During the 1956 Dodgers Goodwill Tour to Japan, Matsutaro Shoriki, the father of professional baseball in Japan and owner of the Yomiuri Shimbun, greets Dodger President Walter O’Malley as U.S. Army General Lyman Lemnitzer looks on.


Matsutaro Shoriki

Matsutaro Shoriki was a multi-faceted business leader, media magnate, Judo master and politician in Japan who believed baseball could serve as a bridge to bring Japan and the United States closer together. Shoriki owned the Yomiuri Shimbun and is known as the “father of professional baseball in Japan” as he organized its first leagues, the Pacific and Central. He founded the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, as well as the Nippon Television Network. Shoriki worked for 11 years as chief, Criminal Bureau of Metropolitan Police Board in Tokyo. He then purchased the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1924 when the circulation was 56,000 copies, but through innovation, various evening editions, an agreement with Hearst Newspaper Organization to exchange news and addition of sports pages, the circulation 20 years later was more than 1.9 million.

Shoriki was interested in sports and invited big league baseball stars to visit Japan, including Babe Ruth, in 1934 and later he sponsored a few more goodwill tours to promote friendship between Japan and America. The popularity of those visits led him to invite the defending World Champion Dodgers early in 1956 to travel to Japan in the fall. When Dodger President Walter O’Malley responded yes, it was the start of a longstanding bond. That was the first of two Dodger Goodwill Tours to Japan, the second in 1966 when Shoriki welcomed the Dodgers back. In the spring of 1957, Walter invited the Giants manager, two players and Shoriki’s confidant Sotaro Suzuki to visit Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida. Walter then worked out arrangements so that the entire Giants team would train at Dodgertown prior to the 1961 season. That led to additional team training visits at Dodgertown and trips to Japan of instructors to help with further development. Shoriki showed great appreciation in his correspondence to Walter for helping the Giants. Shoriki’s diverse career led him to also be known as “the father of nuclear power”, as he became chairman of the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission in 1956. In 1959, he was the first inductee into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. Shoriki, 84, passed away October 9, 1969.