Baseball Continuum Continuucast 3: Scherzer, Around the Continuum, and What’s Ahead

Click above for the latest Baseball Continuum Continuucast, or press here to download it.

In this edition of the Continuucast…

Dan does a much better job this time around as he talks about Max Scherzer’s signing, going-ons in Global Baseball (including the Premiere 12 tournament being announced), and also talks about Ichiro Suzuki. Finally, he announces he’ll finally get these on iTunes. Yeah!

Music/Sounds Featured:

 

“The National Game” by John Phillip Sousa

 

“Ichiro’s Theme” by Ben Gibbard

 

“Ichiro Goes To The Moon” by The Baseball Project

 

“Flight of the Bumblebee” (AKA The Green Hornet Theme) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov performed by the US Army Band (special “Bizarre Baseball Culture” remix by Dan Glickman featuring the Pablo Sanchez Theme and clips from previous and future Bizarre Baseball Culture pieces)

 

All sound and music used is either public domain or is a short snippet that falls under fair use.

 

And, keep an eye on iTunes, as sometime within the next week the Continuucast will be on iTunes!

 

Thanks!

The Best of 2014: First References in “The Sporting News”: Japan

This was originally published on November 13, 2014.

One of the great perks of SABR membership is access online to The Sporting News’ archives. While it now is dedicated to all sports, for a good chunk of it’s earlier history it was almost entirely focused on baseball (with some boxing, horse-racing and college football thrown in here and there). So, today, I take a look at some early references to things in The Sporting News. In this case, in the spirit of MLB’s current tour of Japan, I’m looking at certain topics related to baseball in Japan.

Baseball in Japan in General

While there were some references to Japan as far back as the 1880s, they either are references to other things or exceedingly brief and vague, like this item from the November 13, 1886 issue that I honestly do not understand whatsoever (although John Thorn has thankfully given some insight as to what Copenhagen was– it was a game played by young children):

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 11.28.29 AMThe first real, unequivocal reference to baseball in Japanese baseball in The Sporting News was in 1897, as the December 4 issue had this headline:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 11.38.13 AM

It began like this:

Base ball (sic) has invaded Japan and to such an extent that the Tokio (sic) Athletic Association has written to President James A. Hart of Chicago for rules and suggestions relative to the furthering of the American national game in the land of the Mikado.

The article goes on to say how “last summer” a “lively little gentlemen” name Tora Hiraoka of “Tokio” attended games in Chicago with Hart (who owned the team we now know as the Chicago Cubs at the time) and had told him of how baseball had been introduced to Japan (“displaying two or three crooked fingers as indisputable evidence”) and that he was sure it could be “immensely popular” if “generally introduced”. The rest of the article is on how Hart had received a letter from Japan and how he believes that the Japanese should take to the game because they are “agile and naturally like athletic sports”, also mentioning how maybe they could play a Australian team that had visited America “last season”.

Koshien Stadium

The most famous stadium in Japan and site of the country’s High School Championships, the first reference to Koshien came in the November 8, 1934 edition of Sporting News, when it was mentioned that Babe Ruth’s tour would likely see even greater crowds in Osaka, since that was where “the Koshien Stadium seats 80,000″.

Tokyo/Yomiuri Giants

The “Yankees of Japan” and winners of 22 Japan Series titles, the Yomiuri Giants were first referenced in the January 23, 1936 issue of The Sporting News, where it was reported that they (as the “Tokyo Giants”, their name before their owners at the Yomiuri Group changed it to better advertise themselves) would be coming to America to tour the Pacific Coast, Texas, and the Northwest. The first reference to the Yomiuri Giants under their current name came in 1951. In the November 7 issue, a story on a tour led by Lefty O’Doul and featuring players like Joe DiMaggio and Mel Parnell was printed, and it covered the team’s 6-3 victory over Yomiuri on October 25.

Masanori Murakami

The first Japanese player in MLB history, Murakami was a pitcher who had been sent to the San Francisco Giants as something of a exchange student to play in their minor leagues. However, he pitched so well that the Giants called him up and then refused to send him back to Japan when it was time. The baseball version of a international incident occurred, and it eventually led to the end of Japanese players in North American baseball until Hideo Nomo came over in the 90s.

The first reference to Murakami in The Sporting News was on March 7, 1964, in a story by Bob Stevens on how he and two other Japanese players (Tatsuhiko Tanaka and Hiroshi Takahashi) would be in the Giants’ organization that season. Funnily enough, the story includes a note that neither San Francisco or the Nankai Hawks (their Japanese team) thought any of them would be able to crack a National League roster. Whoops.

