PIRATES TOLD KUWATA HE WAS A PRISONER OF WAR AND WAS BEING SHIPPED TO AN AMERICAN POW CAMP ON PITTSBURGH'S NORTH SHORE
BRADENTON - Pirates' pitcher Masumi Kuwata, a former Japanese intelligence officer stationed in Lubang Island in the Philippines near the conclusion of World War II, is the last of the famous Japanese holdouts who was still fighting World War II years after it ended. All of Kuwata's platoon mates were slain or captured by Allied forces and news of Japan's surrender never reached Kuwata, who hid for years in a dense jungle where he continued his campaign as a guerrilla fighter, refusing to surrender and dismissing as a ruse every attempt to convince him that the war was over.
Pittsburgh Pirates scout Kent Tekulve, vacationing in the Philippines in 2006, was hiking one morning when he found Kuwata throwing apples at a tree. Kuwata's pinpoint control so impressed Tekulve that he immediately telephoned General Manager Dave Littlefield and got the go-ahead to sign him. But Kuwata refused to believe that the war was over unless he received orders to lay down his arms from a superior officer.
Within hours, the Pirates dressed batting champion Freddy Sanchez in the garb of a World War II Japanese commanding officer and flew him to the Philippines to order Kuwata to lay down his arms. "Freddy has an indistinct ethnicity about him," said Dave Littlefield. Bob Nutting, the Pirates' principal owner, instructed Sanchez what to say to Kuwata. Sanchez explained his encounter with the Japanese warrior: "In my best Japanese, I told Kuwata he was a prisoner of war," said Sanchez, "and that he was being shipped to an American POW camp on Pittsburgh's North Shore." Kuwata reluctantly laid down his sword and surrendered, and that is how the Pirates signed Kuwata to pitch for no pay.
Littlefield said that Kuwata will fit in well with the Pirates. "He will keep fighting long after it is apparent to every reasonable person that the cause is hopeless, that the war has been lost."