Professional baseball in Japan

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Professional baseball in Japan first started in the 1920s, but it was not until the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club (大日本東京野球倶楽部 Dai-nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu?) was established in 1934 that the modern professional game had continued success.


Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson,[1] and its first formal team was established in 1878. For almost 30 years, until 1906, a game could be viewed free of charge, as it was considered shameful to take money for doing something the players liked.

Early attempts[edit]

In 1907, the first game was held that had a fee to watch. From 1908, several United States professional teams toured Japan and played against amateur teams made up mostly of university students. Realizing that a professional league was necessary to improve, two professional teams were established in 1920. In the same year, teams held exhibition tours in Korea and Manchuria to spread baseball. This first professional league disintegrated in 1923 for financial reasons, and after repeated attempts to revive a professional league, it formally disbanded in 1929.

Japanese Baseball League[edit]

In 1934, Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club (大日本東京野球倶楽部 Dai-nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu?) was established, reviving professional baseball. A second team, Osaka Baseball Club (大阪野球倶楽部 Ōsaka Yakyū Club?) was established in the following year. The former became the Yomiuri Giants and the latter became the Hanshin Tigers. In 1936, five other teams also formed, and the Japanese Baseball League was started. Briefly forced to stop playing for a year beginning in 1944, it restarted on November 6, 1945, and a full season was played the next year.

Fumito "Jimmy" Horio became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan when he joined the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu (Tokyo Giants) in December 1934, touring with them in 1935.

Jimmy Bonna, Kiyomi "Slim" Hirakawa, Fumito "Jimmy" Horio, Kazuyoshi "George" Matsuura, Andrew "Bucky" Harris McGalliard (Japan's "Bucky Harris"), Herbert "Buster" North, Yoshio "Sam" Takahashi, and Tadashi "Bozo" Wakabayashi became the first Americans to play in Japan's professional baseball league in 1936.

The four-team Kokumin League (国民リーグ Kokumin Riigu?) played a 30-game summer season in 1947. The monopolistic practices of the dominant Nippon Professional Baseball Leagues helped bring an end to the new rival league.[citation needed] The Kokumin League disbanded after a few games into the 1947 fall season.

The Japanese Baseball League was disbanded in 1949.

International play[edit]

Since 1986, a team of Major League Baseball All-Stars has made a biennial end-of-the-season tour of Japan, playing exhibitions games against the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Stars in the Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series.

Starting in 1992 and continuing intermittently, several Major League Baseball teams have played exhibition games against Japanese teams. American teams popular in Japan include the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees, at least in part due to Japanese players on those teams.

2005 marked the first Asia Series, pitting the champions of the Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese leagues along with the Mainland China All-Stars.

Samurai baseball[edit]

The American writer Robert Whiting wrote in his 1977 book The Chrysanthemum and the Bat that "The Japanese view of life, stressing group identity, cooperation, hard work, respect for age, seniority and 'face' has permeated almost every aspect of the sport. Americans who come to play in Japan quickly realize that Baseball Samurai Style is different." While others[citation needed] have objected to characterizing the sport in these terms, many Japanese players and managers describe themselves this way.

The 1992 film Mr. Baseball stars Tom Selleck as an aging hitter who goes to Japan and finds a different approach to baseball and to life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Balcomb, Theo (March 28, 2014). "Japanese Baseball Began On My Family's Farm In Maine". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 


