In 1934, Lefty Gomez, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and other American League and National League stars barnstormed in Japan. Gomez captured many images of the trip with his 16-mm camera. An excerpt from the forthcoming book Lefty: American Odyssey is featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated. Some of the intriguing video footage can be viewed, courtesy of Random House.
The video, described as “never-seen-before footage,” is compelling by itself. The included narrative successfully adds perspective to what would have been the perception of Babe Ruth travelling abroad to a country where he was revered. There is also the added perception of what the experience would have been like for the American baseball stars. This adds a great deal of depth and meaning to Lefty’s remarkable video.
The book can be previewed and purchased through Random House.
This year, as in years past, baseball will begin its season overseas. This year, they are going back to Japan. To me, it’s a good move for baseball. It shows that baseball, as uniquely American as it is, also has worldwide appeal. It’s very popular in Latin America as well as Japan and Korea. Major League Baseball should be the worldwide leader in baseball, and it is.
Ever since Hideo Nomo came to the Dodgers in 1995, there has been a love affair with Japanese players. Some have been good, some haven’t panned out as well as some teams have hoped. Others, like Ichiro, have set new standards for what is considered good. We may never see a hitter as good as Ichiro in our lifetime. He is one-o-a-kind.
Some may consider it a “brain-drain” of Japan because we are taking all of the best players and biggest stars. In some ways, that is a good assessment, but it is not entirely true. American teams pay a handsome sum to the Japanese teams just to negotiate with the players they want. The Rangers paid the Nippon Ham Fighters over $50 Million to negotiate with pitcher Yu Darvish. Nothing was guaranteed, and the posting fee helped the Nippon Ham Fighters spur their rebuilding. Yu Darvish left the Ham Fighters to help them.
When baseball begins its season in Japan, it will be a great thing for Japan, for the teams involved, and for Major League Baseball. The teams involved will still have their own opening days at their respective stadiums and their fans will get to see all of their favorite players and the players themselves will have an experience of a lifetime. It’s a win-win-win situation.