Hiroshi Yamauchi died on Thursday, and while he is being remembered as the man who turned Nintendo into a giant of the video game world, he also had another distinction — the absent owner of the Seattle Mariners.
Yamauchi bought a majority stake in the team in 1992, helping it to avoid a move to Florida and remain in Seattle.
Though Hiroshi Yamaucha was an active owner for the Mariners — Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker noted that he “retained titular control of the ballclub and Mariners officials have insisted that all major decisions had to be run by him first” — he never actually attended a game in person.
It’s believed that he was the only owner in major American sports who never saw his own team play, but there was a good reason. Much like legendary football coach and commentator Jonh Madden, Yamauchi had an aversion to traveling and never left his native Japan.
There were actually two chances for Hiroshi Yamauchi to watch the Mariners without leaving home. The team planned a trip to Tokyo in 2003, a homecoming for star Ichiro Suzuki, but it was canceled in the wake of the Iraq War. The team traveled to Tokyo again last season, but the 84-year-old Yamauchi preferred to watch the game on television.
The team’s executives didn’t seem to mind the absence of their owner.
“He’ll be watching on TV,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said after the game. “Given all the years he’s been involved with the Mariners, he’s really looking forward to see the team play. He’s very excited.”
Lincoln added that “a man of his age and stature doesn’t have to explain why he’s not here.”
Hiroshi Yamauchi was remembered as much more than the Seattle Mariners owner, whether he attended a game or not. He was also the president of Nintendo since 1949, growing it from a company that created playing cards into the largest figure in the video game industry