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“Our great, great, great uncle introduced baseball to Japan? Really?”

Mar 28, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

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Very fun and interesting story over at NPR about the family who, in 2000, learned that their great, great, great uncle introduced baseball to Japan. Like, seriously, he brought the sport there in 1871 and planted the seeds for it becoming Japan’s top sport.

No one in my family knew for generations, and in 2000 a fleet of Japanese people came to our farm in rural Maine and surprised us with an invitation to visit their country to promote the legacy of Horace Wilson: a man my family had more or less forgotten.

They were reminded about old Horace from the Japanese, who had certainly not forgotten. And then they were treated to a VIP tour of Japan when Wilson’s contribution to Japanese culture was commemorated in 2000.

Nice story. And another reminder that baseball is truly an international game, and has been for a long time, even as we talk now about how to make it one.

  1. davidpom50 - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    I wonder if Horace Wilson REALLY introduced baseball to Japan, or if he did so in the same manner Abner Doubleday invented it…

    • Old Gator - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      Wilson’s introduction of the game to his university students is pretty well documented; certainly, better than Doubleday, whose mythologization was almost a conscious conspiracy by Spalding and some other early professional baseball team owners and publicists. Wilson did a good enough job of organizing intramural leagues once the game caught on a little bit that the first pro league was organized just a few months after he left Japan to return to the states. There’s a nice, well-researched section dedicated to him at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Think of him as the Lafcaido Hearn of baseball.

    • forsch31 - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      Pretty much what Gator said…Wilson’s role in Japan never was a myth like Doubleday’s was; it was a documented event verified by several historians.

      Doubleday himself never claimed to invent baseball, and his obituary doesn’t even mention it. The idea that he did (and did it in Cooperstown) came out of the Mills Commission report in 1907, which didn’t feature one historian. The Commission concluded that Doubleday invented the game based on a single letter–written by an elderly man who had multiple stays in insane asylums. Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, the year baseball was supposedly invented, so the idea that he invented the game didn’t last very long.

  2. spudchukar - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    For more info about this and baseball in Japan, I highly recommend, “Bonzai, Babe Ruth”. Page after page I found myself uttering, No F**king Way. Like many I figured Baseball was introduced to Japan after the war, and boy, was I wrong.

    • spudchukar - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      It is actually spelled, “Banzai, Babe Ruth” by Robert K. Fitts, University of Nebraska Press, (2012), and can be found at ABEbooks for around $10.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        “I found myself uttering, No F**king Way.”

        I do the same thing when I read a lot of the posts around here.

      • renaado - Mar 28, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        “Banzai, Babe Ruth” in other words “Long Live,Babe Ruth”!

  3. mikhelb - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Baseball is truly an international game, even though the more stronger leagues after MLB and NPB have been hit very hard in the past 8-10 years by MLB and Selig, I am talking about the caribbean winter leagues, nowadays a lot of proffesional players can not play winter ball due to restrictions by MLB, Puerto Rico was once a thriving place to play winter ball, 10-15,000 people attended regularly to the biggest stadiums, now that only a few major leaguers and even fewer top prospects receive the green light, those stadiums are mostly empty with replacements of replacement players in action (though they are still better than a lot of players from the US).

    In the Dominican Republic it seems every day there is a new kid testing positive for doping, MLB turned scouting onto a relentless industry that would not think twice about giving a young boy “something” with the promise of “making him better” than the rest of his peers, after all those scouts only care about the money they’ll receive from a player’s signing bonus.

    In México we have seen the proliferarion of the scheme created by MLB paired with the Mexican Baseball League (the summer league) whereas the MBL depredates amateur leagues to “sign” players since they are 14 or 15 years of old to debut them as proffesionals and sell them to MLB. In México the MBL has a clause respected and honored by MLB that says that any player signed by the MBL will always be “owned” by the team that signed him and can not be acquired by anybody else unless the MBL accepts (gets money), there is no free agency and players can not form a player association because they can be vetoed with no pay and can not play anywhere else, any league with a working relation with MLB can NOT sign players vetoed by the mexican baseball league.

    Oh yeah and young kids signed at 14, 15, 16 years of old most of the time are cut from the team that signed them, they are restricted to play JUST for that team (they can no longer play amateur because now they are PRO) and most of them end up not playing anymore nor receiving a salary. Once a kid is cut he no longer gets a check and can not sign with whomever he choses to, MBL does that in case a kid suddenly becomes good playing for a municipal league (semi pro, where they can play) and a foreign team is interested in them.

    When a player is sold to MLB what happens? aah yes yes yes, Mexican Baseball League teams keep 75% of the kids signing bonus. It happened to the Dodgers’ Urias, it happened to the Pirates’ Heredia, it happened to the BJays’ Osuna… it has happened to lots of players while Selif and the MLB turn a blind eye to the situation, even when Adrián Gonzaléz’ father has sued both the MLB and the MBL.

    Sorry for my long rant, it makes me sick to think about how in the drain baseball is in some aspects.

    • renaado - Mar 28, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      I think there should also an article here on how Baseball was introduced in South Korea, From what I heard from there News sites there especially from MyKBONET, Arirang News,Yonhap news, and Global post that Baseball was probably distributed there by American Missionaries even before World War 2.

      • Old Gator - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:19 AM

        American missionaries don’t get enough credit for distributing baseball as well as medicine and superstition.

      • renaado - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Well I think that was for a long time I guess, But they are now making it a big deal there.

  4. themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    What happened to that commenter, royhalladaysarm or whatever? he was such a vocal critic of international ball. he should be all over this story

    • rje49 - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:27 PM

      I’ll guess he was re-banned from HBT.

      • renaado - Mar 28, 2014 at 9:16 PM

        Wow… So you’d get banned from this site here too?

      • Old Gator - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        It takes a lot, though. Halladaysbiceps was still around last week. He comes and goes. Helps to have a life.

    • renaado - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      I guess I really need to be careful here then…

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        I think you are ok. From what I recall of the commenter in question he was the holder of several strong and unpopular opinions. Also I am told he would drink heavily and pick belligerent fights with other commenters and the post authors. You seem to be a more benign person than he.

      • renaado - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        :-). Thanks.

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