49ers pioneer Wally Yonamine passes away

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49ers pioneer Wally Yonamine passes away

March 1, 2011
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San Francisco 49ers pioneer, Wally Yonamine, passed away Monday night of prostate cancer at the age of 85. Despite playing just one season for the 49ers, Yonamines impact in professional sports was far-reaching.One day, I was surprised by an unknown caller on the telephone, recalled 49ers Owner and Co-Chairman Dr. John York. Wally Yonamine reached out to me and asked that I present him into the Japanese American Sports Hall of Fame, in 2002. That phone call introduced me to a wonderful new friend and a man that is very important in 49ers history, the 49ers first Asian American player. Wally will be sadly missed by me and those with a love of 49ers history.Yonamine became the first Asian American athlete to play professional football when he lined up as a running back for the 49ers during the 1947 season. At that time in history, many San Francisco Bay Area residents of Japanese descent were just returning to their homes after spending time in an internment camp in Utah during World War II. Therefore, Yonamines signing with the 49ers took on special significance in the Asian American community. In 12 games (three starts), he rushed for 74 yards on 19 carries, caught three passes for 40 yards and recorded one interception for a 20-yard return.Yonamines football career was cut short after fracturing his wrist playing baseball, in 1948. He then turned his sole focus to baseball, playing one year for the San Francisco Seals Salt Lake farm team and one year for the Hawaiian Asahi team, before going abroad to play for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, where he became the first American player in Japanese pro baseball in the post-World War II era.With his aggressive style of play, Yonamine revolutionized the game of baseball in Japan. A seven-time all-star in his 11 seasons, he won three batting titles and was part of three Japan Series championship teams (Yomiuri Giants 1951-53). Yonamine went on to coach or manage various professional teams in Japan for 26 years. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.In 2002, the San Francisco 49ers honored Yonamines football legacy during an exhibition game on August 3 at Japans Osaka Dome. Serving as an honorary team captain, Yonamine was greeted with a standing ovation following a video tribute.The 49ers established the PerryYonamine Unity Award in 2007, to celebrate the teams 65-year history of exemplifying the power of teamwork to accomplish goals. The 49ers honor an exceptional non-profit agency, youth football coach and a current 49ers player who has demonstrated a commitment to promoting unity and giving back to the local community. The award is named after Yonamine and fellow former 49er Joe Perry two individuals who demonstrated the power of unity to make a difference on the field and in the community. The winner in each category receives a 10,000 grant award that will be donated to their represented organization.Courtesy San Francisco 49ers media services

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

SANTA CLARA -- General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with 49ers pass-rusher Aaron Lynch shortly after assuming their new roles to give him an outline of what was expected.

Aaron Lynch entered the NFL in 2014 as a fifth-round draft pick despite having the talent worthy of a much-earlier selection. There were concerns about his commitment and character.

Lynch showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons. He tied for the club lead both seasons with six and 6.5 sacks, respectively. Last year, Lynch reported to the offseason program 30 pounds overweight. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy of substances of abuse. Then, he missed considerable time with an ankle injury. In seven games, Lynch recorded just 1.5 sacks.

John Lynch and Shanahan told Aaron Lynch his past transgressions would not be held against him, but he had to work hard and prove himself. As Lynch enters the final year of his original four-year contract, his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster is anything but a certainty.

“Basically, everybody on this team, no matter what has happened before you came into the league or when you’ve been in the league, they’re not holding that against you and it’s a new clean slate,” Lynch said. “So I need to do everything I can to make sure I have a clean slate with them.”

Lynch is currently working with the second unit at the “Leo” position on the 49ers’ defensive line, behind Arik Armstead.

“’Leo’ is a lot of damn fun, so, yeah, I like it a lot,” Lynch said. “You get to set the edge and go get the quarterback.”

Lynch said he is in better physical condition than he was a year ago at this time. He said his target playing weight is in the 260-270 range. He said he is currently in the 280s.

“I came in heavy, but I’ve been working my (butt) off to get down to where my coach wants me to get down to, and where I feel I would be best to give everything I can for my team and do what I can for my team,” Lynch said.

While the 49ers did not witness any improvement in Lynch's commitment at the beginning of the offseason, things seem to be turning around. Shanahan said Lynch has missed only one day of the team's voluntary offseason program -- an excused absence to deal with a situation concerning his wife.

“There’s no doubt Aaron’s going in the right direction for us," Shanahan said. "He came in in the offseason, we challenged him hard with just the way we worked and stuff. He hasn’t shied away from any of it. He’s jumped in on all of our stuff.

"So he’s gotten better each day. He’s gotten more in shape each day and I’m seeing it on the field each day.”

Report: Free-agent Kaepernick to meet with Seahawks

Report: Free-agent Kaepernick to meet with Seahawks

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly flew to Seattle on Tuesday night and will meet with Seahawks officials on Wednesday.

Kaepernick and Austin Davis, who spent the past three seasons as a reserve quarterback with the Rams, Browns and Broncos, will visit with the Seahawks, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. It will be Kaepernick’s first visit to meet with a team since opting out of his 49ers contract in March to become an unrestricted free agent.

Kaepernick, 29, has likely not been signed for a variety of reasons, including his decision to kneel during the national anthem last season to protest racial inequality in America. His representatives have said Kaepernick will stand for the national anthem this season, as he continues to donate his time and money on programs to assist disadvantaged individuals.

The 49ers have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick, opting to add veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

Kaepernick, a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2011, played six seasons with the club. Beginning in the middle of the 2012 season, when then-starter Alex Smith originally left the lineup due to a concussion, Kaepernick started 58 games. The 49ers were 28-30 in games in which he started.

In the playoffs, the 49ers posted a 4-2 record with Kaepernick at quarterback, including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.

Kaepernick is coming off his best season since 2013, his first full year as a starter. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 90.7. He also rushed for 468 yards.

The Seahawks have three quarterbacks under contract. Russell Wilson is the starter and second-year player Trevone Boykin served as the backup last season. Jake Heaps, whom the Seahawks cut before the start of the 2016 regular season and spent less than a month on the practice squad, was re-signed in May.