Former longtime Cubs clubhouse attendant Yosh Kawano, the beloved “king of Wrigley Field” whose trademark fishing hat was sent to the Hall of Fame, has died, his niece said (via the Chicago Tribune). He was 97.
Kawano died Monday at a Los Angeles-area nursing home from complications of Parkinson’s disease, Hana Kawano said.
Longtime and beloved #Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano dead at 97 https://t.co/TWVZcS1hjO
— Sun-Times Sports (@suntimes_sports) June 26, 2018
Kawano’s association with the Cubs began in 1935, as a spring training batboy. He became a full-time employee as the visiting clubhouse attendant in 1943 and, except for a stint in the Pacific theater in World War II, worked for the team the next 65 years, serving more than four decades as the team’s equipment manager.
“Yosh is the king of Wrigley Field,” Cubs first baseman Mark Grace told the Chicago Reader in 1998. “Anything that happens in this clubhouse has to go through him.”
In his 65 years, Kawano worked under 37 Cubs managers, 12 general managers (one of whom he outlasted after the exec looked for reasons to fire him but could find none) and two owners, his continued employment assured by a “Kawano clause” when the Wrigley family sold the team to the Tribune Co. in 1981.
After he was forced to retire in 2008 because of a chronic foot problem, his signature hat was sent to Cooperstown, and the team honored him in July of that year during the Cubs’ traditional seventh-inning stretch.
“I truly treasure baseball and the Cubs,” Kawano said that day, per the Tribune.
Though he was in failing health in recent years, he lived long enough to see his cherished team win the World Series in 2016. Friends had a replica championship ring made for Kawano and presented it to him last year.