RepasoPor Mark Langill
Hay obvios legados asociados con Walter O’Malley, el hombre de negocios, el abogado, el ejecutivo de béisbol y el hombre de familia. Pero a través de toda la vida de O’Malley, el espíritu innovador que previó la construcción del Estadio de los Dodgers conjuntó otras grandes ideas acerca del “pasatiempo nacional” de su país desde el Sur de California hacia todas las partes del mundo. Si los deportes del mundo fueran la ostra de O’Malley, el béisbol sería su perla.
Los Dodgers se unieron a la Liga Nacional en 1890 y en los 60 años que precedieron a la llegada de O’Malley como presidente del equipo, tuvieron ocasionales intervenciones internacionales. El primer lanzador estrella cubano de las grandes ligas, Adolfo Luque, estuvo en Brooklyn brevemente durante las temporadas de 1930 y 1931. Los Dodgers operaron un equipo afiliado de Triple A en Montreal y tuvieron su entrenamiento de primavera en Cuba (1947) y en la República Dominicana (1948) antes de establecerse en su actual centro de operaciones Dodgertown en Vero Beach, Florida.
Los Dodgers, que ya eran una franquicia popular en América cuando O’Malley se convirtió en su líder gracias al éxito en el campo y personalidades dignas de recordarse, llegarían a ser reconocidos a través de todo el mundo como una de las franquicias más estables y progresivas de la liga mayor.
Durante las siguientes dos décadas, los Dodgers usaron sus estadios de temporada regular, el Ebbets Field en Brooklyn y más tarde el Estadio de los Dodgers en Los Angeles, como destino para su lista creciente de dignatarios extranjeros.
Los viajes de buena voluntad del equipo al Japón después de las temporadas ganadoras del campeonato en 1956 y 1966 ocasionaron la visita de los Gigantes de Yomiuri a Dodgertown en 1961, 1967, 1971 y 1975.
En su primer año como presidente de los Dodgers en 1951, O’Malley invitó a representantes del club Cervecería Caracas de la liga venezolana, junto con 400 cadetes venezolanos como invitados de los Dodgers mientras los venezolanos estaban en Nueva York para celebrar el día de Simón Bolívar el 19 de abril. Esta sería la primera de muchas invitaciones de O’Malley para visitantes internacionales al Ebbets Field. Cuando 75 marineros israelitas visitaron Ebbets Field en junio de 1951, O’Malley los envió a casa con un cargamento de equipo para jugar béisbol.
En 1952, O’Malley propuso un recorrido por el mundo con los Indios de Cleveland de la Liga Americana. El Comisionado Ford C. Frick anunció, en la víspera del Juego de las Estrellas en Filadelfia, que los dueños de la liga mayor habían dado la autorización y que el departamento de estado tenía entusiasmo acerca del plan. Los dueños también mitigaron una regla que usualmente prohibía recorridos de exhibición solamente.
Los totales estimados incluyeron 240,000 dólares para pagar el avión y 500,000 dólares para los 22 juegos programados en 60 días con visitas a Hawai, Japón, India, Egipto, Australia y el Norte de África, cubriendo más o menos 35,000 millas en el aire. “Nos gustaría que el recorrido cubriera sus propios gastos ,” dijo O’Malley. “A menos que sea una cosa buena para el país y el béisbol, no nos gustaría hacerlo”.Long Island Press, julio 08 de 1952
El recorrido no se materializó, pero los planes alentaron discusiones para otras formas de promover el deporte entre otras naciones. Para cuando los Dodgers obtuvieron su primer campeonato después de una emocionante victoria en siete juegos sobre su rival los Yankees de Nueva York en la Serie Mundial de 1955. El buzón de O’Malley estaba lleno de muchas tarjetas postales internacionales.
El 2 de diciembre de 1955, O’Malley envió la siguiente carta a su Majestad el Rey Faisal II al Palacio Real en Bagdad, Iraq.
“Su Majestad, muchas gracias por su cablegrama de felicitaciones por nuestra victoria en la Serie Mundial. Ello renovó memorias felices de sus visitas a Brooklyn y Ebbets Field. Una de nuestras mayores causas de emoción al ganar nuestro primer Campeonato Mundial fue el saber que trajimos alegría para muchos de nuestros amigos alrededor del mundo como está evidenciado en cartas de 26 países diferentes. Espero que cuando visite nuestro país otra vez, incluya otra visita al Ebbets Field en su itinerario. Espero que esta carta lo encuentre con la mejor salud. Sinceramente, Walter O’Malley.”
Sotaro Suzuki, un escritor japonés de deportes quien trabajó muy de cerca con el publicista Matsutaro Shoriki del periódico Yomiuri Shimbun, el padre del béisbol japonés profesional, pasó tiempo con la organización de los Dodgers empezando con las primeras negociaciones y discusiones respecto al recorrido de buena voluntad por Japón en 1956. Suzuki visitó Dodgertown y Ebbets Field. Cuando el estadio de los Dodgers abrió en 1962, Suzuki fue un invitado especial de O’Malley y los Dodgers de Los Angeles. Suzuki marcó la ocasión encargando una linterna de piedra la cual fue enviada desde Japón hasta el estadio de los Dodgers en 1966.
Después del recorrido por Japón en 1956, los Dodgers invitaron a Shigeru Mizuhara, manejador de los Gigantes de Yomiuri, junto con el lanzador Sho Horiuchi y el receptor Shigeru Fujio para entrenar con los Dodgers en Vero Beach. En 1959, los Dodgers invitaron a todos los Gigantes de Yomiuri para entrenar en Vero Beach.
Suzuki sirvió como intérprete en el paseo a Vero Beach en 1957 y después escribió un ensayo acerca de la reacción de los Gigantes sobre el campo de entrenamiento americano. Uno de los jugadores preguntó si cada equipo de la liga mayor tenía el mismo formato de entrenamiento de primavera como los Dodgers.
“Yo respondí con una sonrisa y le aclaré que Dodgertown era excepcional,” Suzuki escribió. “Solamente los Dodgers tenían dichas instalaciones únicas en donde ellos eran capaces de entrenar a sus once clubes de ligas menores además del club de padres y los Gigantes de Tokio también. Su sistema de entrenamiento es muy diferente al de otras organizaciones de béisbol y mucho más caro. Pero esta rutina probó ser muy exitosa con el advenimiento de algunas estrellas como Craig, Drysdale, Koufax, Podres y Williams en el departamento de lanzadores; Camilli como receptor; Gilliam, Hodges, Larker, Neal y Wills para posiciones del cuadro; y Znider, Demeter, Davis y Howard como jardineros.
