Rainy weather all day here in Tokyo, but a good chance to take in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum over at the Tokyo Dome, where the Mariners will be playing the Oakland Athletics to open their season. First off, yesterday, I promised you details of what’s inside the Ichiro museum in his hometown of Toyoyama and here they are in a front-page story for today’s paper.
Now, on to a museum where I was indeed allowed to shoot photos and video today.
Japanese baseball has been around since 1872, when Horace Wilson, an American teacher at a middle school in Tokyo’s Ichiban Chugako school (later Tokyo University) introduced the game to students.
The professional game really didn’t get going until an al-American team traveled to Japan to play and attracted such interest that there were calls to start a pro league in this county. That led to organizers to form an All-Japan team to take on an MLB squad led by Babe Ruth and other all-stars in 1934. One of Ruth’s bats is now on-display at the museum.
The Ruth-led team crushed the Japanese squads, but the sport’s popularity continued to rise. Within two years, there were seven pro teams formed in Japan and the country’s first pro baseball league was underway.
Over the years, a number of Japanese stars like Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka and now Yu Darvish have begun going the other way, across the ocean to play for MLB teams. There is a room at the Hall of Fame recognizing those players and their accomplishments on both sides of the ocean.
In all, there are 173 members enshrined in the Hall of Fame here.
There are three categories of inductees:
A: Selected by a special committee appointed by the Hall of Fame
B: Selected by sportswriters appointed by the Hall of Fame
C: Selected by a special committee in an interim category dubbed “New Century” which recognizes the game’s builders in Japan regardless of nationality