and textures tend to be sharper. The fonts used here are 'sans-serif' to improve readability, plus engraved fonts visually "pop" better than text on cast plaques. The sophisticated CNC machining process used for bronze engraving allows for more subtle gradations of textures, and after CNC machining the plaque is hand rubbed to better bring out the relief design. The result is that the entire plaque has "relief" and"texture" - from Ichi's "in action" photo, to the crosshatch in the baseball diamond infield, to the home plate and batter's box, to the radiating stripes of the outfield.
Again, the dimensions of this site do not allow the viewer to fully appreciate the quality of the plaque. Click here to view a higher resolution image.
The City of Monterey Monterey Parks & Recreation Department, after months of discussion, recently gave us formal written approval for all elements of the plaque design, wording, and size. In addition, the City has generously offered to install the plaque at its own expense and to repaint the entire building. This is the first tribute plaque ever to be approved for the ballpark since it was completed in 1955.
Costs of plaque fabrication itself must be privately funded and that is why we put together this gofundme site. We have worked closely with the plaque designer/ fabricator/foundry which was recommended by the City of Monterey. Together we have created a unique plaque design that also incorporates state-of-the-art bronze engraving technology.
Our fundraising campaign budget is $1800. This covers all costs relating to plaque design, fabrication, gofundme.com fundraising fees and related expenses.
Thanks to the Monterey community leaders and Monterey Little League alumni who endorsed the final plaque design approved by the City. Signers of the final submission package included former Monterey Mayors Chuck Della Sala and Dan Albert, former Monterey Councilman Frank Sollecito, former Monterey Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike Marotta Jr., former Monterey PONY President Joe DeRuosi, former Del Rey Oaks Councilman Mike Ventimiglia, former Monterey Little League Coach Eddie Leonard, Mel Hagio, Rick and Ellie Hattori, Steve Guerra, Robert and Annamarie Della Sala Stanton, and Derek Morris. Special thanks also to City of Monterey / Parks & Recreation staff Cindy Vierra, Kim Bui-Burton, and Louie Marcuzzo.
(Note for donors: You are making a contribution to the "Ichi The Umpire Plaque Fund" which is managed by Robert Stanton and Derek Morris. Note that the Gofundme.com platform inserts a "Not Facebook Verified" logo in campaigns to help verify the identity of the sponsors. This approach seems more relevant to large national campaigns where the donors are geographically far removed and may not know the managers personally. We have ZERO interest in being "Facebook Verified," and virtually everybody donating to this locally-focused campaign knows one or both of the campaign managers personally. Meanwhile, even the "comments" section requires a Facebook log-in, which we find to be even more insane. We detest Facebook and have tried to get all Facebook references removed, but Gofundme claims they don't have the ability to do this. We question that assertion, but because Gofundme is otherwise an effective platform, we decided to live with this glaring defect. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. And thanks for your support!)
(Text On Plaque Reads As Follows:)
ICHIRO “ICHI” MIYAGAWA CO-FOUNDED MONTEREY LITTLE LEAGUE IN 1952 AND WAS THE BELOVED HEAD UMPIRE WHO VOLUNTEERED AT THIS PARK FROM ITS OPENING IN 1955 THROUGH 1972.
ICHI WAS LEGENDARY FOR REWARDING EACH SLUGGER WHO HIT THE BALL OUT OF THIS PARK WITH $1 WORTH OF CANDY, AND FOR “LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD” BY ADJUSTING THE STRIKE ZONE WHEN APPROPRIATE.
EVERYTHING ICHI WAS “BLACK,” FROM HIS PROFESSIONAL ATTIRE, SHADES AND MOTORCYCLE TO A BLACKBELT IN MARTIAL ARTS. HIS COMMANDING, INSPIRING PRESENCE WITH A TWINKLE IN HIS HELPED ELEVATE EVERYBODY’S GAME.
THANK YOU ICHI FOR CREATING OUR FIELD OF DREAMS!
Monterey Little League Park (Peter J. Ferrante Park) Before Renovation
Monterey Little League Park (Peter J. Ferrante Park) Before Renovation
Monterey Little League Park (Peter J. Ferrante Park) After Renovation
Peter J. Ferrante Park
(formerly Monterey Little League Park)
2 Encina Avenue
Monterey, CA 93940
(Corner of Encina, Garden & Palo Verde)
Click here to view a higher resolution plaque image and to learn more about Ichi Miyagawa.
Ichiro “Ichi" Miyagawa was the legendary head umpire at Monterey Little League Park for eighteen continuous seasons, from 1955 through 1972. His involvement with Monterey Little League spanned over twenty years; he was one of the co-founders of the Monterey program, which began in 1952. Ichi was named “head umpire” at Monterey Little League Park when construction was completed in 1955, remaining there through the 1972 season. It is estimated that Ichi had direct interaction with between 2500 and 3000 individual Little League players over that eighteen-year period. And during the eighteen seasons, he volunteered his time, not accepting any compensation.
Every youth baseball player, along with their parents and coaches, knew of Ichi. He was respected and beloved by all - an institution who was inextricably tied to that Little League Park. It was his domain - it really felt like it was "Ichi’s Field." Everybody looked forward to playing at the Little League Parky because it was a great facility and because it was Ichi’s field.
Ichiro Henry Miyagawa was born in the US. He moved to Japan at age six and grew up there before moving back to America with his family at age sixteen. He spoke with a thick accent but his communications were clear and authoritative. He dressed so "professionally" that he reminded everybody of an umpire right out of the major leagues, always wearing a well-tailored official black "umpire suit," a black chest protector and a black facemask. When the facemask was off between innings and before and after games, he often had on a pair of dark black sunglasses. This "look" added to his mystique.
