This report will talk about and explain the history of Japanese baseball. This paper will go into detail about the date of the establishment of Japanese baseball and where the first teams were played. The paper will compare the terms of Japanese baseball with the terms of American baseball. The paper will also discuss the founders of the Japanese leagues and different teams. I will give the background of some of the famous Japanese baseball players, and will also tell about some of the greatest moments in Japanese baseball. Finally, it will name some baseball players who played in the United States and continued their career in Japan.
The Japanese began playing baseball around the 1870s. They learned the game from missionaries and American teachers. Albert Bates, a teacher, organized the first game in 1873 (Whiting, 27). The team Bates got together consisted of station workers, technicians, and a railway engineer. They used makeshift gloves and run in sandals. The Japanese liked the game because of the statistics, rules, and regulations that were parts of the game. Horace Wilson, also brought baseball to Tokyo while he was a teacher from 1867 to 1912. He gave his students a bat and ball and taught them the fundamentals of the sport (Whiting, 27). As Japan became more interested in the world, western sports became popular. The Japanese thought that the battle between the pitcher and the batter was like the battle in martial arts sports. There was mental and physical strength needed for baseball and that is what the Japanese liked. Baseball became known as the sport of the upper class and teams in the high schools and colleges grew.
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Tokyo’s “Big Six” Universities were where the most competitive baseball was played. The universities were Rikkyo, Waseda, Meiji, Keio, Hosei, and Tokyo Imperial. In the spring of 1905, Waseda University sent its Varsity Nine to America to play a series of games against high school and college teams. An American professor at Waseda promoted the tour. The Japanese government was interested enough to pay for the trip! (Obojski, 33)
Albert Goodwill Spalding, was a pioneer of baseball. He was a pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings. He said that once people saw two good teams play, that game would be popular around the world. He founded a sporting goods store. All of his career and his life he worked hard to promote the game of baseball in the United States and around the world (Obojski, 33).
“Pooray boru” means “play ball.” It was interesting to learn about all of the different Japanese terms for our American baseball. The Japanese used the same terms as the Americans but they changed the pronunciations and spelling of the terms to fit their phonetic; Japanese call baseball “baseboru.” Some of the most frequently used words are:
Walk Four Balls
Home Run Homu Ran
First Base Fahsto Baysu
Foul Ball Fouru
Hit a Line Drive Liner Uchi O Koro Gakeyo
Ninth Man Up Lasto Batter
Winning Pitcher Kachi Tosha
Losing Pitcher Maka Tosha (Obojski, 33)
Even though these words sound strange the Japanese are very serious about baseball. They are known for having great hardball players and their pitchers are known for their sharp curveball.
Japan, organized professional baseball into two national leagues like the United States. They are called the Pacific League and the Central League. Each had six teams. Big companies would back or support these teams and leagues. By 1934, Japanese businessmen and sports enthusiasts decided that it was time for Japan to have its own baseball league. Matsutaro Shoriki, the President of a Yomiuri newspaper, was a leader in bringing professional baseball leagues to Japan. On December 26, 1934, Shoriki named the first professional team, Yomiuri Giants. Unfortunately, competitive play within the professional leagues did not begin until 1936. Later, the Yomiuri Giants became known as the “Tokyo Giants.” Shoriki and other businessmen were interested in a baseball circuit and they created one in 1950. There was also the Hankyu Braves named for the Hankyu Railway Company. Seven teams were formed and were based in major cities of Japan: Osaka, Tokyo, and in Nagoya.
One of the most famous baseball players in Japan was Sadaharu Oh. He was known as the Japanese Babe Ruth. Oh, learned how to play baseball at a very early age. He was later signed to play for the Tokyo Giants at the age of 18. Once Oh became popular, there was standing room only for all of the road games. Oh was born on May 20, 1940. Oh started playing baseball when he was young and by high school, he was both a hitter and a pitcher. The Tokyo Giants saw Oh’s talent and signed him for their team. From 1962 to 1974 he lead the Central League in home runs (Obojski, 33). Oh was compared to Hank Aaron.
There were many famous Japanese players. Masaichi Kaneda won 400 games during 20 seasons. Other famous players were Masaaki Koyama, Tetsuya Yoneda, Takehiko Bessho and Victor Starfin all won over 300.
There was an American player named Warren Cromartie, who played for the Montreal Expos and when he went into being a free agent he was offered a job in Japan. In his book, “Slugging it out in Japan,” Warren talked about how different the game he knew and loved in the United States was when he went to Japan. He was born in Miami and ended up moving to Montreal and to Japan. The Tokyo Giants were well known even in the United States and Warren decided to go and he became friends with the Tokyo Giants manager Sadaharu Oh. The book told about Warren naming his third child after Oh, Cody Oh Cromartie.
Some of the differences are that the baseball field is much smaller in Japan. The players are not paid very much money. That is so different from the American players. In the Japanese parks, there are no covers for the fields when it rains. If the game is delayed because of rain only the pitcher’s mound and maybe the home plate are covered. When it rains in the USA the practise is to cover the fields. The coaching is very different in Japan.
The coaches there really hurt young players. The high school players had to pitch for up to four days in a row and that is against Modern medicine which shows that muscular tissue breaks down after 100 pitches and so that is very bad for their arms. The Japanese players are expected to keep playing even if they are in pain. There was even a story about Japanese players practising hitting and fielding the ball until they had blood in their urine. The coaches really hurt their players.
This subject has been difficult to research due to a lack of interest in Japanese baseball in the local area. It was very interesting to find out that a lot of American baseball players continue their career in Japan when they are not good enough for the American leagues. The Japanese players have an entirely different outlook on the game itself and the competition side of the game. I learned about the history of the game in Japan. I believe that there should be a baseball tournament between all the countries that play the game with similar rules. Especially America and Japan should play. Finally, I believe this was a good experience for me, learning about something that I would not usually even spent time thing about.
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