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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Man Who Introduced Baseball To Japan

Baseball season has already begun in 2014.

It's a sport loved by millions around the world--especially in the U.S. and Japan.

In fact, it's the 80th anniversary of the major league Nippon Professional Baseball League. 

There have been many in Canada who claim that the Great White North actually introduced the game of baseball to the Americans via a sport called Rounders, but truthfully, until American Abner Doubleday wrote down the rules for the game, all the rest was conjecture and not real baseball as we pretty much know it today.

Let's just call it America's past time. Canada can still lay claim to having invented basketball, though not hockey (ice), no matter how much we want to believe it.

Anyhow... there have been many books and article written about how US military servicemen helped popularize the game of baseball in Japan, what with the impressionable Japanese interested in all things foreign after a mere 250+ years of isolationist foreign policy between the 1600s and 1850s. 

But... my pal Matthew sent me an article that detailed one person's claim that her family back in 1871 actually introduced baseball to Japan.... a gentleman named Horace Wilson.

If the name doesn't jump out and slap a triple into the corner, well, don't worry, you aren't alone. It seems the only people who knew about old Horace Wilson and his baseball teachings were Wilson's current family and the Japanese...

I'm going to direct you history and baseball fans to a blog written by Horace Wilson's relative, a young woman named Theo Balcomb, who has written about this great piece of family history and Japanese baseball history in a blog on the NPR (US National Public Radio) website. You can even listen to the story there.

I should comment that she writes that her relative did not mention teaching the Japanese baseball in any letters back home, but truthfully, playing a game with some of your students... how often do we refer to that in OUR letters to our families? Never... because it's no big deal.

But... to the Japanese... who must have made not of it and accepted this story as part of its own baseball lore... it is a big deal.

Read Theo's story: HERE

The photo above, that is Horace Wilson - a cropped image taken from a family portrait, currently in the possession of Abigal Sanborn.

I do thin k it's interesting that the military uniform he is wearing is unbuttoned near the top... the hand would usually go inside there (think Napoleon's classic stance)... and in this case, for the portrait, while a sitting brother does have his hand in his coat, Horace is standing... which means he was probably  originally in a sitting pose (hand stuffed in) before they decided to change it at the last moment... and he forgot to do his buttons up.

When you go to Theo's blog on the NPR website, you'll see the full old portrait there.

For a bit more background, check out the Wikipedia entry on Horace Wilson... it tells you when the first official Japanese baseball team was formed: HERE

Andrew Joseph

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