Passion for Baseball: USA and Japan
by Matthew Orso
Baseball has always been America's pastime. It started from the days of Babe Ruth and lasted all the way to the struggles of the steroid era. Americans and Baseball are like Peanut Butter and Jelly. They just go together. There has also been another nation posed to become a favorite to the eyes of the baseball viewing public. That nation is Japan and with its strong love for the game of baseball, anything can happen. USA and Japan, two of the world's strongest powers go head to head in a battle for the baseball crown.
Baseball first came to Japan in 1873. An American Teacher, Horace Wilson who taught at the now Tokyo University first introduced baseball to his students. His students loved the game of baseball at first site. There were no professional teams back in 1873, but the students would just play it for the thrill of the game. Word quickly spread of Horace Wilson and the game he brought to America and suddenly you could see a lot of people playing the game. It didn't matter what job you had back then. If you had a stick and a ball, you could play baseball. The first organized team came about in 1880. The Shimbashi Athletic Club formed the team and soon there were a lot of organized teams from all over the country. From middle school and on, there was baseball from one side of the country to another. Eventually the Japanese wanted to play against other people in baseball besides the people from their own country. Japanese high schoolers started to challenge American people. The people didn't necessarily play on an organized team. They just game because of the one common bond they all shared; Baseball! Most of the time, the Japanese ball players won the games against the Americans. However this would lead to a contest that soon the whole world would be watching. The game of baseball continued to grow until it got so big that Japan declared it the national sport.
The game of baseball was first started professionally in America in 1869. Its creator was a man by the name of Alexander Cartwright. Cartwright was an original baseball player on the New York Knickerbockers, an amateur baseball club and the first considered team in history. The first Major league baseball team was the Cincinnati Red stockings in 1869. Baseball used to be considered a low paying job. The game in America was also considered to be played by a bunch of drunks. The American players had a reputation of being down right mean. That was until 1920 when Babe Ruth came onto the scene. With his majestic home runs, going as far as the eye can see the perception of the game changed forever. American baseball has gone through its ups and downs, but Americans have always been loyal and loving to the game of baseball.
America vs. Japan in professional baseball started in 1908 when a group of the best baseball players in America went to Japan and played against the best players Japan had to offer. This was known as Barnstorming. The most famous barnstorm was in 1934 when baseball players from America included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. (All three were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.) Japan was completely in awe of the major league superstars. This was unfortunately the end of baseball games for USA and Japan. Once WWII started and Pearl Harbor was bombed, the games between the two countries ceased. In fact one story from the war said that once, a Japanese fighter pilot went down, the Japanese pilot said “Curse you Babe Ruth!” The barnstorming didn't continue until years later when Japanese baseball players started to come and play baseball in America.
There were two home run giants from both Japan and the USA. From Japan, there was a player with an astounding gift for hitting the baseball far. His name is Sadaharu Oh. He hit over 862 career home runs and is the world's entire time leader in home runs. From America, you had the brave and courageous Hank Aaron. Aaron had to go through a lot of torture because of the racial tension in the United States back in the 70's. He hit 755 home runs in his career. They had a home run derby contest to determine who the better home run hitter was. Hank Aaron barely won the derby 10-9, but it was a contest that the fans would never forget because at the time, you were watching two of the top home run hitters in the world.
Today, baseball players from each country have embraced one another. Some players from both countries have gone and played for the other country. For example, former New York Yankees outfielder Roy White played for Japan. Also female pitcher Eri Yoshida is pitching in America for the Chico Outlaws in California Independent league baseball. Today stars from Japan such as Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki have made a name for themselves. The tradition continues now a day because Major League teams go from the USA to Japan in hope of reuniting the one thing that keeps our two nations together. That one thing is baseball!