(BLOGATHON ’16!) International Baseball Culture: Mitsuru Adachi’s “Touch”, Part 1, which ironically doesn’t have much baseball in it

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

In International Baseball Culture, I look at baseball-related entertainment from outside the USA that isn’t bizarre, but is interesting, perhaps learning some new things along the way!

In 2005, the Japanese television station TV Asahi held a special on the 100 most popular anime (animation) in history, as voted on by Japanese viewers. While many of the most popular programs were fantasy, adventure or science fiction, such as the Gundam series of giant robot programs (at number two) or Dragon Ball (at number three), the top ten also had a baseball anime: Touch, which was seventh.

What is Touch? Well, to put it in simple terms, it’s a tale of two stories: the baseball one and the off-the-field one. It’s about three teenagers (twin boys and their girl-next-door neighbor) who navigate high-school, relationships and their pitfalls while trying to bring their school glory on the diamond as they try to reach Koshien, Japan’s national high school baseball tournament, which is like March Madness and a Friday night in Texas combined.

Needless to say, it struck a nerve with Japanese audiences, and the 2005 program’s polling was not that out of the ordinary: A follow-up list that included votes from after the TV Asahi special was aired also had Touch in the top ten, at number nine. Nor was this a recent phenomena, either: during it’s original run in the 1980s, it was, according to some sources, the most watched anime in the history of Japan. Ever.

The series was, in itself, adapted from a manga (comic) of the same name, written and illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi, that saw it’s volumes sell over an estimated 100 million copies. Just to put that in perspective, in 2010 the population of Japan was around 128 million. Of course, that doesn’t mean over three out of four Japanese people owned at least one copy of a volume of Touch… but it does mean that those who did liked it very much, buying every volume.

From what I’ve read about the series, it’s not hard to see why it would have such broad appeal, as it apparently has something for everyone. It has baseball action (and also some detours into boxing and other sports) for the boys, romance for the girls, and drama and comedy for everyone. And apparently all of those things are done well enough where even people who normally can’t stand stuff like that seem to like it- I’ve come across several reviews that include lines like “I don’t even like baseball but I was enthralled by the game episodes” or “the romance plot is actually realistic and well-handled.”

And yet, despite the fact that Touch is one of the most successful anime and manga in the history of Japan, it has never seen official release in the United States, and it’s unlikely that it will anytime soon, either (the anime and manga import market is mainly focused on recent releases, and what old ones that do happen are usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy). However, there is apparently a unspoken agreement between the Japanese entertainment industry and it’s English-speaking fans that they won’t sue anybody who translates and distributes translated versions of the show/book, so long as they stop doing it if an actual agreement to distribute them in the USA is made, so I was able to find copies of both the anime and manga online.

But anyway: a baseball-centric story that is one of the most popular and well-regarded anime/manga in Japanese history, and it’s almost completely unknown to American audiences? What better way to start International Baseball Culture? (after the jump)

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(Blogathon ’16!) Related To Somebody Famous For Something Else: Tony Lupien, WWE Star John Cena’s Grandpa

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

I’m not much of a wrestling fan, but I know a great meme when I see one, and the meme related to WWE Superstar John Cena is a good one:

For those of you who don’t want to watch that, in essence, it is what happens when a completely unrelated scene is suddenly interrupted by the cry of “JOHN CENA!” or “HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!” and his theme music begins to play. It’s very stupid, but also hilarious.

But, did you know that the “public face” of the WWE is the grandson of a baseball player? And not just any baseball player, but an honest-to-goodness MLB player: Tony Lupien of the 1940s Red Sox, Phillies and White Sox. In fact, the first-baseman even received MVP votes during the depleted years of WWII:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.00.11 AMHere are his Minor League stats:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.01.46 AMAfter his career, Lupien went on to be manager and coach, including bringing Dartmouth University to the 1970 College World Series. He was also involved- both during and after his career- with the labor movement, including help co-author The Imperfect Diamond, a history of baseball’s labor relations up through the 1970s.

At 8 AM: The start of “International Morning”, several hours of international baseball content

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

(Blogathon ’16) A Random Musing on the Fairport Little League Money-Grabbing Promotion

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Tons of people play Little League Baseball or have played Little League Baseball when they were of the age where you can.

This is not a story about my actual time on the Little League field, where my greatest moment was the time I drew a walk with the bases loaded to force in the walk-off run. No, this is about something else: the Fairport Little League money-grabbing promotion, a crazy promotion in which a pre-teen ballplayer was put into a box full of money, a blower was turned on to send that money flying around, and the kid had to try and grab as much money as possible, which he (or she) would be able to keep.

There were many thoughts on strategy for this. Some kids thought you should try to trap it against the sides of the box and then pull it on. Others thought you should just grab wildly and hope for the best. A few suggested using a loose jersey as a net to catch the dollars and then try to grab from the “net” since you were only allowed to keep the money you had in your hands. Still others thought that it was stupid and that you should just keep the entrance fee and use it to buy a candy bar from the concession stand.

That last group, while probably wise beyond their years, were absolutely no fun.