“Además, le expliqué a mi joven novato, debido a la estructura magnífica y la caballerosidad de Walter O’Malley, presidente de los Dodgers de Los Ángeles, los Gigantes de Tokio recibieron esta maravillosa oportunidad de tomar parte en el campo de entrenamiento más fino y aprender de primera mano los métodos del club más ganador de la Liga Nacional.”
En 1962, el entrenador de béisbol japonés Kaoru Betto viajó la temporada entera con los Dodgers, estudiando el método americano de entrenar y jugar. Los Dodgers también extendieron una invitación de entrenamiento en primavera en 1962 para Boudewijn Maat, un extraordinario jugador amateur de Holanda quien quería observar la organización de los Dodgers. El entrenador de los Dodgers de la liga menor Pete Reiser visitó Japón en el otoño de 1963 para entrenar al equipo Tokio (Toei) Flyers.
El director de buscadores de los Dodgers Al Campanis invirtió tres semanas en 1964 con el equipo Taiyo Whales en el entrenamiento de primavera. El entrenó a los jugadores japoneses como lo escribió en su libro más vendido, “La Manera de Jugar al Béisbol de los Dodgers”.
En enero de 1966, O’Malley predijo que las ligas mayores algún día se expandirían a Canadá. Los Dodgers operaron su afiliado de Liga Menor en Montreal hasta 1960. “Pienso que veremos a alguien traer una franquicia a Toronto o a Montreal”, él dijo. “El mercado canadiense está totalmente abierto. Si la política internacional se estabiliza, podríamos ver a un equipo en algún lugar de Centro América. Y con los avances que se han hecho en la transportación, probablemente en Japón también. Usted ya puede volar de los Estados Unidos a Tokio en menos tiempo del que tomaba a los Dodgers para ir de Brooklyn a San Luis por tren”.
“Probablemente no veremos béisbol de Grandes Ligas en Australia en toda mi vida. Pero podría darse. Hay un gran interés por el deporte en ese lugar”New York Journal-American, 20 de enero de 1966
O’Malley reseñó sus ideas sobre la expansión de la Liga Mayor en una entrevista en marzo de 1968 con el editor de deportes de Los Ángeles Times Paul Zimmerman. En un año el béisbol de la Liga Mayor cambiaría su formato divisional e introduciría una serie de campeonato de liga, la cual doblaría los participantes de la postemporada de dos a cuatro equipos. La Liga Nacional le daría la bienvenida a los equipos de expansión de los Padres de San Diego y a los Expos de Montreal en 1969.
Pero el enfoque del entrenamiento de primavera de 1968 se centró en si la Liga Nacional se expandiría de 10 a 12 equipos como su contraparte en la Liga Americana. Los candidatos incluyeron Dallas-Forth Worth, San Diego, Búfalo, Montreal y Milwaukee. Esas discusiones indicaron el éxito y la creciente popularidad del Deporte después del histórico cambio a California de los Dodgers y los Gigantes. En 1957 no hubo equipos de Grandes Ligas en la Costa Oeste. Un equipo de expansión para San Diego en 1969 le daría a California 5 equipos de Grandes Ligas — los Dodgers, Angels, Athletics, Gigantes y Padres.
“¿Tendrías Béisbol de Grandes Ligas en la costa sin el aeroplano? La respuesta es no”, dijo O’Malley .
O’Malley especuló que hubo por lo menos dos ciudades en Japón que estaban listas para apoyar una franquicia de Grandes Ligas usando el siguiente criterio: estadio, talento del jugador, sustento económico, público entusiasta y un gran apoyo de la prensa.
“Japón tiene una abundancia de talento, una área en la cual nosotros en los Estados Unidos estamos escasos”. Él dijo. “Ellos pueden tener uno o dos equipos ahora que pueden vencer por lo menos a la mitad de nuestros equipos”.
“Nunca nadie ha dado una razón válida de por qué nosotros no podemos tener equipos de Grandes Ligas ya sea en Montreal o Toronto”.
1956 Japan TourBy Mark Langill
The worlds of both the Brooklyn Dodgers and Japan’s professional baseball leagues were ushered into new eras at the beginning of the 1950s.
When Walter O’Malley became president of the National League powerhouse in 1950, his global view would become a trademark of the Dodger franchise over the next two decades as the New York native oversaw many historical changes, both within the United States and across the Pacific Rim as the sport grew in popularity following World War II.
Matsutaro Shoriki, the founder of the Yomiuri Shimbun and “father of Japanese professional baseball” dispatched Sotaro Suzuki to New York to meet with O’Malley and ask the Dodgers to make a trip to Japan. Acting on Shoriki’s orders, Suzuki’s contributions to the Japanese-American goodwill tours while working for the Yomiuri Shimbun set the stage for the newspaper’s invitation to the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers to play in a 20-game exhibition schedule from October 19 to November 16.
Suzuki is best remembered as the man who helped convince Babe Ruth to tour Japan in 1934, an event that would trigger the start of professional baseball in Japan. According to legend, Suzuki tracked down Ruth at a barbershop in New York and stressed how popular he was in Japan, showing a planned Japanese tour poster in which Ruth was the only player pictured.
Suzuki, educated in Japan and partially at Columbia University in New York, joined the Yomiuri newspaper in the early 1930s and later served as a liaison for the Japanese Commissioner’s Office.
The Dodgers were the fifth American major league team invited by the Yomiuri newspaper. The first major league team invited was an all-star team in 1931. The second was another all-star ensemble in 1934, which featured Hall of Famers Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.
The success of Lefty O’Doul’s tour of Japan with his 1950 San Francisco Seals minor league team led to major league invitations for the Eddie Lopat All-Stars and the New York Giants in 1953 and the New York Yankees in 1955.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were at the height of their popularity, having captured their first championship in 1955 with a dramatic seven-game World Series classic against their October rivals, the New York Yankees.
Early in 1956, Suzuki began corresponding with O’Malley on behalf of Shoriki, Minister of State in the Hatoyama Cabinet and owner-publisher of the Yomiuri newspaper. Shoriki, who founded the Yomiuri Giants, sent a letter to O’Malley on Feb. 9, 1956 that outlined his All-Star tour invitation and gave Suzuki authorization and power of attorney to negotiate on behalf of the newspaper.
In a letter to Suzuki on April 30, 1956, O’Malley said it seemed appropriate the reigning World Champions visit Japan and he was pleased to receive the support from Ambassador Toshikazu Kase, representing the Office of the Permanent Observer of Japan to the United Nations, along with Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick. He also hoped to publicize the trip in August.
“This general proposal has my personal support and I wish to thank you for the honor which you have done our players by inviting them to make this trip,” O’Malley wrote, “and for the patience you have shown in waiting for me to discuss this invitation with the individual players.”
