Babe Ruth’s First Home Run in Japan – 1934May 26th, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: History & Culture, Museums
In 1934 Babe Ruth visited Japan as part of a goodwill team that played against an All-Japan team made up primarily of Tokyo Six University League Team players. The American team was managed by Connie Mack and the roster of players included baseball legends Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Jimmie Foxx. The American team won all 18 games of the series.
On November 9th, 1934 the fourth game of the series was played in Sendai at Miyagi Prefecture Yagiyama Baseball Stadium. Babe Ruth slammed two home runs in Japan that day, his first ever in the country. One exited the stadium to the right of the scoreboard and the other to left field.
These historic home runs are commemorated with a statue and plaque on the site, which is now home the the Yagiyama Zoo in Sendai. The statue created by Kanji Okina was erected on the site in November 2002, sixty-eight years after the fact, with an inscription that reads in part “This bronze statue stands as a witness, to future generations, of Sendai’s part in Japanese-American baseball history”.
“Baseball was first played in Japan in 1873 at Kaisei Gakko ( now Tokyo University ) under the instruction of an American teacher, Horace Wilson. Around 1880 the first Japanese baseball team was organized at the Shimbashi Athletic Club, and several college teams were formed in Tokyo. During the period 1890 to 1902, a team from the First Higher School in Tokyo played and often defeated a team made up of American residents in Yokohama; the publicity for these games helped make baseball one of the most popular Western sports in Japan.”
Source: Nisei Baseball – Baseball in Japan
Baseball fans and history buffs will definitely want to visit the Babe Ruth statue in Sendai and the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, located further south in Tokyo, where the poster from the trip (pictured top right) is displayed along with other great exhibits on the history of baseball in Japan. Yagiyama Zoo is easily accessed by bus or taxi from Sendai Station. Admission is Y400 for adults and Y100 for children.
Andrew Yamaguchi included this image in his Yagiyama Zoo slide show on his blog, Squamton.ca, and was kind enough to allow it to be published here. Be sure to check out his site and follow Andrew on twitter to get fun updates about life in Sendai, Japan.
Image Credit: Shane Sakata Personal Collection & Andrew Yamaguchi