Sadaharu Oh

Probably the greatest player in the history of Nippon Pro Baseball and owner of the all-time professional record for HRs (868), the first reference to Oh in The Sporting News came in the Jan. 2, 1965 issue, as writer Jim Sheen looked back on some of the biggest accomplishments in the sports world in 1964:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.33.56 PMHideo Nomo

Interestingly, the first mention of Nomo in The Sporting News was a single item in Bob Nightengale’s baseball report on January 30, 1995, where he mentions that he is one of the hottest free-agent pitchers on the market and that the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Mariners were all pursuing him.

Ichiro Suzuki

Finally, the first reference to Ichiro in The Sporting News also was rather matter-of-fact, coming in a preview issue on Valentine’s Day in 2000, where he was mentioned not because he was joining the Mariners (he wouldn’t until 2001), but because his spring training stint in 1999 had given Seattle some experience with the throngs of Japanese press they would receive for their new reliever, Kaz Sasaki.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.52.47 PM

Thank you to SABR and their “Paper of Record” database for making this article possible. Also, thank you to @YakyuNightOwl for correcting me on the history of Yomiuri’s name- it was always owned and run by Yomiuri, it’s just that Yomiuri didn’t put their name in the team name until later.

First References in “The Sporting News”: Japan

One of the great perks of SABR membership is access online to The Sporting News’ archives. While it now is dedicated to all sports, for a good chunk of it’s earlier history it was almost entirely focused on baseball (with some boxing, horse-racing and college football thrown in here and there). So, today, I take a look at some early references to things in The Sporting News. In this case, in the spirit of MLB’s current tour of Japan, I’m looking at certain topics related to baseball in Japan.

Baseball in Japan in General

While there were some references to Japan as far back as the 1880s, they either are references to other things or exceedingly brief and vague, like this item from the November 13, 1886 issue that I honestly do not understand whatsoever (although John Thorn has thankfully given some insight as to what Copenhagen was– it was a game played by young children):

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 11.28.29 AMThe first real, unequivocal reference to baseball in Japanese baseball in The Sporting News was in 1897, as the December 4 issue had this headline:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 11.38.13 AM

“Mikado” is a now-obsolete term used in the 19th century to refer to Japan’s Emperor. It also was the name of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

It began like this:

Base ball (sic) has invaded Japan and to such an extent that the Tokio (sic) Athletic Association has written to President James A. Hart of Chicago for rules and suggestions relative to the furthering of the American national game in the land of the Mikado.

The article goes on to say how “last summer” a “lively little gentlemen” name Tora Hiraoka of “Tokio” attended games in Chicago with Hart (who owned the team we now know as the Chicago Cubs at the time) and had told him of how baseball had been introduced to Japan (“displaying two or three crooked fingers as indisputable evidence”) and that he was sure it could be “immensely popular” if “generally introduced”. The rest of the article is on how Hart had received a letter from Japan and how he believes that the Japanese should take to the game because they are “agile and naturally like athletic sports”, also mentioning how maybe they could play a Australian team that had visited America “last season”.

Koshien Stadium

The most famous stadium in Japan and site of the country’s High School Championships, the first reference to Koshien came in the November 8, 1934 edition of Sporting News, when it was mentioned that Babe Ruth’s tour would likely see even greater crowds in Osaka, since that was where “the Koshien Stadium seats 80,000”.

Tokyo/Yomiuri Giants

The “Yankees of Japan” and winners of 22 Japan Series titles, the Yomiuri Giants were first referenced in the January 23, 1936 issue of The Sporting News, where it was reported that they (as the “Tokyo Giants”, their name before their owners at the Yomiuri Group changed it to better advertise themselves) would be coming to America to tour the Pacific Coast, Texas, and the Northwest. The first reference to the Yomiuri Giants under their current name came in 1951. In the November 7 issue, a story on a tour led by Lefty O’Doul and featuring players like Joe DiMaggio and Mel Parnell was printed, and it covered the team’s 6-3 victory over Yomiuri on October 25.

Masanori Murakami

The first Japanese player in MLB history, Murakami was a pitcher who had been sent to the San Francisco Giants as something of a exchange student to play in their minor leagues. However, he pitched so well that the Giants called him up and then refused to send him back to Japan when it was time. The baseball version of a international incident occurred, and it eventually led to the end of Japanese players in North American baseball until Hideo Nomo came over in the 90s.

The first reference to Murakami in The Sporting News was on March 7, 1964, in a story by Bob Stevens on how he and two other Japanese players (Tatsuhiko Tanaka and Hiroshi Takahashi) would be in the Giants’ organization that season. Funnily enough, the story includes a note that neither San Francisco or the Nankai Hawks (their Japanese team) thought any of them would be able to crack a National League roster. Whoops.