And then there was the question of what you’d do with the money. Maybe you’d use it to buy candy at the concession stand (always a great choice), maybe you’d rent a video game (this was back when there were actual stores that rented video games), or maybe you’d just put it into your piggy bank.

When I walked in to the box, all those years ago, I wasn’t sure what my strategy was. I think it was a mixture of the various strategies. And I can’t remember what I used the money I got for. Heck, I can’t even remember how much money I grabbed, period.

And yet, despite the fact that I’ve forgotten the end result, I still can remember that big box that sent money flying around you…. a piece of childhood and Little League.

At 5 AM: A “Songs of October” Update

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

 

Famous for Something Else: Danny Kanell

A College Football analyst and radio co-host on ESPN who had started at QB for Florida State and who played in the NFL and Arena Football League (usually as a back-up), Danny Kanell was drafted in the 24th round of the 1995 Draft by the Yankees. While he would go on to choose football, he later would have a brief stint in independent ball in 2001 for Newark of the Atlantic League:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2001 27 -1.5 Newark ATLL Ind 25 79 76 11 18 2 2 1 6 2 1 3 24 .237 .266 .355 .621 27 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2015.

Kanell remains somewhat involved with baseball at ESPN, occasionally commenting on games during his appearances and sometimes even serving as a color commentator for college baseball games on the networks of ESPN.

Early “Viral” Baseball Stories

We know today that sometimes things go “viral” on the internet. Maybe they are funny videos. Maybe it’s a particularly interesting story or a shocking photo. However, memes and “viral” phenomena are not new things. They’ve always happened. And, to prove that, researchers at Northeastern have compiled a database of things that were going viral  back in the 19th century, when newspapers and magazines were the main news sources. This nicely lines up with the time where baseball became a national sport, so I decided to take a look. While time and tide (and the fact that there was a whole Civil War and Reconstruction going on) means that it’s likely the database isn’t complete and doesn’t have nearly as much baseball as you might think, I definitely found some fascinating things.

You can see some of what I found below the jump:

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For Memorial Day: Baseball Players Who Gave Everything

(Portions of this have previously been in a post from May 2012.)

Throughout history, there have been baseball players who have been willing to put their careers aside in service of their countries. It even continues today, as Mitch Harris of the Cardinals, a Naval Academy graduate, worked his way up through the minors after spending five years serving in the Navy.

And there have been some who have given their lives while serving. Some died in the heat of combat, others died in accidents, still others died of illness or other causes. Regardless, today we remember them:

  • Bill Stearns pitched part of five seasons in the National Association (the predecessor to the National League that is sometimes considered a Major League, sometimes not). A drummer as a young teenager in the Civil War, years after his baseball career ended he volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War. He served in Puerto Rico, where he caught some sort of tropical disease that would ultimately kill him upon his return to the mainland. He is the earliest known Major Leaguer to die while serving his country.
  • Eddie Grant was a Harvard-educated infielder who spent time with Cleveland, Philly, Cincinnati and the Giants. On October 15, 1918, he died after being wounded by a artillery shell in the Argonne Forest of France. His unit had been fighting to rescue the “Lost Battalion” that had been pinned down by German forces. He was 35. A memorial to him was placed in the Polo Grounds (it is one of the plaques that can be seen in the expanded version of the Willie Mays catch photo), and a replica of it is now apparently in San Francisco.
  • Larry Chappell was a light-hitting outfielder in the 1910s who was at one point part of a trade for Shoeless Joe Jackson. In 1918, he died while in Army service only a few days before the armistice from the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people. He was 28.
  • Ralph Sharman was a young outfielder who did well in a September stint with the Phillies in 1917. After the ’17 season, however, he was inducted into the army. He died in May, 1918 when he drowned while in Alabama, where he was undergoing training. He was only 23.
  • Tom Burr appeared in one game with the Yankees in 1914. He retired from baseball after 1914 and would find himself as one of the first fighter pilots in the history of the United States. He died in a training accident in France in 1918 at the age of 24.
  • Harry Chapman played parts of five seasons in the majors before he entered military service in 1917. He never would see action, dying from influenza in Nevada in October of 1918.
  • Harry Glenn played six games with the Cardinals in 1915 and was a mainstay of the St. Paul Saints minor league team. While serving as a army aviation mechanic on the homefront, Glenn died of pneumonia.
  • Newt Halliday would play only one game and have only one AB with the Pirates in 1916 before entering military service, where he died of tuberculosis and pneumonia while undergoing naval training. He was only 20.
  • Robert “Bun” Troy was born in Germany but moved to America at a very young age. He appeared in one game with Detroit as a pitcher in 1912, and his professional baseball career would end after 1914. He died of wounds sustained while serving as a member of the 80th Infantry Division in the Meuse-Argonne during October of 1918.
  • Christy Mathewson had retired from pitching by the beginning of America’s involvement in WWI, and was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He left the club in the middle of the 1918 season, going to France, where he served in the Army’s chemical division. While there, he suffered the effects of poison gas, which left him with various respiratory ailments, including the tuberculosis that took his life in 1925.
  • Marv Goodwin, who played portions of seven seasons in the majors, died on October 18,1925 in a training exercise for the Army Air Service Reserves, mere weeks after his last professional game.
  • Elmer Gedeon, who had had a cup of coffee with Washington in 1939, died while piloting a B-26 Marauder over France on April 20, 1944. He was 27.  He was one of only two people with Major League experience who died in WWII. The other being…
  • Harry O’Neill, who was a catcher in one game (with no plate appearances) for the Athletics in 1939. He was killed by a sniper on Iwo Jima on March 6, 1945.
  • Bob Neighbors, who had a cup of coffee with the Browns in 1939. In 1941, his baseball career came to an end when he had a poor season and, perhaps more importantly, lost his wife of only six months in a car accident while he was away on a road trip. He signed up for the United States Army Air Force after Pearl Harbor, and became a career military man from that point on. He went Missing In Action (and presumed dead) in 1952 when his B-26 went down over North Korea. He was both the only MLB-experienced man to die during the Korean War, and the last to have died in active service, period.