The Dodgers defended their National League crown in 1956, but it wasn’t easy. It took a victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on the final day of the regular season to clinch the title with a 93-61 record, one game ahead of the Milwaukee Braves. Duke Snider led the league with a career-high 43 home runs and pitcher Don Newcombe (27-7) became the first player in history to win both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same season.
The Dodgers and Yankees staged another seven-game classic, but with different results. While Brooklyn lost its first two road games in 1955 on its way to the championship, the Dodgers wasted a 2-0 Series lead in 1956 as the Yankees posted three consecutive victories, including Don Larsen’s perfect game at Yankee Stadium in Game 5. The Dodgers won Game 6 behind Clem Labine’s 10-inning shutout, but dropped the deciding Game 7 at Ebbets Field, 9-0.
The pre-tour exhibitions in Hawaii may have been planned as a chance to keep sharp had the Dodgers’ season ended in late September, but the Brooklyn players likely could have used the rest.
Hours after their World Series defeat, the Dodgers left New York on October 11 on United Airlines Dodger Special Flight 2709 (Douglas DC-7) from Idlewild Airport at 12:30 p.m. They arrived in Los Angeles International Airport at 5:05 p.m. and took limousines to the Statler Hotel. The party flew to Hawaii on October 12 to begin a five-day stay that included goodwill visits, sightseeing and exhibition games against the Maui All-Stars, the Hawaiian All-Stars and the Hawaiian champion Red Sox.
The Dodger roster included Manager Walter Alston; Coaches Billy Herman, Jake Pitler and Joe Becker; pitchers Carl Erskine, Don Newcombe, Clem Labine, Don Bessent, Roger Craig, Ed Roebuck, Don Drysdale, Ralph Branca and Fred Kipp; catchers Roy Campanella, Herb Olson and Dixie “Homer” Howell; infielders Pee Wee Reese, Don Zimmer, Jackie Robinson, Randy Jackson, Gil Hodges, Jim Gentile, Bob Lillis, Jim Gilliam and Bob Aspromonte; outfielders Duke Snider, Bert Hamric, Don Demeter and Gino Cimoli.
Those who didn’t make the trip included pitcher Sandy Koufax, outfielder Carl Furillo, outfielder Sandy Amoros and pitcher Johnny Podres, whose October 26 release from the United States Navy due to a back ailment didn’t give him enough time to get in proper playing condition.
The special Pan American World Airways plane, traveling from Honolulu to Tokyo, was delayed nearly six hours at Wake Island because of mechanical trouble. Americans living on Wake declared a holiday when they learned the Dodgers would be stranded there while repairs were being made. Schools were closed, children flocked to the airport to welcome the Dodgers to their tiny coral atoll. “We had a fine time with the children at the airport,” Campanella said.Asahi Evening News, October 19, 1956
When they finally landed in Japan, the Dodgers — originally scheduled to arrive in Japan at 10 a.m. — received a warm greeting at 3:25 p.m. from thousands of fans cheering in the rain as a motorcade carried the Brooklyn party through the wet Tokyo streets from Haneda Airport to the Imperial Hotel.
Forty actresses from the Daiei Motion Picture Studios, including internationally renowned Machiko Kyo, presented the Dodger players with flowers. “This is really a surprise,” Newcombe said upon receiving his bouquet.
At the airport lobby, center fielder Duke Snider said at a press conference, “We’re all very tired, but we’re glad to be here.”Yomiuri Japan News, October 19, 1956
On its editorial page, The Japan Times previewed the Dodgers’ arrival with an analysis on why the Brooklyn club held a special place in the hearts of Japanese baseball fans.
“The names of the many veteran stars on the Brooklyn roster are already familiar to most Japanese fans, and the Dodgers may rest assured that they are among friends.
“One of the notable achievements of the team from Flatbush Avenue was its success in breaking the color line in organized baseball. It indicated that progress is being made in the United States toward solving the problem of racial prejudice.
“We will be looking forward to many thrilling afternoons of watching baseball at its best — as played by the fabulous Dodgers of Brooklyn.”The Japan Times
There was early praise for the Dodgers, despite a 3-2-1 record in the first six games. Fujio Nakazawa, a leading Japanese baseball commentator, credited Manager Walter Alston’s sportsmanship and willingness to give praise to the Japanese team when it was due.
“Japanese ball players have much to learn from the Dodgers who have not complained about their busy schedule, which started the day after their arrival,” Nakazawa said. “The Dodger players are always cheerful and play hard. A defeat does not discourage them.”United Press International, Asaki News, October 27, 1956
Scenes of the Dodgers blending with the local landscape and traditions would fill newspapers and magazines for the next three weeks. The Yomiuri Japan News carried pictures of the Dodger players behind the scenes, at banquets, in the clubhouse and meeting with fans in the dugout and grandstands.
“Idols of Ebbets Field, the champion of the year’s National League pennant race tomorrow are due in the ancient city of Mito to meet the Kanto All-Stars after playing five games in Tokyo, Sapporo and Sendai,” stated the Japan News. “The scores for the visiting Dodgers have been anything but complimentary: They have already lost two of the games. And the fond hopes of winning every game in the course of their sojourn were all but completely shattered. Viewed at close range, though, the Dodger stars as men and players seemed — almost to the last member — to be very likeable fellows, full of goodwill and fun and fine sportsmanship. And even while losing games, they continued to win friends almost everywhere they went and in turn were held in high esteem by enthusiastic local baseball fans.”Yomiuri Japan News, October 25, 1956The big headline “Dodgers On And Off The Ball Park” in the American military newspaper The Stars and Stripes featured photos of the many aspects of the tour. In another photo, rookie pitcher Don Drysdale, wearing the hoppi coat and headband, opened his mouth to receive food from Tsuneo Harada at the reception as Giants pitcher Sho Horiuchi grinned. The Dodger wives, meanwhile, took time away from their husbands to attend a tea ceremony while dressed in traditional kimonos. Don Newcombe signed autographs above the dugout at Korakuen Stadium while Randy Jackson, Drysdale and Roy Campanella enjoyed a rickshaw ride in front of the Imperial Hotel before the start of the first game.The Stars and Stripes, October 23, 1956
There would be countless other stories and footnotes along the way, even a few surprises:
Hall of Fame infielder Jackie Robinson was charged with the first error in Japan when he dropped a bottle of sake entering the Imperial Hotel. O'Malley family friend Bud Holman also needed to shop for a new movie camera after dropping his at Korakuen Stadium.The Japan Times, October 21, 1956
The Dodger players were amazed at the Japanese fans who, in keeping with tradition, threw foul balls back onto the field.The Japan Times, October 21, 1956
The Dodger players changed into their uniforms before leaving their hotel. En route to the ballpark, taxis and trucks constantly trailed the Dodger bus, hoping to get an autograph while all vehicles were in motion.Ibid.
