Cubs mourning loss of longtime clubhouse attendant Yosh Kawano
For the better part of a century, Yosh Kawano was as big a part of Wrigley Field as the ivy and the manual scoreboard.
Kawano, 97, died Monday in Los Angeles. The Chicago Tribune reported the causes of death were complications of Parkinson's disease and old age.
With his white fishing hat atop his head and a cigar -- almost always lit -- in his mouth, Kawano was a fixture at Wrigley Field from the time he started as a clubhouse attendant in 1943 until his retirement in 2008, when the Cubs said he was moving to other duties because of health concerns.
Kawano had virtual lifetime job security. When the Wrigley family sold the Cubs to the Tribune Co. in 1981, they stipulated in writing that Kawano would have a job.
"The old (so and so) is going to outlive us all," marveled former first baseman Mark Grace during his playing days with the Cubs.
Kawano was the clubhouse attendant from 1943-52 before being named equipment manager in 1953. He was named home clubhouse manager emeritus in 2000 after having been assigned to the visitors clubhouse.
The old Cubs clubhouse was named in his honor in 1984, and he was inducted into the Cubs Walk of Fame in 1996, as players honored him before one game by wearing fishing hats in the dugout.
On that day, former Cubs great and now Hall of Famer Andre Dawson spoke of Kawano with former Daily Herald columnist Mike Imrem.
"Yosh knows a lot and you can a learn a lot from him," Dawson said. "About old-timers, their work habits, their attitudes. He's wise and smart. He can pretty much sit in the dugout and tell you what a manager is going to do."
Fiercely proud of his Japanese-American heritage, Kawano served in the U.S. Army but talked of the pain of being called a racial slur during those days.
Kawano was tough and old-school in running the clubhouse, keeping close track of equipment, uniforms and baseballs.
It was helpful to be on Yosh's good side, as I remained for the years I covered him daily, from 1998-2008. If you need an aspirin, a Band-Aid or an extra pen, the "clubbier," as clubhouse attendants are known, are your go-to guys.
If Yosh saw an unfamiliar media member standing around in the clubhouse, he would ask, "Who is that?" I would say, "It's OK, Yosh, he's here looking to do a story and waiting for a player."
Kawano moved to Los Angeles in his retirement to be with his brother, Nobe, a former Dodgers clubhouse manager.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts issued this statement: "For nearly 70 years, Yosh Kawano devoted himself to our club and players -- calling Wrigley Field home and treating them as family. He served in the U.S. Army then returned to the Friendly Confines, where he would eventually settle in as equipment manager in 1953. In the decades that followed, he enjoyed deep and colorful relationships with players, members of the front office and the media. Everyone knew Yosh by his trademark white floppy fishing hat, which has been on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since his retirement in 2008. Yosh was truly one of a kind and an integral part of our Cubs family and history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and legions of fans."
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