Of course, there were plenty of players who never made it to the big leagues who died in the line of duty, some of whom may have one day become Major Leaguers if not for the cruelty of war:

 

To them and all who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and to those who made it home, we salute you.

 

Over at HOVG: The Best Baseball Alums of the NCAA Basketball Teams

Over at Hall of Very Good, I have a big piece in which I go through every single school in this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and pick out the best baseball alum from every one, even those that no longer have active baseball programs.

Check it out.

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: Why nobody pays attention to College Baseball, outside of the CWS

In honor of the College Baseball season starting tomorrow, here’s a post originally published on June 1, 2012:

In basketball, the NCAA tournament is in many ways a far bigger event than even the NBA Finals as the marquee event for the sport.

In football, the passions in some regions for college teams are larger than that of any NFL team. Okay, with the possible exception of Green Bay. Maybe.

Baseball, however, has it’s amateur competitions mostly forgotten. Yes, the draft is shown on MLB Network (at least the first round or two), and it isn’t too hard to find a college game on TV if you know where to look… but it is a afterthought unless it’s draft day (and even then, there usually are just as many high schoolers who are getting drafted) or the College World Series.

There are several reasons for this:

  • As I mentioned, lots of players are drafted out of high school, so the level of competition in NCAA isn’t quite what it is in football or basketball.
  • With the exception of the best of the best, it’ll be several years before you see a top college player in the big leagues, since they will go to the minors for seasoning. This ends any type of “hype” that can be built up around future pros, and why the MLB draft is so little followed beyond seamheads.
  • Aluminum bats. They may have been changed over the past decade or so to act more like baseball bats and not like trampolining home run machines, but there is still the PING! that, while tolerable when heard in Little League, seems to be grating when you see grown men swinging them around.
  • Lack of regional parity. If it seems like the BCS division of football is dominated by southern and western colleges, it’s even worse in baseball. After all, they can practice all year round, and don’t have to worry about the weather. A look at the winners of the College World Series over the years shows it. There hasn’t been a CWS winning team from above the old Mason-Dixon line (39 degrees and 43 minutes N) since Oregon State went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Before then, though, there hadn’t been one since (The) Ohio State University won it in 1966. Heck, there hadn’t even been a northern team that came in second place since Eastern Michigan lost to Arizona in 1976.
  • Baseball, unlike basketball and football, became a professional sport fairly early on, meaning the long traditions found in college hoops and gridiron aren’t as common in baseball, since they didn’t have time to form before the rise of the pros. The only big tradition it has that is known nationally is the fact that the College World Series is in Omaha, and ALWAYS in Omaha.

So what can be done? Well, MLB is apparently discussing helping fund scholarships and a transition to wooden bats in NCAA, which could be helpful. However, I think College Baseball will remain what it is: fun to watch come the College World Series, but generally ignored outside of that.

In Defense of the Little League World Series being on TV

I didn’t expect to write a post about the Little League World Series today, but, alas, current events have other plans. As you may have heard, the Jackie Robinson West Little League of Chicago has been stripped of it’s US Title for last year’s World Series, due to revelations that they used players from outside their district.

It’s a sad ending for what was an inspiring story- the first team in history to win the US title made up entirely of African-Americans, coming at a time when participation in the sport by African-Americans continues to drop and racial issues were increasingly in the news. It’s all the more sad because this was the result not of any child, but rather the adults.

And, with that, the many issues people have with youth sports again have arisen. Among them being that the LLWS being on television is, according to some people, an abomination that promotes behavior like this while exploiting 12-year-olds for profit.

In many ways, they do have a point. It is wrong that ESPN, it’s sponsors, and the overall organization of Little League make large amounts of money off 12-year-olds while those 12-year-olds receive no cut or royalty from it. And, yes, having that much pressure and attention placed on a kid is a recipe for possible disaster psychologically when you are so young. The Little League World Series is far from perfect, and at the very least something should be done to compensate the kids who draw in large audiences every year (perhaps have some sort of college trust fund or hold money in escrow or something).

However, I am here to argue that those people who believe that the Little League World Series doesn’t belong on television regardless are wrong. Go below the jump for more:

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