The most popular souvenirs among shoppers in the Dodger party were tax-free cameras, suits, pearls and Japanese dolls.Ibid.
In Osaka, a friendly schoolgirl translated Japanese church services for Carl Erskine and his wife Betty. Later, the Erskines were visited by 10 members of a family named Baba. Although the Babas could not speak English, they got it across that they had a mutual friend in Anderson, IN, Erskine’s hometown.Associated Press, November 15, 1956
The Japanese Travel Bureau outlined a schedule of trips for family members of the party, including sightseeing and shopping trips to Tokyo; a three-day trip to Kamakura and Miyanoshita; an evening performance at the Kabuki Theatre, visits to Mijajima, Hiroshima and Kyoto; an excursion on a shooting boat to the Hozu Rapid; and sightseeing trips to Mikimoto’s Pearl Island and Atami Hot Springs.
Some of the highlights on the field during the Dodgers’ 14-4-1 exhibition record included:
With rookie Jim Gentile at first base, veteran Gil Hodges moved to the outfield and delighted crowds with his pantomime routine in left field. During a 6-3 victory over the All-Japan Stars in Utsonomiya on October 28, Hodges mimicked Roy Campanella’s movements behind home plate, giving signals and moving into a catcher’s crouch.The Stars and Stripes, October 29, 1956
In perhaps the most memorable and poignant moment of the tour, the Dodgers dedicated their November 1 game in Hiroshima to the memory of baseball fans and others who died in the atomic bombing of that city, and to peace. A bronze plaque was placed about the entrance of Hiroshima’s new baseball stadium.
Inscribed were the words, “We dedicate this visit in memory of those baseball fans and others who here died by atomic action on Aug. 6, 1945. May their souls rest in peace and with God’s help and man’s resolution peace will prevail forever, amen.” The plaque bore the names of O’Malley, Alston, Reese and other club officials.
On November 4, National League umpire Jocko Conlan was overruled in his attempts to call the exhibition game in Osaka because of darkness and a light drizzle. The 40,000 fans sat tight, occasionally yelling “Yaro” (Play ball!).
After 20 minutes of talk between the Dodgers and Japanese officials, the game was resumed. Japanese officials later said Koshien Stadium, Japan’s largest, is never used at night after September 30 and the price of electricity restored would be prohibitive. They would have to pay a full month’s power bill for a few minutes’ use.
“At that point the Japanese officials told us we had to keep playing because the fans weren’t going home if they had to sit all night,” third baseman Jackie Robinson said.Asahi Evening News, November 6, 1956
More than 450,000 fans would attend the 19 exhibition games, an average of almost 24,000 per game. The Dodgers returned to Tokyo on November 15 with tales of endless parades in the larger cities where laborers and clerks poured into the street to clasp the visitors’ hands.
Vice President Fresco Thompson said on November 5 that Brooklyn might invite two Japanese players to the United States to attend the Dodgers’ spring training. Thompson said it wouldn’t necessarily mean the Dodgers were interested in signing the players, standing pat on previous statements that the ballclub didn’t come to Japan to sign its players.
“But we are looking for a way to repay all of the goodwill we have experienced in Japan,” Thompson said, “and I think it might benefit Japanese baseball if some players could attend our training camp, where we stress fundamentals instead of conditioning, as they do here.”
The Dodgers followed through with an invitation for Suzuki to bring Yomiuri Giants Manager Shigeru Mizuhara to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL for spring training in 1957 along with his top battery, catcher Shigeru Fujio and pitcher Sho Horiuchi. The Giants’ group was amazed to see six training fields and more amenities for both training and recreational purposes on the 110-acre facility.
“While our stay in Vero Beach is rather short, we are learning many, many things, not only in baseball with respect to the real feelings of the American people toward the Japanese people,” Suzuki wrote. “I think this is the great merit of baseball, through which I am sure we will create a better understanding and friendship between the two baseball-loving nations of the United States and Japan.”
National League Champions (93-61 record)
Lost to New York Yankees in World Series, 4 games to 3
Dodger President — Walter O’Malley
Manager — Walter Alston (24)
Coaches — Joe Becker (33), Billy Herman (22), Jake Pitler (31)
Pitchers — Don Bessent (46), Ralph Branca (28), Roger Craig (40), Don Drysdale (53), Carl Erskine (17), Fred Kipp (26), Clem Labine (41), Don Newcombe (36), Ed Roebuck (37)
Catchers — Roy Campanella (39), Dixie Howell (54), Herb Olson (55)
Infielders — Bob Aspromonte (34), Jim Gentile (38), Gil Hodges (14), Randy Jackson (2), Bob Lillis (30), Pee Wee Reese (1), Jackie Robinson (42), Don Zimmer (23)
Outfielders — Gino Cimoli (9), Don Demeter (27), Jim Gilliam (19), Bert Hamric (51), Duke Snider (4).
Japan’s Central League (in order of final standings in 1956)
Japan’s Pacific League (in order of final standings in 1956)
*Lions won the Pacific League Championship and defeated the Giants, who won the Central League Championship, in the Japan Series, 4 games to 2.
PRELUDE: Early in 1956, the Dodgers were invited by Matsutaro Shoriki, the founder of the Yomiuri Shimbun and the “father of Japanese professional baseball,” to make a trip to Japan following the regular season. It was Walter O’Malley’s desire to accept the invitation and have the Dodgers make the goodwill tour to further international relations. He spent time to ensure the key Dodger players would make the trip before responding. The Dodgers were at the height of their popularity, having won their first World Series Championship in 1955. Shoriki dispatched renowned Yomiuri sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki to New York to meet with O’Malley and personally act as his representative to make all necessary arrangements for the Dodgers to make the goodwill tour, sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun. The plans for the trip were announced publicly by O’Malley on September 9. John M. Allison, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, issued a statement just before the Dodgers arrived in Japan. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Allison to say that baseball has become “a regular and significant event in Japan’s relations with the United States.” Allison added, “This visit to Japan by one of America’s most notable baseball teams is an outstanding example of the many mutual interests shared by the people of Japan and the United States, the two nations which regard baseball as a national sport. It is but one of the many exchanges by which the two countries further their good relations and understanding.”Bob Bowie, Stars & Stripes, October 18, 1956 The Dodgers tuned up for the Japan games by playing three exhibition contests in Hawaii, one in Kahului, Maui and the final two in Honolulu. They defeated the Maui All-Stars, 6-0, the Hawaiian All-Stars, 19-0 and the semi-pro champion Honolulu Red Sox, 7-3 in 10 innings. The Dodgers then left Honolulu on October 16 en route to Tokyo. They had a five-hour layover, due to a tire problem with their chartered plane, on Wake Island. The Dodgers, however, made the best of it as Wake Island declared a holiday and schools were closed and children flocked to the airport and everyone turned out to greet the Dodgers to their tiny coral atoll.AP story in Asahi Evening News, October 19, 1956 Due to their delayed late-afternoon arrival in Japan, the Dodgers cut short a welcoming reception at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport before a crowd of 3,000, mostly school-aged children, as they had to prepare to play the Central League Champions at Korakuen Stadium the next afternoon. Despite drizzle, some 100,000 enthusiastic onlookers lined the streets to watch the 67-person Dodger delegation in a 26-car motorcade travel from the airport though downtown Tokyo to the Imperial Hotel. A game-by-game recap follows.
