Kawano leaves clubhouse after 65 years

Cubs to bid farewell to Kawano

CHICAGO -- Yosh Kawano, longtime equipment manager at Wrigley Field, is done folding towels and picking up dirty uniforms after 65 years of service.

Kawano, 86, who has been with the team since 1943, has been relieved of his clubhouse duties and reassigned because of health reasons. He is as much a part of Wrigley as the outfield ivy, often seen wearing his trademark floppy hat, baggy khaki slacks, and white T-shirt.

"He was a favorite of [William] Wrigley's," Hall of Famer Billy Williams said Wednesday. "He was a guy who did what he thought was right. He tried to preserve the organization, he wanted to keep the equipment in the clubhouse. Maybe he did some things out of the ordinary, but that was his way of doing it."

Kawano was named the clubhouse equipment manager in 1953, and held that position until 1999. He was the home clubhouse manager emeritus in 2000. In 1984, the Cubs' clubhouse was named in Kawano's honor.

This spring, Kawano was hospitalized because of cellulitis in his foot and told to stay off his feet. But he could often be seen sorting mail or trying to help in the clubhouse.

Cubs officials plan to honor Kawano later this season. He will continue his relationship with the team in a capacity to be determined.

"Yosh Kawano has dedicated his life to the Chicago Cubs, and we salute his 65 years of devotion to this franchise," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "While he will not be with us on a daily basis, he will always be a member of the Cubs family, and we look forward to honoring him later this season."

Williams, who played for the Cubs from 1959-74, remembers one of his first encounters with Kawano.

"I came to the big leagues in 1959, and I didn't have any bats," Williams said. "He had all the other guys' bats. We got in an argument -- I said, 'You get all these other guys bats, I want some bats, too.' He looked at me and said, 'Young man, it's best we get along, because it looks like we'll be together for a long time.'"

"Yosh Kawano has dedicated his life to the Chicago Cubs, and we salute his 65 years of devotion to this franchise."
-- GM Jim Hendry

Kawano used to mimic hitters' stances. Williams said he had Randy Hundley's down perfectly and used to imitate Hank Aaron. Kawano even played pepper with the players.

"He was a fixture here in Wrigley Field and with the Chicago Cubs," Williams said. "He didn't say much while he was here, but you knew he was there."

One of Kawano's favorite players was Dwight Smith, Williams said, and if Smith had a good game but the Cubs lost, Kawano would keep the outfielder humble.

"He'd walk over to Dwight and say, 'You can't do it alone,'" Williams said.

Kawano was good friends with Hall of Famer second baseman Ryne Sandberg, who invited the equipment manager to Cooperstown for his induction ceremonies. Williams said he would like to see Kawano's hat and shoes enshrined in the Hall of Fame as well.

"He guarded that clubhouse like it was his home," Williams said. "He wanted us to be in the clubhouse and concentrate on the baseball game. People would walk in, and he'd make sure they didn't walk out with any equipment.

"I bet if you asked him now what kind of bat I used, he could tell you," Williams said. "He used to keep an envelope in his back pocket, and he could tell you what size shoe Alvin Dark wore, what size shirt Alvin Dark wore. He knew everything."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.