Pro baseball’s anniversary amnesia

Japan's first professional team

There seems to be something about organized baseball and the habit of fudging on the truth about the past.

Major League Baseball long stuck to a ridiculous story that the sport was a purely American invention in 1839 of Abner Doubleday, a man who during his life never made that claim or professed any affection for the game. (Seymour PP 8-12)

In Japan, too, truth sometimes suffers at the hands of established institutions – even those who justify their existence by claiming to present the truth. One such organization is the Japan News, a daily English language publication run by the Yomiuri Shimbun.

In line with Yomiuri editorial policy, the ever-vigilant Japan News recently ran a story calling 2014 the 80th anniversary of professional baseball in Japan. story here

The anniversary being touted is that of the 1934 founding of the Yomiuri Shimbun’s team, the Giants – Japan’s oldest active professional club – and the charter member of the professional baseball organization now known as Nippon Professional Baseball. It’s a great story, but the idea that the Giants were Japan’s first pro team is nonsense.

The team recognized by Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as the nation’s first professional baseball team is not the Giants, but rather the Nihon Undokyokai (the Japan Athletic Association). The Japanese wikipedia entry that relates to the club’s founding is here:

It’s an easy mistake to make, since NPB follows the Giants’ lead in just about everything and is also touting this year as pro ball’s 80th anniversary. Even the Yomiuri’s arch-rival paper, the Asahi, has gladly gone along with the charade.

One can assume the JN is ever eager to get to the truth, because of its Dec. 16 public prostration over the realization it had been using incorrect language for over two decades to describe indentured sexual servants who were used by Japan’s military during the second world war. The JN chose to refer to these women, euphemistically known in Japanese as “comfort women,”  as “sex slaves.” It seems the management was in a pickle about how to describe these “so-called comfort women.” story here

So one can only assume that once this so-called newspaper realizes it is currently propagating misinformation about the origins of pro baseball in Japan, we can all expect in the interest of truth to see a similar mea culpa. Of course, it might take two decades.

Notes: Harold Seymour, BASEBALL THE EARLY YEARS,  Oxford University Press 1960.

Author: jballa5_wp

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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