SAN FRANCISCO -- The gentleman surrounded by reporters near the Giants' dugout before the team took batting practice on Thursday might have been some sort of businessman or dignitary, given his natty attire. Or he could have been a tourist, since he was toting a bag of baseball-related merchandise.
In truth, the man was a legend, albeit a modest one.
Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese-born player to reach the Major Leagues, visited AT&T Park to be honored during the Giants' Japanese Heritage Night festivities, and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Murakami's arrival in the big leagues. The former left-handed reliever made his debut with the Giants on Sept. 1, 1964, at New York's Shea Stadium, striking out two in a scoreless eighth inning during a 4-1 loss to the Mets.
Murakami, 70, recalled various details of that season. He spent most of it with the organization's Class A Fresno affiliate, finishing 11-7 with 11 saves and a 1.78 ERA. That earned him the California League's Rookie of the Year honors.
Murakami found out that before he reported to Fresno, the team's manager, Bill Werle, sternly told his players to avoid hurling racial epithets at Murakami.
Impressed with Murakami's fastball and curve, the Giants promoted him to the Majors for the season's final month.
"I always played in front of 700 people, maybe 2,000," Murakami said, recalling being summoned for his debut. "This time there were 40,000."
Murakami calmed himself by softly singing the international hit song "Sukiyaki" as he left the bullpen.
Murakami appeared in nine games that season and thrived in 1965, posting a 4-1 record and 3.75 ERA in 45 appearances. Among his eight saves was an appearance at Candlestick Park on Aug. 22 -- that's right, the infamous game in which Juan Marichal hit Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with his bat.
Murakami returned to Japan and the Nankai Hawks in 1966 for a reported $40,000.
Hudson to miss Friday's start; Petit filling in
SAN FRANCISCO -- Right-hander Tim Hudson, the Giants' most consistent starter this season, has been scratched from his Friday assignment against the Marlins because of a strained left hip, manager Bruce Bochy said on Thursday.
Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who's accustomed to filling in as an emergency starter, will replace Hudson.
Bochy emphasized that the Giants do not plan to put Hudson on the disabled list and expressed confidence that Hudson will make his next scheduled start, on May 22 at Colorado.
Hudson also sounded optimistic, particularly since he's receiving aggressive treatment.
As Hudson said, "It's easier to put out a brush fire than a forest fire."
Hudson, 38, said that the discomfort initially struck him in the early innings of his most recent start, last Sunday at Los Angeles. He felt fine while he pitched, though Bochy was compelled to remove the 209-game winner after six innings -- his shortest outing of the season.
Hudson said that he felt more extreme soreness when he awoke on Monday morning, though his condition has improved gradually since then.
"It's better than what it was," Bochy said. "Could we push this if it were September? Probably."
Hudson, 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA in eight starts, might begin testing himself by playing catch on Saturday or Sunday. He hopes to throw off a bullpen mound on Tuesday in Denver, two days before his possible outing against the Rockies.
Petit, 2-1 with a 4.85 ERA, has performed mostly in relief but filled in on April 29 when Matt Cain cut his right index finger. Petit proceeded to work six shutout innings against San Diego in a 6-0 Giants victory. He didn't fare as well in his next start, yielding eight runs in 4 1/3 innings at Pittsburgh on May 5.
Bochy keeping watchful eye on wildfires
SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Bruce Bochy has reason to be concerned about the wildfires ravaging the San Diego area.
Bochy lives in the San Diego suburb of Poway, which could be out of danger, as news reports said that the fire was 75 percent contained as of Thursday afternoon.
Nevertheless, Bochy said that one of his neighbors has volunteered to tend to his house if the flames spread dangerously close.
Third-base coach Tim Flannery, who also lives in the San Diego area, said that his home is safe.