Yomiuri 5, Dodgers 4
WP — Takumi Otomo. LP — Don Bessent. HR: Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Andy Miyamoto, Kazuhiko Sakazaki, Tetsuji Kawakami 2.
Dodger Record 0-1.
GAME NOTES: The National League Champion Dodgers lost the first game of their Goodwill Tour to Japan to the Yomiuri Giants. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Yomiuri Shimbun publisher Matsutaro Shoriki, State Minister and “The Father of Japanese Professional Baseball.” John M. Allison, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, was in attendance amongst the more than 20,000 fans at Korakuen on an overcast day. National League President Warren C. Giles, Dodger President Walter O’Malley and Sotaro Suzuki, renowned Japanese sportswriter and trip organizer for Yomiuri met in the morning at Shoriki’s residence. The Giants stunned the Dodgers by pounding four home runs, including two by Tetsuji Kawakami. Giants’ first baseman Kawakami was a five-time batting champion in his 18-year career. He was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965. He also managed Yomiuri to 11 Japan Series victories in 13 seasons (1961-73) and nine consecutive titles from 1965-73. Dodger starter Don Drysdale and relief pitcher Don Bessent each surrendered two homers. Two ace Giants pitchers — starter Takumi Otomo and reliever Sho Horiuchi — struck out 16 Dodgers, who appeared weary from their transpacific trip. The Dodgers did all their scoring in the third inning with singles by Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella, a triple by Gino Cimoli and home runs by Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges.
Dodgers 7, All-Central 1
WP — Clem Labine. LP — Shoichi Kaneda. HR: Roy Campanella, 2.
Dodger Record 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers jumped out of the gate in the first inning to score four runs and were never headed. Catcher Roy Campanella belted a grand slam which scored Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. Snider’s single was his first hit in Japan. In the third inning, Campy made it 6-0 with his second homer of the game, scoring Hodges who had walked. All-Central League scored in the last of the ninth on a RBI double by Andy Miyamoto of the Yomiuri Giants. Dodger starter Clem Labine went the distance for the victory, allowing four hits. Shoichi Kaneda of the Kokutetsu Swallows left the game after loading the bases in the first inning. Noboru Akiyama, of the Taiyo Whales, gave up Campanella’s grand slam and also his two-run homer. Southpaw Kaneda, the 1956 Central League Pitcher of the Year, had 20 or more wins for 14 consecutive seasons with the Swallows (1951-64). Known as the “greatest Japanese pitcher of all-time,” he also managed the Lotte Orions to the Japan Series championship in 1974. In 1988, Kaneda was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.
All-Japan 6, Dodgers 1
WP — Masayoshi Miura. LP — Don Newcombe. HR: Yasumitsu Toyoda, Futoshi Nakanishi.
Dodger Record 1-2.
GAME NOTES: A crowd of 45,000 fans at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium watched the All-Japan team (stars from the Pacific and Central Leagues) jump out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning off Don Newcombe, Dodger ace pitcher and 27-game winner, who was chased after only 17 pitches. A two-run home run by Yasumitsu Toyoda of the Nishitetsu Lions, who was the 1956 Japan Series MVP, in that frame gave the All-Japan stars all the runs they would need. Ed Roebuck replaced Newcombe in the first inning and he later surrendered a fifth-inning two-run home run by Futoshi Nakanishi of the Nishitetsu Lions. Nakanishi led the Pacific League with 29 home runs and 95 RBI and a .324 batting average, just one-half percentage point from being the triple crown winner. Nakanishi led the Pacific League in home runs for the fourth straight season. Roy Campanella went 2-for-4, including an RBI double in the fourth inning to score Gil Hodges, who had walked, for the only Dodger run. In a special home run contest before the game, the Dodgers’ Duke Snider, Hodges and Roy Campanella beat All-Japan’s stars, Nakanishi, Kazuhiro Yamanouchi and Andy Miyamoto, 19-15, as Hodges led the way with 8. It was the second win for a Japanese team over the Dodgers in three games on the tour and the fifth victory by a Japanese team over a visiting U.S. Major League club in Japan’s history.
Dodgers 1, Yomiuri 0
Dodger Record 2-2.
GAME NOTES: Duke Snider homered into the right-center field seats at Sapporo’s Maruyama Stadium in the ninth inning to lift the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory over the Yomiuri Giants. Snider collected three of the Dodgers’ eight hits. Dodger right-handed pitcher Carl Erskine had a masterful performance, limiting the Giants to just three hits, while striking out seven and did not allow a runner to reach second base. Central League MVP Takehiko Bessho, who came in to replace starter Sho Horiuchi in the seventh inning, suffered the loss as he served up Snider’s homer. The game was played before 30,000 fans in only one hour, 36 minutes. Toshibumi Tanaka, Governor of Hokkaido, made the ceremonial first pitch. That ball arrived via helicopter onto the field prior to the ceremony.
Dodgers 8, All-Kanto 0
Dodger Record 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers continued their fine pitching with back-to-back shutouts, this time at the expense of the All-Kanto team. The Dodgers scored four runs in the third inning to make a winner of starter Fred Kipp, who pitched the first seven innings. Ralph Branca finished up the last two innings for the Dodgers, who moved above the .500 mark for the first time on the trip. In the third, the Dodgers scored on Duke Snider’s RBI single, a bases-loaded walk by Roy Campanella and a two-run single by Don Demeter. Jim Gilliam, Gino Cimoli and Demeter each had two hits in the Dodgers’ 11-hit attack.
A crowd of 30,000 watched the game in Miyagi Stadium in Sendai. The Dodgers were scheduled for an off-day on October 25, before returning to action in Mito against All-Kanto once again.
Dodgers 3, All-Kanto 3, tied — called because of darkness
HR: Duke Snider
Dodger Record 3-2-1.
