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An umpire and a gentleman for 75 years

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Even when he didn’t agree with a call at the plate, pitcher Derek Tatsuno couldn’t bring himself to argue if it involved umpire Hideo "Hide" Yamashita.

"He worked my games, high school, AJA, college … for so long, but I couldn’t argue with the guy," Tatsuno said. "He was such a gentleman, a real down-to-earth guy."

Yamashita, who died Thursday at age 93, umpired baseball and softball games for nearly 75 years in Hawaii with a much-respected gentlemanly touch.

"That’s what he’d call everybody, ‘gentleman,’" recalls Tatsuno, a College Hall of Fame pitcher for the University of Hawaii in the 1970s. "For example, if it was a foul ball down the line, he’d say, ‘foul ball, gentlemen, hold up.’"

Howard Dashefsky, a catcher and first baseman for the Rainbows, said "I loved that guy; he was genuinely one of the good guys. To tell you what a good heart he had, you could tell he actually felt sorry for the guys he had to ring up on a third strike."

Yamashita brought an unmistakable joy to his work that he shared with the players and coaches, home and visitors alike, until his retirement in 2009. In later years he had a grandfatherly touch that inevitably melted any opposition that players might have wanted to take to his calls.

"He was an honest man and even if you felt he made a mistake, you didn’t argue with him," Tatsuno said.

Dashefsky recalls, "When the batter would step in, Hide would say, ‘How are you doing.’ If it was a visiting player, he’d ask, ‘How are you enjoying your stay?’ He liked everybody and enjoyed getting to know them. He was great PR for the tourist industry."

Yamashita was born in Honokaa, where his family ran a store, and later moved to Oahu. He graduated from Saint Louis School, where he played baseball for legendary coach Francis Funai before going on to play for the Asahis.

During World War II he saw service with the Army’s 100th Battalion in Europe and North Africa and also managed to play some baseball with a group of Asahi alumni and other Hawaii players who called themselves the "Aloha" team.

After returning from the Army he coached and umpired around his regular job with Dole Pineapple, where he worked in payroll.

Such was his passion for umpiring, however, that he worked so many games in so many leagues, some people thought that was his full-time job.

"He loved the game; he loved the players," recalled his son, Samuel, a professor at Pomona College in California. "After my mother died I talked to him every day and I’d ask him, ‘How many games did you work today?’ He’d tell me, three or four, sometimes five or six. And I’d ask him if he was tired. But he’d always say, ‘no.’ He loved what he was doing."

Yamashita is survived by two sons, Samuel and David, and two grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is in the planning for March, the family said.

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