America's National Game/Chapter 28

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

America's National Game 0425.jpg





OF ALL countries into which Base Ball has been introduced in recent years, none has developed greater interest in the sport than has Japan. The fact is quite in keeping with what might have been expected from the little brown men of the Orient. In an early chapter of this work it was asserted of Base Ball that it is a combative game. That the Japanese have the spirit of combat recent history abundantly demonstrates. It is no wonder, then, that this progressive island nation, whose people have been so quick to adopt American civilization, customs, business systems, manufacturing methods, should also grasp with avidity a form of pastime so peculiarly adapted to their alert, intelligent natures.

It is not true of Japan, as it is of this country, that Base Ball is played everywhere in the Empire. But it is true that there, as in Australia, in all the larger cities and localities where there are important universities ball clubs are maintained. The government not only gives its countenance to the playing of the game but also aids it substantially in many ways. The rapid progress made by Base Ball in Japan during the past few years makes it certain that the next decade will see it spread generally throughout the Empire, wherever there are boys and men who can take time for such a sport. It must be remembered that conditions in Japan are not favorable to the enjoyment of field sports by the masses. Who may say that in years to come Base Ball may not have liberated multitudes of the youth of that land from their conventional thralldom.

Several years ago students of the leading universities of the Japanese Empire adopted Base Ball as their most popular form of outdoor pastime. The Keio University and the Waseda Imperial University both organized strong teams and have played frequent matches, attracting thousands of highly interested and enthusiastic witnesses.

Twice, at least, teams from Waseda University have visited America.

Writing for Sporting Life, R. S. Ransom describes an interesting game played at Los Angeles, in 1905, between the Waseda University team and a nine composed of American Indians from the Sherman Government, Institute, California:

The meeting of the little brown men from the realms of the Mikado and the red men from Sherman Institute at Fiesta Park in this city. May 20, under the management of Walter Hempel, marked an epoch in the history of Our national game which is deserving of more than passing mention in the columns of America's greatest Base Ball paper. For the first time a Base Ball game was played by teams whose players were from two races that have adopted a sport heretofore distinctively that of the white man. And victory rested with the men from across the sea because of their all-around superiority in every department of the game, coupled with the steadiness and excellence of Kono's masterly work in the pitcher's box. This young man is a marvel, and his work a revelation to our twirlers, who consider themselves overworked, if called on to pitch two games during a single week. Already the Japs have played three games here—May 17, winning from the L. A. High School team by the score of 5 to 3; May 18, when Caucasian triumphed over Mongolian, Occidental winning by a score of 6 to 5, and May 20, when Red and Brown met, with disaster to the Native Sons by a score of 12 to 7. In all these contests Kono, a veritable iron man, did the twirling, showing marked improvement in each successive game.

"All these contests were witnessed by large crowds, the attendance at the Jap-Indian game being by far the largest of the series. During this game, which stands as an event unique in the annals of Base Ball, the Orientals from Japan had it over the Aborigines during all stages of the game, with the exception of the sixth inning, when the Sherman braves with a whoop broke from the reservation and went tearing madly about until six of them had scored before Field Marshal Hashido and his aides drove them back.

"The Japanese players represent the Waseda Imperial University and are being sent on a tour of the United States at the expense of the government. They have been coached by Fred Merrifleld, an American, who is a professor in the university. When he first introduced the American game he was startled by the rapid manner in which the brown men picked it up. They were playing good amateur ball in no time. As they improved, a trip to the United States was talked of, and finally the government made the appropriation. The touring party includes: I. Abe, manager; Fred Merrifleld, coach and trainer; K. Hashido, shortstop and captain; M. Obara, center field; A. Kono, pitcher; S. Suyama, third base; M. Yamawaki, catcher; U. Swzuki, left field; K. Shishiuchi, right field; K. Oshikawa, second base; S. Izumitani, first base; S. Morimoto and S. Tachihara, substitutes. After completing their engagements on this Coast the team will go to Chicago.

"When it comes to handling the ball these little brown men are all stars, but when it comes to a wise interpretation of the rules they get up against it. The other day the Japs were playing a tight game against Stanford. With a Jap on first base, no outs and the score tied, the Jap at bat hit the ball straight into the air back of first base. The runner on first crouched for the start and the minute the catch was made, zing! he was off for second. Of course he was thrown out by something like forty feet, and when their traveling Jap Base Ball coach was asked to unravel this play he responded something like this: 'Well, you see, sar, the rule he say the runner he shall not proceed until the ball he is catch. So he wait for the ball to be catch and then he go down to the number two base. Is it not correct to follow the rules of the game?'

"And the sport who asked the questions went away and batted his head against an oak tree. The Japs have the old Indian trick of 'sighting' with the ball before throwing it. Some of them have

America's National Game 0429.jpg

1. Y.M.C.A. Team, Seoul, Korea 2. Christian College, Macao, China 3. American Protestant College, Assiout, Egypt

wonderful wings, their pitclier having the most marvelously developed arm ever seen in a pitcher's box.

"As indicative of the aptitude shown by the. Japanese players in the development of the game, it can be said that when they arrived in this country the 'bunt' was entirely unknown to them. After their first game a class in instruction was held, with the result that this style of playing was at once assimilated, and the brown men 'worked the trick' successfully thereafter.