  • Crepeau, Richard C. "Pearl Harbor: A Failure of Baseball?". The Journal of Popular Culture 15, no. 4 (1982): 67–74.
  • Lewis, Michael, and William Londo ed., "Baseball and Besuboru In Japan and the U.S." Studies on Asia Series III, 3, no. 2 (Fall 2006).
  • Roden, Donald. "Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan". The American Historical Review 85, no. 3 (1980): 511–534.
  • Whiting, Robert. The Chrysanthemum and the Bat: Baseball Samurai Style. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977. ISBN 0-396-07317-4.
  • Whiting, Robert. The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime. Warner Books, 2004; retitled for the 2005 paperback to The Samurai Way of Baseball: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime. ISBN 0-446-53192-8, ISBN 0-446-69403-7.
  • Whiting, Robert. You Gotta Have Wa. New York: Macmillan, 1989. ISBN 0-02-627661-5, ISBN 0-679-72947-X.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fitts, Robert K. Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8093-2629-9, ISBN 0-8093-2630-2.
  • Graczyk, Wayne. 2007 Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide. Tokyo: Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide, 2007. ISBN 4-901178-81-5. Annual since 1976.
  • Holway, John. Japan Is Big League in Thrills. Tokyo: Tokyo News Service, 1955.
  • Johnson, Daniel E. Japanese Baseball: A Statistical Handbook. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 1999 (reprinted 2006). ISBN 0-7864-0678-X, ISBN 0-7864-2841-4.
  • Maitland, Brian. Japanese Baseball: A Fan's Guide. North Clarendon, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8048-1680-8.
  • Miike, Fred N. Baseball Mad Japan. Tokyo: 1955.
  • Obojski, Robert. The Rise of Japanese Baseball Power. Radnor, Pa.: Chilton Book Co., 1975. ISBN 0-8019-6061-4.

Biographies and players[edit]

  • Bauer, Carlos. The All-Time Japanese Baseball Register: The Complete Statistical Record of All the Great Japanese & American Players. San Diego, Calif.: Baseball Press Books, 2000. ISBN 1-893392-04-X.
  • Cromartie, Warren, and Robert Whiting. Slugging It Out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield. New York: Kodansha International, 1991. ISBN 4-7700-1423-6, ISBN 0-451-17076-8 (reprint: Signet, 1992).
  • Fitts, Robert, and Gary Engel. Japanese Baseball SuperStars: Hall of Fame and Meikyukai Profiles. Lauderhill, Flor.: Prestige Collectibles, 2001. ISBN ?. Spiral bound.
  • Ivor-Campbell, Frederick. "Sadaharu Oh's Place in Baseball's Pantheon". The National Pastime, no. 12 (1992), pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-910137-48-X.
  • Leutzinger, Richard. "Lefty O'Doul and the Development of Japanese Baseball". The National Pastime, no. 12 (1992), pp. 30–34. ISBN 0-910137-48-X.
  • Leutzinger, Richard. Lefty O’Doul, the Legend That Baseball Nearly Forgot: The Story of the Hall of Fame’s Missing Star. Carmel, Calif.: Carmel Bay Publishing Group, 1997. ISBN 1-883532-03-5.
  • Oh, Sadaharu, and David Falkner. Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way of Baseball. New York: Times Books, 1984. ISBN 0-8129-1109-1, ISBN 0-394-74105-6.
  • Puff, Richard. "The Amazing Story of Victor Starffin". The National Pastime, no. 12 (1992), pp. 17–20. ISBN 0-910137-48-X. "A Russian ace in the Land of the Rising Sun".
  • Stanka, Jean, and Joe Stanka. Coping with Clouters, Culture and Crisis. Ouda-cho, Uda-gun, Nara Pref., Japan; Wilmington, Del.: Dawn Press, 1987. ISBN 0-933704-57-7.
  • Uhlan, Edward and Dana L. Thomas. Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan. A Biography. New York: Exposition Press, 1957. About Matsutaro Shoriki, the founder of Japanese professional baseball. E-book at the Internet Archive.

Books about international baseball[edit]

  • Gmelch, George (Editor). Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime. Lincoln, Nebraska: Bison Books, 2006. ISBN 0-8032-7125-5.
  • McNeil, William F. Baseball's Other All-Stars: The Greatest Players from the Negro Leagues, the Japanese Leagues, the Mexican League, and the Pre-1960 Winter Leagues in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-7864-0784-0.
  • McNeil, William F. The King of Swat: An Analysis of Baseball's Home Run Hitters from the Major, Minor, Negro and Japanese Leagues. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 1997. ISBN 0-7864-0362-4.
  • Reaves, Joseph A. Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia. Lincoln, Nebraska: Bison Books, 2002. ISBN 0-8032-9001-2.

Japanese baseball cards[edit]

  • Engel, Gary. Japanese Baseball Card Checklist & Price Guide, 6th edition. Lauderhill, Flor.: Prestige Collectibles, 2005. ISBN ?.
  • Gall, John, Gary Engel, and Steven Heller. Sayonara Home Run!: The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006. ISBN 0-8118-4945-7.

External links[edit]