GAME NOTES: In a game called by darkness after nine full innings, the Dodgers and All-Kanto tied. The teams also had to keep a schedule to catch a train bound for Kofu for the next day’s game. The Dodgers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning as Pee Wee Reese doubled and Duke Snider belted a home run. The Dodgers added a run in the sixth, but were unable to maintain the 3-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth. That’s when Dodger starter Don Drysdale gave up a ringing double by Yasumitsu Toyoda to score Akira Iwamoto and Andy Miyamoto. Those were the first Japanese runs in 29 innings off the Dodgers. Don Bessent relieved Drysdale and promptly was greeted by Kihachi Enomoto’s single to score Toyoda. Jim Gentile drove in the Dodgers’ third run and had two of their seven hits. Drysdale struck out four and walked five.
Dodgers 12, All-Kanto 1
WP — Roger Craig. LP — Masahiko Oishi. HR: Jim Gentile 2, Don Demeter, Gino Cimoli.
Dodger Record 4-2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers busted out of their batting slump with a 16-hit barrage and routed the All-Kanto team at Kofu’s Prefectural Stadium before a capacity of 20,000 fans, 12-1. First baseman Jim Gentile led the Dodger hit parade with two home runs and five RBI. Outfielders Don Demeter and Gino Cimoli each belted home runs. Jackie Robinson had a double off Kanto starter Masahiko Oishi. Dodger starter Roger Craig struck out four and was the winning pitcher in his first start in Japan. Ed Roebuck and Fred Kipp came on in relief to shut the door on All-Kanto.
Dodgers 6, All-Japan 3
WP — Clem Labine. LP — Yukio Shimabara. HR: Duke Snider, Jim Gentile.
Dodger Record 5-2-1.
GAME NOTES: The hot Dodger batters collected 15 hits, including a perfect 5-for-5 game by first baseman Jim Gentile, to defeat All-Japan stars, 6-3. Pitcher Clem Labine went the distance for the Dodgers, scattering seven hits to All-Japan. The offensive support included home runs by Duke Snider and Gentile. In the first inning, the Dodgers scored three times on hits by Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and Snider’s home run. Gentile homered in the third to give the Dodgers a 4-1 advantage. All-Japan used four pitchers to try to shut down the Dodgers, including Yukio Shimabara and Kazuhisa Inao, both of the Nishitetsu Lions; Mitsuo Osaki of the Hanshin Tigers; and Katamasa Miura of the Daiei Stars.
Dodgers 4, All-Japan 0
WP — Fred Kipp. LP — Takao Kajimoto. HR: Don Demeter, Jim Gentile.
Dodger Record 6-2-1.
GAME NOTES: Dodger left-hander Fred Kipp’s two-hitter blanked the All-Japan stars at Shimonoseki Stadium, 4-0. Jim Gentile continued his torrid hitting with a 3-for-4 performance and his fourth home run of the tour. Don Demeter hit his second tour homer in the fifth inning off Noboru Akiyama, while Gentile notched his sixth-inning right field blast off Kazuhisa Inao. In the first inning, the Dodgers literally knocked Japan’s starting pitcher off the mound when a two-out line drive off the bat of Cino Cimoli hit southpaw Takao Kajimoto of the Hankyu Braves in the shoulder. Cimoli wound up with a triple and scored on Jackie Robinson’s single to right off relief pitcher Akiyama of the Taiyo Whales. Gil Hodges had two hits, including a RBI single in the ninth inning sending home Gentile, who had doubled, to complete the scoring. Kipp, who used a knuckleball, struck out seven and walked three in his best performance to date, giving the Dodgers three shutouts on the Japan tour.
Dodgers 10, Kansai All Stars 6
WP — Ed Roebuck. LP — Mitsuo Osaki. HR: Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jim Gentile, Isami Okamoto, Asateru Kono.
Dodger Record 7-2-1.
GAME NOTES: An emotionally-charged afternoon preceded the Dodgers’ 10-6 victory in Hiroshima Stadium. Prior to the game, Dodger executives and players participated in ceremonies to dedicate to the city a bronze plaque at the entrance of the ballpark. Inscribed on the plaque were the words, “We dedicate this visit in memory of those baseball fans and others who here died by atomic action on Aug. 6, 1945. May their souls rest in peace and with God’s help and man’s resolution peace will prevail forever, amen.” The plaque bore the names of Dodger President Walter O’Malley, Dodger Manager Walter Alston, Dodger team captain Pee Wee Reese and other club officials. In the game, three Dodgers homered, including Duke Snider, Jim Gentile and Roy Campanella, whose sixth inning blow was a three-run shot to even the score at 4-4. The Dodgers broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning. Kansai’s Yukio Shimbara walked Reese, Snider and Campanella and the trio pulled off an improbable triple steal, with Reese scoring to give the Dodgers the 5-4 lead. Gentile’s homer followed and the Dodgers were on their way, although Ed Roebuck gave up a monstrous ninth inning home run to Asateru Kono of the Hankyu Braves to the centerfield backscreen. Kansai took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Don Drysdale, but Snider’s home run to right field evened the score in the fourth. Kansai went ahead 4-1 in the last of the fourth on a three-run home run by Isami Okamoto off Drysdale. In the third inning, Jackie Robinson was the first Dodger ejected by an umpire on the Japan tour. Robinson protested a call by 16-year National League umpire Jocko Conlan in the third inning and was tossed by the umpire who stated that Robinson said he was “out of position” and “hollered too much.” Robinson was replaced by Reese at second base for the duration of the game. Robinson, who walked to first base to talk with Conlan after the Japanese batter was called safe on a ground ball, explained his actions, “Everybody knew Jocko missed the play because he was in back of the plate and couldn’t see clearly, but when I told him, he got angry.”Associated Press story, Asahi Evening News, November 5, 1956
Dodgers 14, Giants-Hawks All Stars 0
WP — Roger Craig. LP — Sho Horiuchi. HR: Jim Gentile 2, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, Randy Jackson, Don Demeter.
Dodger Record 8-2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers’ fourth shutout of the tour was a memorable one, as they pounded out eight home runs en route to a 14-0 victory over the combined Yomiuri Giants and Osaka Hawks stars before a packed house of 40,000 fans at Namba Stadium in Osaka. In the second inning alone, the Dodgers blasted four home runs, including ones by Jim Gentile, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider. The first three homers came off starter Sho Horiuchi, while Snider’s roundtripper was off Tokumi Nomo. Gentile hit his second of the game and seventh of the Japan tour in the eighth inning. Jim Gilliam, Randy Jackson and Don Demeter all went deep for the Dodgers, as well. The beneficiary was starter Roger Craig, who picked up the win with some relief help by Ralph Branca. Dodger pitcher and fine hitter Don Newcombe made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. But, he grounded out to second base, after kidding with the umpire that he was upset over a close pitch. In 1955, Newcombe had set a National League single-season record for most home runs by a pitcher with seven.