Sadaharu Oh

Probably the greatest player in the history of Nippon Pro Baseball and owner of the all-time professional record for HRs (868), the first reference to Oh in The Sporting News came in the Jan. 2, 1965 issue, as writer Jim Sheen looked back on some of the biggest accomplishments in the sports world in 1964:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.33.56 PMHideo Nomo

Interestingly, the first mention of Nomo in The Sporting News was a single item in Bob Nightengale’s baseball report on January 30, 1995, where he mentions that he is one of the hottest free-agent pitchers on the market and that the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Mariners were all pursuing him.

Ichiro Suzuki

Finally, the first reference to Ichiro in The Sporting News also was rather matter-of-fact, coming in a preview issue on Valentine’s Day in 2000, where he was mentioned not because he was joining the Mariners (he wouldn’t until 2001), but because his spring training stint in 1999 had given Seattle some experience with the throngs of Japanese press they would receive for their new reliever, Kaz Sasaki.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.52.47 PM

Thank you to SABR and their “Paper of Record” database for making this article possible. Also, thank you to @YakyuNightOwl for correcting me on the history of Yomiuri’s name- it was always owned and run by Yomiuri, it’s just that Yomiuri didn’t put their name in the team name until later.

Ichiro’s 4000 professional hits are impressive, regardless of the league some of them came in

Awhile back, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was on MLB Network, having been found in an old wine cellar that had once belonged to Bing Crosby, who owned the Pirates at the time. And while, of course, it was one of the greatest games of all time in it’s own right, and had perhaps the greatest home run of all time in Bill Mazeroski‘s walk-off blast, what fascinated me was Roberto Clemente. I heard about how great Clemente was, I could see the old footage, but this was the first time I could see Clemente in a taped television broadcast since his death, as far as I knew.

And a weird thing happened: whenever he came up to the plate or a ball came towards him in the outfield, my eyes could not leave the television. Despite the fact the game had happened decades ago, despite the fact he only went one for four in the game… I could not take my eyes off the television. Because, well, I just knew there was a possibility he’d do something amazing (I hadn’t checked the box score before watching the broadcast, so I really only knew the broad strokes of the game).

To me, Ichiro Suzuki, the man who goes by only his first name, is the closest thing we have had in our lifetime to that sort of player. The player who’s talent is so great that you want to watch the TV not just when he’s at the plate, but when he’s about to make a fielding play as well, or on the basepaths. Oh, he’s left-handed (although naturally a righty, he bats lefty as a way of getting that slight head-start of running to first), and he’s Japanese and not Puerto Rican, but in most other ways the comparison fits: Ichiro, like Clemente, isn’t much of a power hitter (Ichiro averages about nine homers every 162 games while Clemente averaged about 16) but can definitely hit one when needed. Ichiro, like Clemente, has a cannon from the outfield that can stun even the fastest of runners. Ichiro, like Clemente, can make excellent catches in the outfield. And, finally, Ichiro, like Clemente, is a large case of “what if?”

For Clemente, it is a a tragic what-if of what may have happened had he not died that Christmas off the coast of Puerto Rico. For Ichiro, it is a bit more benign: what if he had played in Major League Baseball from the start?

As Ichiro got his 4000th combined hit yesterday, and in the run-up to it, some poo-poo’d him, saying that the 1,278 he had in Japan were meaningless, and that if we were to count them in any way we might as well count minor league statistics, or postseason statistics, or spring training statistics. This is ignorant of both the quality of the NPB (which, while not of MLB quality, is still better than even the best of AAA) and how dominant Ichiro was there (Jeff Passan notes that sabermetric wiz Clay Davenport found that Ichiro’s stats in Japan don’t translate downward that much when converted to MLB), as well as just how hard it is to get 4,000 hits in any league or combination of leagues.

In fact, as far as I can find, only seven players with good verifiable statistics have had 4,000 professional hits including every level: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Jigger Statz*, Minnie Minoso, Stan Musial and now Ichiro. Regardless of league, evel of competition or era, the fact that only seven players out of the thousands upon thousands of professional players in North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe have had 4,000 professional hits is proof of just how hard it is and how impressive it is that Ichiro has done so.

And, even if you want to totally ignore the Japanese hits, your forgetting the fact that with his hit yesterday, he passed Lou Gehrig (another player with a large “what-if”) on the all-time MLB hit list. And that, on it’s own, is impressive.

So, congratulations Ichiro.

*Statz got most of those in the minor leagues, where he was a constant presence for the Los Angeles Angels for years.