BA Loses Two Longtime Contributors In Wayne Graczyk, Stan Denny

Wayne Graczyk, a longtime writer on Japanese baseball, died at the age of 68 on April 19, leaving the English-language Japanese baseball community without the man who was always at its center. Also, longtime Baseball America photographer Stan Denny, who also was a former minor league player, died April 16 at age 82.

Graczyk had covered Japanese baseball for more than four decades, mostly for The Japan Times and Tokyo Weekender. He wrote for Baseball America for more than 30 years, chronicling the many U.S. players who came to Japan to play, but also eventually documenting the rise of Japanese players coming to the U.S. His last articles for Baseball America were written this spring, as he covered the World Baseball Classic in Japan. He died in his hotel while on the road in his job as pregame reporter for Nippon Television’s broadcasts of Yomiuri Giants games.

Graczyk had a huge impact on the baseball community in Japan through his writing and humanity, moving to Japan after being stationed there with the U.S. Air Force in 1969. Graczyk gradually created a niche as the English language access point to Japanese baseball. In 1976 he began writing his column, the “Baseball Bullet-in” in The Japan Times, and he was the longtime sports editor of the Tokyo Weekender while also assisting in NTV’s Giants broadcasts, for a while as an English language broadcaster and finally as their pregame reporter.

Thanks to his annual guide to Japanese Baseball, its teams and players, he cultivated connections with major league teams and foreign players. And before agents and major league scouting departments had people working in Japan, Graczyk was the guy who could lend a helping hand. Baseball was his world, as he promoted the game, organized games for elementary school kids to play before the start of their first classes, brought people in the game together and built a community that benefited everyone.

Graczyk was old-fashioned and tended to be suspicious of people outside the mainstream. But once you were a member of the community, Graczyk was your staunchest ally.

“All the American players who played in Japan owe him a magnitude of thanks for his professionalism and being there for all of us when we need some kind of understanding why Japanese baseball is played they way it is,” longtime Japanese baseball star Warren Cromartie said. “I have pain and joy in my heart now. Pain because how much he meant to me and my family. Joy, knowing I had him for the best years of my life as a Tokyo Giant.”

Denny played at Indiana before playing three minor league seasons, compiling an 11-19 record. He made a lasting impression at BA through his photographs, which in the era before digital photos were usually shipped to the office in boxes of smoky 8-by-10s. Based in his hometown of New Albany, Ind., he focused on shooting Triple-A Louisville, across the Ohio River from New Albany, and the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.

Denny, who also had coached high school baseball, had tremendous timing as a photographer due to his time in the game.

— Jim Allen is a correspondent for the Kyodo News

— Contributing: John Manuel

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