Dodgers 14, All-Japan 7
WP — Clem Labine. LP — Mitsuo Osaki. HR: Jim Gilliam, Don Demeter, Gil Hodges, Herb Olson, Kohei Sugiyama.
Dodger Record 9-2-1.
GAME NOTES: Power production continued for the Dodgers as they racked up 14 runs and 14 hits, including 4 home runs. In a wild game at Koshien Stadium near Osaka, the Dodgers built a 7-3 lead only to see All-Japan bounce back to tie the score at 7-7 after seven innings. The game almost did not make it past the sixth inning, when longtime National League umpire Jocko Conlan tried to halt the game because of darkness and a light drizzle. But the nearly 40,000 fans in attendance would have none of it, chanting “Yaro!” (Play ball!). After a 20-minute delay as Japanese and Dodger officials discussed the situation, the game was resumed as to not disappoint the fans who had come from near and far to watch the exhibition. According to an AP story, “Koshien Stadium, Japan’s largest is never used at night after Sept. 30 and the price of getting the electricity restored would be prohibitive. They would have to pay a full month’s power bill for a few minutes’ use.”Associated Press, Pacific Stars & Stripes, November, 1956 The Dodgers put the game away with a seven-run outburst in the eighth inning on three singles, two walks and a three-run home run by catcher Herb Olson, was on the tour roster, but never would appear in a regular season game for the Dodgers. Second baseman Jim Gilliam went 3-for-5 with a home run and 3 RBI, while Don Demeter was 2-for-5 with a home run and Gil Hodges was 2-for-2 with a homer. Clem Labine picked up the victory in relief of Don Bessent and Ed Roebuck.
All-Japan 3, Dodgers 2
WP — Shoichi Kaneda. LP — Clem Labine. HR: Don Demeter, Duke Snider.
Dodger Record 9-3-1.
GAME NOTES: All-Japan snapped the Dodgers’ six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory at Nishinomiya Stadium. An overflow crowd of 45,000 was on its feet as the All-Japan stars scored a ninth-inning run to win. Masao Morishita of the Nankai Hawks doubled to start the rally in the ninth, followed by a Ken Yamashita single, sending Morishita to third. A walk to pinch-hitter Kenjiro Tamiya of the Hanshin Tigers loaded the bases. Yomiuri Giants first baseman Tetsuji Kawakami blooped a single to short center field out of Don Demeter’s reach for the game-winning single. It was Kawakami’s second hit and second RBI of the game. The Dodgers had tied the score in the top of the ninth on Duke Snider’s 400-foot home run to center field off reliever Shoichi Kaneda of the Kokutetsu Swallows. It was Snider’s sixth homer of the Japan tour. Demeter hit his fifth home run of the Japan tour in the second inning off Japanese starter Takehiko Bessho of the Yomiuri Giants to put the Dodgers on top 1-0. All-Japan collected 11 hits, including doubles by Kazuhiro Yamauchi and Morishita, combined off Dodger starter Fred Kipp and reliever Clem Labine.
Dodgers 3, All-Japan 2
WP — Roger Craig. LP — Hiroomi Oyane.
Dodger Record 10-3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers traveled to Nagoya where they edged the All-Japan stars, 3-2. Right-hander Roger Craig went the distance for the Dodgers, giving up five hits and striking out eight batters. All three Dodger runs scored in the fourth inning, as Duke Snider walked, Roy Campanella singled and Jim Gentile walked. Gil Hodges hit a double to drive in Snider and Campanella and Gentile scored on a wild pitch by All-Japan starter Hiroomo Oyane. Three of All-Japan’s five hits came in the first inning, but Craig settled down and got the side in order the rest of the way, with the lone exception of the sixth inning when Pee Wee Reese kicked a grounder for an error and Craig allowed a single before a double play ended Japan’s chances. Hodges was the star of the show as he wowed the crowd of 25,000 with a “clown act,” pantomiming the action on almost every play from his left field position, as rookie Gentile played first base. In his new act, Hodges made thousands of friends in Japan who read his sketch in the program to learn more about him. “Hodges, the mimic, pantomimed the action of the pitcher, the catcher and the umpire. When a Dodger made an error, Hodges glowered and pointed his finger. At various times, he made his legs quiver, shook his fist, stamped on the ground, swung his arms, frowned and smiled. This strange, new routine, never seen by Ebbets Field fans, started during the Dodgers’ first trip out of Tokyo during their 20 game exhibition series. Hodges has been doing his act in the smaller towns but played it straight during a three game series in Osaka, Japan’s No. 2 city. When he left the game in the eighth inning, Hodges was called back to take a bow amidst cheers. ‘You’d have thought Babe Ruth was leaving a game in the old days,’ said a Dodger official.”Associated Press story, Chicago Daily Tribune, November 8, 1956
All-Japan 3, Dodgers 2
WP — Takoa Kajimoto. LP — Fred Kipp. HR: Satoru Sugiyama.
Dodger Record 10-4-1.
GAME NOTES: The All-Japan stars broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth as pinch-hitter Kohei Sugiyama singled to right field with runners at first and second base to score the winning run off relief pitcher Don Bessent. Masao Morashita singled to center to start the inning and a late throw to second base by Dodger starter Fred Kipp on a bunt by Takashi Iwamoto set up the run-scoring play and delight the crowd of 20,000 fans. Manager Walter Alston summoned Bessent in to pitch and the Japanese countered with Sugiyama pinch-hitting for winning pitcher Takoa Kajimoto. Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but the Dodgers knotted the score in the fifth on a single by Herb Olson and an RBI double by Kipp, who later scored on an infield error. Satoru Sugiyama hit a two-run home run off Kipp in the second inning.
Dodgers 5, Yomiuri 4, 11 innings
WP — Ed Roebuck. LP — Takehiko Bessho. HR: Jim Gentile, Herb Olson, Shigeru Fujio.
Dodger Record 11-4-1.
GAME NOTES: Takehiko Bessho decided not to follow the instructions of Yomiuri Giants Manager Shigeru Mizuhara and paid the price. With the game tied at 4-4 in the top of the 11th inning, the Dodgers got a lead-off single by Jim Gilliam and two outs later he was on second base with Jackie Robinson coming to the plate. That’s when Mizuhara ordered Bessho to intentionally walk Robinson. But, Bessho “shook off” the sign and his catcher Shigueru Fujio, who promptly ran to the mound and told the pitcher to follow the instructions of the manager. Fujio then ran to the Giants’ dugout to inform Mizuhara that the instructions had been delivered. Back on the mound, however, a defiant Bessho decided not to walk Robinson but to pitch to him. Robinson lashed a double to right-center field and Gilliam scored easily to put the Dodgers ahead 5-4. Bessho had entered the game in relief in the seventh inning and had not allowed a hit until Gilliam’s single in the 11th inning. Regarding Bessho’s decision, Mizuhara said, “He shouldn’t do such a thing. I instructed him to walk Robinson intentionally but he insisted on going with Robinson.”Associated Press story, New York Journal-American, November 9, 1956 Jim Gentile smashed his eighth home run of the Japan tour in the second inning to put the Dodgers on top 1-0. But, the Giants scored twice in that inning off Dodger starter Ralph Branca. The Dodgers got three more runs to go ahead 4-2 in the fourth inning. Herb Olson hit a two-run home run in that inning. Yomiuri scored single runs in the sixth and eighth to even the score. Ed Roebuck came in to pitch in the seventh for the Dodgers and earned the victory. Bessho had 310 lifetime wins pitching for the Nankai Hawks (1943, 1946-48) and the Giants (1949-57). He won the Sawamura Award (as Japan’s top pitcher) in 1947 and 1955 and was MVP in 1952 and 1956. He was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.
