James Fumito Horio
(The Yellow Peril)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 157 lb.
Jimmy Horio played in the US and Japan.
Horio was born in Hawaii in 1907, returned with his family to their native Hiroshima in 1913 and then going back to Hawaii in 1919. He played in Hawaii's plantation leagues while dreaming of the majors. When his father returned to Japan again in 1928, Jimmy stayed in the US, deciding to pursue a baseball career. In 1930, he played for the Los Angeles Nippons, a semipro club. The team toured Japan in 1931 and won 20 of 25 games.
After four seasons with Los Angeles, Horio signed with the Sioux Falls Canaries, hitting .264/?/.383 with 60 runs in 110 games while fielding .904 in the outfield. As the lone Japanese-American in the Nebraska State League, he battled racist taunts, once challenging a heckler who called him "Chink" to fight it out on the field. In the fall, he heard about the Babe Ruth-led US All-Star team that was going to tour Japan in the off-season. Horio came up with an interesting plan to impress major league officials; he would try to join the All-Nippon team that faced the US All-Stars. As Horio had done well in his 1931 tour with the Los Angeles Nippons, he figured he could crack the All-Nippon squad.
Jimmy sent a copy of an article about himself and a picture of him in the Sioux Falls uniform to All-Nippon skipper Daisuke Miyake. He impressed Miyake in a workout and won a spot on the team. He scored All-Nippon's first run of the tournament, being hit by a Joe Cascarella pitch, stealing second, taking third on a Frankie Hayes error and scoring on a fly from Minoru Yamashita. His big hit was a three-run homer off Earl Whitehill later in the tourney. As a regular in the All-Nippon outfield, he went 8 for 41 with a homer, 4 runs and 4 walks, near the middle of the team in offense, not enough to impress the major leaguers to sign him.
When the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Club was formed as the first pro team in Japan, Horio signed with them. The team toured the US in 1935 and Horio hit .275 with 40 steals and 78 runs in their 109-game sojourn. He impressed enough to win a contract with the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League; Jimmy was hitting .291 in late July when his wife was involved in a car accident that wound up costing her life in early August. Horio returned to Sacramento afterwards but slumped and finished at .250 with error-free defense in 20 games; the three outfielders he backed up all played in the majors during their careers.
The switch-hitter tried out for the PCL's Seattle Indians for 1936 but did not make the team. He then returned to Japan to join the new Japanese Professional Baseball League, playing for Hankyu. He hit only .108/.233/.216 in 9 games in the spring of 1936 and .179/.217/.252 in the fall. In the fall season, he was second to Isamu Fujii in at-bats (123 to 125), tied for 7th in RBI (17, even with Teruhiko Takahashi, Yoshio Takahashi and Koichi Yamashita), tied for second with three triples (one behind Kentaro Ito), tied Seiichi Hayashi and Kenjiro Matsuki for 5th with 10 steals and tied for 3rd with 17 whiffs. The league OPS was 592, so Horio's batting line was low, but not as bad as it may appear out of context. Interestingly, his three triples came in three straight innings November 14 and remain a Nippon Pro Baseball record for three-baggers in a game.
Horio hit .244/.323/.419 in the spring of 1937 and .253/.335/.377 in the fall season. In the fall, he tied for 6th with 10 doubles (tied with Shigeo Kojima, Toshio Kurosawa and Shigeru Mizuhara) and tied for sixth with three dingers. He batted .289/.358/.380 in the spring of 1938 and missed the top 10 in average by .006. He tied for third in triples (3) and tied Muneyoshi Okada and Hisanori Karita for 8th in steals (7). He hit .233/.288/.408 in the fall season; between the spring and fall, he played 56 games in the outfield and made no errors.
Japan went to one full-summer league instead of a split format in 1939; Horio moved to the Osaka Tigers and hit .247/.308/.356 with 30 steals, 61 runs and 57 RBI in 96 games while only committing two errors. He tied Haruyasu Nakajima for the most at-bats in the JPBL (396), tied Mizuhara and Den Yamada for 4th in runs, was 8th with 98 hits (between Kano Omoda and Norikazu Mizutani), was 3rd in home runs (7, behind Kazuto Tsuruoka and Masaru Kageura), was 3rd in RBI (57, behind Tetsuharu Kawakami and Nakajima) and led with 5 times hit by pitch.
In 1940, Horio produced at a .241/.303/.329 clip with 55 runs and 29 steals in 98 games for the Tigers. He made the leaderboard in at-bats (395, 3rd behind Okada and Nakajima), runs (4th, 55, between Sadayuki Minagawa and Yasuya Hondo), tied Hondo for 7th in hits (95), tied Kazuo Kito for 4th in doubles (22), tied for 6th with 3 home runs and was 4th in swipes (between Masaki Yoshiwara and Yoshio Gomi). He was hitting .202/.278/.317 after 28 games in 1941.
In June 1941, with fears of being drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army as he was ethnic Japanese. He returned to Hawaii, only to witness the attack on Pearl Harbor six months later. He burnt his Japanese-language library and his portrait of the Emperor for fear of the reaction from other Americans and he began working at Pearl Harbor, painting boats. He later opened a gas station. His brother died in the Hiroshima bombing. In 1949, Jimmy died of bone cancer.