"Here is a description that fits perfectly the pitching wonder, 'Iron Man' Kono: 'This little, strong-winged brown man is the goods. He pitches every day, neve'r seems to weaken, and is always the last man to complain of being tired. He has excellent control, and while his curves have not reached the development of the American professional, they are as good as those of the average amateur."

In the fall of 1909 a team from the University of Wisconsin visited Japan, playing nine games that had been scheduled by the Athletic Association of Keio University, whose guests the American college men were.

The Keio champions had some trouble defeating the Wisconsins, winning three games out of four by very close scores of 3-2, 2-1, 5-4, and losing the fourth game by 8-0 in favor of the Americans.

The Wisconsins won two out of three games with the Waseda team by 7-4 and 5-0, and losing the third in a shut-out, 3-0.

The Wisconsins easily defeated the Tokio team in two contests, 10-0 and 8-7.

In the spring of 1911 a team from Waseda University visited the United States, first playing in California, where they acquitted themselves with credit in games played by fine teams. In fielding the Japs are first-class. They are no match for the best American batsmen, and they have not yet developed pitchers equal to our stars.

Following is the story of a game played some time ago at Tokio, between a visiting team from Honolulu and a nine from the Keio University. It serves to show what an excellent imitation can be given of America's national game on the opposite side of the globe. The story is told by Mr. E. S. Wight, in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph:

"Base Ball is as popular in Japan as it is in the United States, and when the Honolulu team played Keio University the game was a great function, attended by representatives of the Imperial Court, the Diplomatic Corps, officers of the Army and Navy and some 10,000 others.

"The crowd lined the bleachers around the field. More than two-thirds wore European dress, though no more than a hundred Europeans and Americans were present. The crowd was typically Japanese, containing all classes, from rickshaw men to courtiers, but no women.

"The athletic field at Keio University is several miles from the center of Tokio, and is reached through miles of streets, with their bird-cage houses, temples and shrines, graveyards and parks. The entrance is guarded by a great arch of evergreen, across which in flaming colors is the English word, 'Welcome,' done in huge chrysanthemums.

"The field is as large as any big League park, with a bamboo fence surrounding it, over which the verdure of pine, palm and bamboo can be seen. Japan's weather is such that the game can be played the year round, which certainly is a fact calculated to make the big League magnates of the United States jealous.

"On this occasion the imperial band played ' Bedelia,' 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' and 'The Little Tonquine.' It was the one false note. The music sounded like a kennel of pups with the hydrophobia, kioodeling their death song.

"The ground was without grass, but rolled as smooth as a tennis court. The players used English terms, and it was positively weird to hear a Japanese crowd shout: 'Good eye!' 'You're the candy!' 'Line 'em out!' But they do it, and the Japanese umpire says, 'Stlike one,' ' Two bowl,' in a manner that would turn Silk O'Lough' lin green.

"The college yell of Keio is 'Rah! Rah! Rah! Keio.' Not a, banzai was heard, but there was as much handclapping and inarticulate yelling as at home. There was no rowdyism, dirty ball or disrespect to the umps. Base Ball in Japan is Base Ball with the rowdy part kept out.

"The game went thirteen innings, ending 5 to 3 in favor of Keio. It was refreshing to see such a game for from 10 sen (5 cents) to 60 sen (30 cents).

"A liberal translation, condensed, of the account of the game given in Tokio's great independent newspaper, Jiji Shimpo, is as follows:

"'The heaven-born Honolulu team, by grace of the gods, won the toss and the Keio Invincibles had first chance to swat the honorable ball—that emblem so beautiful of Uncle Sam. The honorable Kauki, of the first base, descendant of a hundred Samurai and beloved of all, grasped his bat as if it were the two-handed sword of his ancestors. Alas! his honorable legs were not winged and the ball beat him to the first rice bag.

'"No score was made by either of the honorable sides, though they hewed holes in the atmosphere like foresters. In the fifth inning the gods smiled on Honolulu and the team scored one honorable run, then the gods laughed while the honorable Keio boys piled up three tallies.

"'Keio's 4,000 rooters then drew in their honorable breaths with a pleased hiss, waved their royal purple flags and exploded like a bunch of firecrackers, with the weird war cry, "Skidoo, doo, doo, for Honolulu," "Razzoo, Razzoo, and 23 for you." At least an American present said this was what the boys meant.

"'Not till thirteen innings had been played was Honolulu vanquished, when the whole Keio team, with innate courtesy apologized for their breach of hospitality in beating a visiting team.'"

The spectacular side of Base Ball around the world is pretty well known by this time, but there is another side that would touch the heart of any ardent American. Take, for instance, the little group of men who represent a big oil company up in the wilderness of upper Burmah. There are just enough of them to form two nines, and when they have an afternoon off, or when their day's work is over, they get together and "batter up" in the good old way. They are far from home; practically exiles, but when they are in the midst of a smashing game under a tropical sun, with the natives staring at the audacious energy of the white men, they probably feel themselves much nearer home than at any other time.

America's National Game 0433.jpg