Is Kazuo Matsui for real? Here is a guy who has all the physical talent in the world as well as the brains and discipline to make it come together.
The purpose of the Japanese Baseball Page is to be a resource
for baseball fans in general and Japanese baseball fans in particular.
If you have something you want to add. Please let me know. After an idle span from 1998 to 2002, the site is again changing little by little.
The sport became popular with schoolboys and eventually won recognition from the government. Amateur baseball was the only game in Japan until the Shibaura Club was organized in the early 1920s. The Shibaura Club was founded in Shibaura, Tokyo and eventually ended up playing in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture under the sponsorship of the Hankyu railroad. Eventually the club foundered in Takarazuka as well.
In 1934, the Yomiuri Shimbun organized another professional team, Dai Nippon. After a 1935 North American tour, Dai Nippon was renamed the Giants. Soon, other teams were formed. In 1936, Japan took the big step. In April, Japan's first professional "season" began at Koshien Kyujo near Osaka. Six teams, not including the Giants, took part in three Spring tournaments played in Koshien, Narumi Kyujo (in Nagoya) and Takarazuka near Osaka. The Tigers won the spring league with five wins and four losses.
This was not to be an anomaly. From 1936 to 1939, the Tigers were the best team in Japanese pro baseball. It was not until 1939 that their chief rivals, the Giants, began to dominate. In 1939, the schedule was changed from a split season (spring and fall) to a single 96 game season. The next season (1940), the schedule was expanded to 104 games. In 1939 and 1940, the Japanese league consisted of nine teams.
The league's season changed somewhat after that. Each
team played at least 84 games in 1941. In 1942, the war in China spread
to the rest of the Pacific. In spite of the continuing escalation of the
war, the 1942 schedule went back to 104 games. In 1943, the schedule reverted
to 84 games. In 1944, the schedule was drastically reduced to 35 games
and only six teams. The 1945 season was never played. Within nine months
of the beginning of the Allied occupation, Japan's pro leagues were back
in business with eight teams playing 105 games each.
The most popular form of baseball is "nanshiki" which uses a light rubber ball with dimples so that it resembles a large golf ball with the traditional raised seams of a baseball. The ball is a little harder to catch (because it is so light, it has a tendency to pop out of the glove). It is very popular with town and city leagues as well as with many youth and company leagues.
The focus of amateur baseball is on corporate league, college, and especially high school ball.
The teams in the spring tournament are invited to attend and represent their region. It has been rumored that, in the past, some schools' booster organizations offered cash to influence officials involved in the selection process. Because it is by invitation, there are often teams that have little business being there.
Teams take part in the summer tournament after winning their prefectural-level knock-out tournament. This system means that schools from the most heavily populated zones have to play one or two more games to reach Koshien, meaning there is less chance of a weaker team getting through.
The two most prestigious, but not necessarily the best, leagues are located in Tokyo. The Tokyo Roku Daigaku (Tokyo Six Universities) league gets the most ink and has the longest tradition, but far more top-notch players are now coming out of the Toto (Tokyo Metropolitan) League.
The Toto league (and most other Japanese college leagues
as well) has a division system. After the league season ends, the last-place
team from the upper division has to play a series against the lower division
winner. The winner of the series plays in the upper division in the following
tournament. The loser is relegated to the lower division.
Team Home Park City
Chunichi Dragons Nagoya Dome Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture Hanshin Tigers Hanshin Koshien Kyujo Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture Hiroshima Carp Hiroshima Shimin Kyujo Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture Yakult Swallows Jingu Kyujo Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Yokohama BayStars Yokohama Stadium Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture Yomiuri Giants Tokyo Dome Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo
Team Home Park City
Chiba Lotte Marines Chiba Marine Stadium Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture Fukuoka Daiei Hawks Fukuoka Dome Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture Kintetsu Buffaloes Osaka Dome Osaka City, Osaka Nippon Ham Fighters Tokyo Dome Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo Orix BlueWave Kobe Green Stadium Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture Seibu Lions Seibu Dome Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture
For more in depth information on Japanese Professional Baseball.
For current information on Japanese Baseball, see the following web pages:
Bob Horner said on his return to the major leagues that Japanese baseball was not "real baseball." It was almost as if the world had conspired to play a cruel practical joke on him. Horner had come a long way to get here (a third of the way around the world). He had spurned luke-warm major league contract offers and thus forfeited his status as a major leaguer. He had been paid a lot of money to show what he could do. After all that, he found the baseball world in Japan to be completely differentănot what he had expected at all.
The rules are essentially the same, so how could it not be baseball? I think the answer lies in the fact that pro baseball, no matter where you go, means different things to different people. For the players, it is a job. For the owners, it is an investment. For the fans, it is a source of entertainment. Little wonder then, that the same game implies something altogether different, to players, owners, and fans in another country.
Of course when Bob Horner tells us that Japanese baseball
is not the real McCoy, he is speaking from experience. The priorities in
Japanese baseball are different from those in the game he had known since
childhood. Horner knew baseball, and the game in Japan was different from
what he knew, therefore, Horner was confident that what the Japanese called
baseball was in fact a weak imitation.
People's understanding of what they see is largely colored by previous experience. When things run counter to our expectations, we often latch on to the first seemingly rational explanation that comes along. When good non-native speakers of a language interact with native speakers, the native speakers are often insulted or offended. This typically happens, not because the non-native speakers are rude individuals but, because social customs differ and because ways of using language differ. In other words, the meaning of the language one uses goes far beyond the literal meanings of the words themselves.
When someone speaks a language rather well, we automatically assume that she understands all the social implications of every phrase she utters. The same thing happens in baseball.
Baseball is like a language in several ways. We draw meaning from its events and records. If you say one guy is a .300 hitter, it means something. If you say another guy can't hit his weight, that means something too. Statistics, as Bill James has shown to the world, mean different things in different places and times.
In 1943, three hitters tied for the league home run title with four each. We cannot, however, conclude that no one in the league could hit for power. Our understanding of baseball is not limited to events on the field. Clubhouse, practice, spring training, contract negotiation all have meanings attached to them. These meanings go beyond the physical and represent a society's attitudes. Doing things differently in baseball or requesting others to change their behavior, can easily be interpreted as evidence of rudeness, arrogance, stupidity or all of the above.
Baseball in Japan is different. It has developed differently from the American game. In America it evolved from an English ball game called rounders. In Japan it was imported as a finished product in 1873. Japanese baseball has probably retained more of the flavor of that era than the American game has. The American game has been more subject to innovation, while the Japanese game is more mindful of its past. The function that sports and popular entertainment play in a society, is intertwined with that society's culture. To expect Japanese and American fans to have identical attitudes towards baseball would be naive.
On the other hand, there is much to be learned from the way other people do things. Approaching different practices with an open mind is an important step towards understanding our own habits and customs. Baseball, like life, doesn't stand still. It is always changing. Recognizing its changes are one of the pleasures of being a fan. The game changes and some part of it is completely new. Sometimes the game runs in cycles and we will see something which may look new, but which in fact is very old.
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