He was a positive influence, a role model, and helped elevate everybody’s game. Ichi raised the level of our game just by looking and acting like a professional umpire. We all tried a little bit harder because of Ichi. And although Ichi was serious about his umpiring duties, he always had a twinkle in his eye and an encouraging, positive vibe to him; an authoritative, commanding presence who ran a tight ship while subtly encouraging and bringing out the best in the players.
He obviously had a baseball playing background; when he brought out a fresh baseball during a game he didn't just hand it to the catcher. He threw it directly to the pitcher, and that ball was thrown hard and with precision accuracy in a smooth overhand motion - a perfect strike each time. A pitcher had to be on his toes just to catch one of Ichi's throws! This was perhaps Ichi's brief chance to subtly let everybody know that yes, he too could play the game!
And Ichi as an umpire was excellent - by far the best in the league. His calls of "balls and strikes" were accurate and consistent and he had a strong sense of each batter's strike zone. I don't recall ever seeing him make a bad decision on a close play. And his decision was final. Neither players nor coaches ever successfully argued a call with Ichi!
Ichi did have a reputation among some coaches (as we found out recently) for sometimes "leveling the playing field" and "expanding the strike zone" on teams that were way ahead in a particular game. Ichi never discussed this, but he simply wanted every player to enjoy the game. His intent was honorable; he wanted to make all kids feel good about themselves and to avoid any team feeling that they had really lost embarrassingly. I never saw this "altering of the strike zone" happen myself, but if Ichi indeed occasionally did “level the playing field” it was subtle and rare. But some coaches from that era do believe this did take place at times.
Another example of Ichi's "protective attitude:" if a “wild pitch” was headed towards a batter, Ichi would shout out "Waatch Eet!" in a strong Japanese accent to get the batter to jump out of the way. Ichi would even occasionally reach out to block a pitch that was about to hit a kid if the kid could not get out of the way in time. And Ichi would occasionally pause briefly between pitches to correct a young inexperienced player’s stance if Ichi felt the kid needed a little bit of instruction. Everybody accepted this and knew Ichi was just trying to help.
One last important point that was mentioned in a Herald feature article about him in 1999: Ichi Miyagawa reportedly never accepted any payment from Monterey Little League for his umpiring over those eighteen years. He was donating his time!
To us kids, Ichi was a bit of a mystery man. Nobody seemed to know what he did for his day job. I recall rumors that he taught Japanese language somewhere like the Defense Language Institute or Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies or Fort Ord, but none of us kids knew. As we found out recently, Ichi actually worked for the Pebble Beach Company / Del Monte Properties as a gardener/landscaper for 35 years. He held a black belt in karate and taught martial arts for many years to the Monterey Police Department. Another interesting element that added to Ichi's mystique: he rode a large and very well-equipped black Honda motorcycle that was as dark as his umpire's uniform and he wore a black leather jacket. He parked the motorcycle not on the street, but in an out-of-the-way section of the ballpark grounds, away from cars, people, and from errant foul balls. I can still remember seeing him "riding off into the sunset" after a game on that black motorcycle, dressed in that black leather jacket and wearing a black motorcycle helmet.
Of course, the one thing that Ichi was legendary for was awarding $1 worth of candy to every slugger who hit a home run over the fence at the Monterey Little League Park! Everybody in town seemed to know about Ichi's $1 candy home run reward. And the reward was immediate! As soon as the home run hitter crossed home plate after taking the "home run trot" around the bases, Ichi would congratulate him, gently grab his shoulder and point him towards the "snack shack" behind home plate bleachers. Some home run hitters after rounding the bases would go to the dugout with the intent of picking up the candy later, but most immediately headed straight towards the snack shack! And the nice lady who owned and operated the concession always seemed to know who had just hit the homer; Ichi "ran an account" there. And the concession stand lady gave the home run hitter priority so he could get his candy and return to the dugout while his team remained at bat.
(According to "inflation" calculation websites, in 2017 dollars, that $1 in 1964 would be equivalent to $7.79 today. A dollar's worth of candy perhaps did not buy as much in 1964 as $7.79 does today because sugar and high fructose corn syrup products overall do seem relatively "cheaper" today as is all junk food! But $1 worth of candy was still a lot of candy!)
Looking back, Ichi's one dollar's worth of candy was probably the most direct, tangible and immediate type of validation that we ever received for outstanding hitting performance in a game. Everybody knew about Ichi's $1 home run candy; an "edible trophy" and reward that could be "conspicuously consumed" and shared with teammates on the spot. It was an earned reward, though as fleeting and ephemeral as a dollar's worth of candy. Ah, those were the days ... when sugar was innocent and fun and non-toxic and not a known cause of Type-2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome!
Ichi Henry Miyagawa was born in 1911 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 89. His 2002 obituary and a 1999 feature article, both written by Dennis Taylor of the Herald, are linked below. In looking back at 1964, which for many in our age group was the final year of Little League, Ichi was 53 years old. Most of us kids probably thought he was quite younger, though we didn't really have a concept of adult ages; Ichi seemed like somewhere between an older brother and a parental figure. But Ichi was actually older than most of our parents!
Thank you, Ichi! You helped make Little League an even more fun experience!
Click here to view a higher resolution plaque image and to learn more about Ichi Miyagawa.