FRESNO, Calif. - Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama, a Bulldog baseball and football legend from 1950-52, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91.
Often referred to as the greatest pound-for-pound athlete in Fresno State history, at just 5-foot 3-inches and 140 pounds, Hirayama was a dynamic offense, defense, and special teams star for the Bulldog football team. On the baseball diamond, the Exeter native shined bright patrolling center field on his way to becoming a record-breaker in program history.
Pete Beiden's 1951 Bulldogs produced the greatest winning percentage in program history, finishing the season 36-4, with three of those losses coming against professional competition. Hirayama stole a then-school record 36 stolen bases, a mark nobody surpassed until future major leaguer Tom Goodwin in 1987.
Hirayama, who turned 91 in February, recorded five stolen bases in a single game in 1951, a mark that still stands today. His exploits with the glove and a surprisingly strong throwing arm also helped make him a fan favorite. The 1951 Bulldogs had been left out of college baseball's postseason, despite a gaudy record, but as a senior in 1952, Hirayama led Fresno State to its first NCAA bid. Fibber finished his Bulldog career with 71 stolen bases, a record that lasted nearly 40 years before being broken by Goodwin.
After his Fresno State career was over, Hirayama went on to play professional baseball in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp becoming the first Japanese-American to both play in and be an All-Star in the Japanese professional leagues.
Hirayama's standout career at Fresno State was honored on April 30, 2017, when his number three jersey was retired to become the 11th former Diamond 'Dog to have his jersey retired in program history.
"I look at these people I have here today and they are the ones that deserve to be standing here today where I am at," said Hirayama. "They are good friends and just wonderful people and all the people in Fresno, Exeter and everywhere I played ball were just so wonderful to me and I thank them for that. I want to thank my family for being here and I want to honor these people right here beside me, because they are the ones who should be standing here."
On February 20, 2017, a day after the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 – a presidential decree that led to the World War II-era incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, the 'Dogs honored Hirayama and fellow Bulldog and Japanese-American Kenso "Howard" Zenimura on a Night to Remember.
Hirayama entered the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989 and was a charter member of the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
He was survived by his wife, Jean, sons, Colin, Kevin & Brian and five grandchildren.