Wayne Graczyk, a longtime columnist for The Japan Times, passed away on Tuesday night in Kumamoto. He was 68.
Graczyk was in Kumamoto to help Nippon Television (NTV) cover a game between the Yomiuri Giants and Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
He was a fixture in the Japanese baseball and English-language sports communities for over three decades. Many took to social media to express their condolences as word began to spread Thursday morning.
“Wayne Graczyk always met me with a handshake, smile, and a bit about baseball that encouraged conversation,” Texas Rangers pitcher Tony Barnette wrote on Twitter. “He will be missed.”
Agent Don Nomura was also among those expressing their feelings.
“Wayne Graczyk passes 68yrs young,” Nomura wrote on Twitter. “I’m praying for his family. Good solid man many years reporting sports in Japan. Will miss him. RIP Wayne.”
Kyodo News reporter Jim Allen wrote: “Look up ‘fixture’ in the dictionary, there may be a picture of Wayne Graczyk. He was the fixture among us English language baseball writers.”
Graczyk, born on July 9, 1948, was a native of New Jersey and came to Japan as a member of the U.S. Air Force in 1969. He was stationed in Fukuoka, where he eventually met and married his wife, Yoshiko. He later moved to Tokyo, where he attended Sophia University, graduating from the school in 1977.
He began writing his “Baseball Bullet-In” column for The Japan Times in 1976, after mailing the paper’s editors about mistakes in a game story he had read, and eventually ended up being hired to write a column.
He also served as the sports editor for the Tokyo Weekender for nearly 30 years. For NTV, Graczyk would attend every Giants home game and interview the foreign players from both teams. He would then relay the players’ thoughts to that day’s radio and TV announcers roughly 30 minutes before the end of the visiting team’s batting practice.
Graczyk also contributed to Baseball America and other outlets during his long career in and around Japanese baseball. He called Giants games in English for NTV for several seasons and also served as a public address announcer for some NCAA college football games at Tokyo Dome.
He was best known to MLB scouts and teams for his Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide. The guide was first published in 1976 and each edition has contained full rosters and the previous year’s statistics for each team, some historical figures and other information. Each season’s guide has become almost essential reading for MLB scouts in Japan, who each year secure multiple copies for themselves and team executives back home.
The book, which Graczyk compiled himself every offseason, was also snapped up by foreign fans living in Japan and tourists as well.
Graczyk is survived by his wife; a son, Randy; and a daughter, Gayle.