(L-R) Sotaro Suzuki, Japan Baseball Hall of Fame columnist; Mrs. Sotaro (Toku) Suzuki; Kay O’Malley; Walter O’Malley.


Sotaro Suzuki

Sotaro Suzuki was a highly-respected columnist for Yomiuri and a great fan and scholar of baseball. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants founder Matsutaro Shoriki asked Suzuki to serve as his emissary in inviting star players and teams from the United States to travel to Japan and play exhibition games. Suzuki arranged for a tour of major league All-Stars in 1931. That was a start, but Shoriki asked his confidant for more involvement from the major leagues in America. Suzuki wanted to increase the visibility for Japan and he traveled to New York to personally meet Babe Ruth and showed him a layout of a poster with Ruth’s larger-than-life face on it touting a tour in Japan. He hooked the Babe with that mock poster and Suzuki then arranged the 1934 major league All-Star tour which included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Connie Mack, Jimmie Foxx and Charlie Gehringer playing exhibition games nationwide for a month. Shoriki started the Japan Professional Baseball League in 1935 and, the next year, Suzuki was appointed a member of the league’s board. His involvement increased to Vice Commissioner of the league after World War II, during the Allied occupation, and he lobbied authorities for the return of Korakuen Stadium, Tokyo as well as resumption of professional baseball to aid in healing Japan. Early in 1956, Shoriki dispatched Suzuki to New York to meet with Dodger President Walter O’Malley and invite the defending World Champions to travel to Japan in the fall. Shoriki found Walter fully supportive of the idea, but Walter needed time to work out details with the U.S. Department of State, the Commissioner of Baseball and discuss the commitment with the Dodger team to make an extensive postseason trip. The Dodgers did make the Goodwill Tour and Suzuki and Walter became close friends.

Walter invited Suzuki to visit Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida for spring training in 1957, along with select members of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and the relationship continued to grow. Walter and Suzuki frequently corresponded with each other. Suzuki attended the opening of Dodger Stadium as a VIP on April 9-10, 1962 and also coordinated the 1966 Dodgers Goodwill Tour to Japan. In the winter of 1965, Suzuki sent a remarkable gift to Dodger President Walter O’Malley of a “Kasuga” stone lantern (8-feet tall and nearly 4,000 pounds), which became the centerpiece of a traditional Japanese garden on the hill beyond right-center field at Dodger Stadium. It was Suzuki’s hope that Dodger fans would appreciate the stone lantern as a symbol of friendship between O’Malley and baseball in Japan. A prolific writer, Suzuki authored several baseball books, including “Baseball in America” in 1929 and “Babe Ruth” in 1948. In 1968, Suzuki was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.