Nobe and Yosh Kawano spent more time and witnessed more baseball history firsthand than just almost anyone associated with their relative franchises during their combined nine decades run as clubhouse managers for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs.
Born in Seattle Washington in 1921 (Yosh) and 1923 (Nobe), the Kawano family later moved to Los Angeles where both brothers became avid baseball fans at young ages spending their days at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles home of the Los Angeles Angels a minor league affiliate of the Cubs from 1921-1956.
In 1933, at just 12 years old, Yosh stowed away on a cruise ship carrying the team to spring training on Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles. He was discovered onboard by a pair of team executives, who aptly asked the future clubhouse manager to shine the team’s shoes as punishment. Clearly, this wasn’t much of a deterrent because the next year Kawano followed the White Sox to Pasadena, California, in the spring and was ultimately hired as the team’s batboy.
Both brothers played whenever they got a chance and soon started dreaming of careers in or around the major leagues. But those dreams were abruptly derailed in 1942 when the United States joined the Allied effort in World War II. While scores of young American men went into basic training or off to the battlefield, Kawano and his family were among 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their homes and detained in incarceration camps indefinitely. The Kawano family was sent to the Poston War Relocation Center on the Colorado River Indian Reservation near Yuma in hot and dusty southwestern Arizona.
While there, Kawano wrote a letter about his hardships to White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes, whom he had befriended during his spring training stint as batboy. With the assistance of Dykes, who intervened on Kawano’s behalf, the young man was released from the internment camp and traveled to Chicago, where he was hired by the Cubs as a clubhouse assistant in 1943.
During his lengthy tenure with the club, Kawano saw it all, serving under 37 managers, 12 general managers, and two ownership groups (the Wrigleys and the Tribune Co.), before retiring at the start of the 2008 season to much fanfare.
Nobe began his career as clubhouse manager for the minor-league Hollywood Stars in 1948 and moved with the franchise to Salt Lake City in 1958 and spent one season in Utah before joining the Dodgers in Los Angeles in 1959 after the death of former longtime clubhouse attendant Charlie “The Brow” DiGiovanna.
by Charlie Vascellaro, The Arizona Baseball Legacy Experience
- Remembering Nobe Kawano, https://dodgers.mlblogs.com/remembering-nobe-kawano-8a54e2b01f23
- Longtime Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano dies at 97, https://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/2018/6/26/17506830/cubs-clubhouse-manager-yosh-kawano-dies-at-97
- The Kawano Brothers, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-kawano-brothers-cubs-dodgers-photos-20171016-photogallery.html