Dodgers 8, All-Japan 2
WP — Carl Erskine. LP — Hiroomi Oyane. HR: Gil Hodges 2, Don Zimmer.
Dodger Record 12-4-1.
GAME NOTES: First baseman Gil Hodges knocked two 400-foot home runs out of the park as the Dodgers amassed 18 hits in their 8-2 victory. Second baseman Don Zimmer also hit a home run in the seventh inning to complete the scoring. After the game, Zimmer returned to Cincinnati, Ohio to be with his father who was “critically ill.”Associated Press story, Chicago Daily Tribune, November 11, 1956 The Dodgers scored four runs in the first inning and took a 6-0 lead after three innings en route to their 12th victory of the Japan tour. Hodges hit his blasts in the first and third innings to jump-start the Dodger offense. The first of his home runs, a two-run shot to the upper left-field stands, came off Hiroomi Oyane of the Chunichi Dragons. His second homer and fifth of the Japan tour came at the expense of Masayoshi Miura. Jackie Robinson, who had doubled to left, rode home on that hit. Right-hander Carl Erskine started and picked up the victory for the Dodgers, with relief help from Don Bessent, who came in to pitch in the sixth inning. Japan’s Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Suga were part of the crowd of 35,000 in attendance at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium.
Dodgers 10, All-Japan 2
WP — Roger Craig. LP — Shoichi Kaneda. HR: Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese.
Dodger Record 13-4-1.
GAME NOTES: Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese each connected for home runs as the Dodgers rolled to a 10-2 win, their final appearance in Tokyo on the 1956 Goodwill Tour to Japan. Roger Craig was the beneficiary of the offensive onslaught as the Dodgers took a commanding 8-1 lead after six innings. Robinson, appearing in his next-to-last game as a Dodger, belted his final home run in a Dodger uniform and it was a memorable one — a 420-foot shot off Shoichi Kaneda in the second inning. Japan’s Takehito Bessho gave up home runs to Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella to nearly the exact same location in the left-field stands in the fourth inning. Reese’s homer was in the sixth inning with Jim Gilliam aboard. Following the game, the Dodgers flew to Kyushu to make up a rained out game in Fukuoka on November 13 to conclude their tour.
Dodgers 3, All-Japan 1
WP — Fred Kipp. LP — Kazuhisa Inao.
Dodger Record 14-4-1.
GAME NOTES: The Dodgers finished their 1956 Goodwill Tour to Japan with a 3-1 victory in Fukuoka’s Heiwadai Stadium over All-Japan in a make-up contest due to a rained out game on October 30. The Dodgers completed the trip with a 14-4-1 overall record, playing in front of more than 450,000 fans, an average of 24,000 per game. Fred Kipp went the distance for the Dodgers, scattering six hits. Kazushisa Inao, a 19-year-old rookie, held the Dodgers to one run for eight innings, but had to be replaced in the ninth inning by Masayoshi Miura. Hits by Jackie Robinson and Don Demeter knocked in the two Dodger runs in the ninth. Inao was the Pacific League’s “Outstanding Rookie” in 1956, amassing a 21-6 record for the Nishitetsu Lions. The Dodgers scored twice to put the game away in the final inning.
POSTCRIPT: The 1956 Dodgers had played 218 games — 35 games in Spring Training, 154 regular season games, 7 World Series games against the New York Yankees, 3 games in Hawaii and 19 games in the Goodwill Tour to Japan.
- After the Japan tour, several articles criticized the Dodgers for not giving their all in the games. However, team captain Pee Wee Reese stated in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 16 that the Japanese “should be given credit for playing a good brand of baseball instead of belittling the Dodgers for not putting out. Sure we would have played better but we are a tired bunch of fellows. We did our best at all times.”1
- On November 23, 1956, WRCA AM 660 in New York aired a recorded version of the Dodgers and the Japan All-Stars. According to the New York Times, “The contest was one of the series in which the National League pennant winners dropped four to the Japanese, a fact that apparently evens the score for Madama Butterfly...The fans seem decorous and no epithet in any way related to ‘dem bums’ was audible. Vince Scully and Bill McCord helped make the sports program into a breezy and educational cultural affair by their descriptions and interviews.” In one-half inning, the game broadcast was narrated by a Japanese announcer to give local fans the full flavor of the international experience.
- In their editorial about the Dodgers tour in Japan, the New York Times includes: “On several occasions an outspoken Japanese press declared that they (the Dodgers) were something less than overwhelmingly impressive. They were tired and showed it. Nevertheless, we feel that the trip was a tremendous success. The Dodgers played before half a million fans. They saw an improved lot of Japanese players. They promoted the game. Baseball can be an international language. A double play is just as good in Romanji as in English. Japan has been a good field for development of baseball interest. There are strong teams also in Canada and the Philippines. Some splendid players have come from Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. We look forward to the time when there will be a real ‘world’ series along the lines of Davis Cup play. Baseball has helped to break down some big barriers in this country. It may serve, internationally, to the same end.”
- Dodger President Walter O’Malley invited catcher Shigero Fujio and pitcher Sho Horiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants for 1957 Spring Training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. The players, along with Giants Manager Shigero Mizuhara and Japanese sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki, who organized the Dodger Goodwill Tour to Japan, were guests of the Dodgers from February 28-March 22, 1957. Upon their arrival, all Dodger players and officials welcomed the visitors. For their many successes and contributions to the sport, Mizuhara and Suzuki were inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and 1968, respectively. In 1961, the entire Giants team from Tokyo visited Dodgertown and made subsequent trips there at the invitation of O’Malley in 1967, 1971 and 1975. Dodger President Peter O’Malley, who coordinated all aspects of the Giants’ visit to Dodgertown in 1961, continued the tradition of hosting teams from Japan to train there, as the Giants returned to Dodgertown in 1981 and the Chunichi Dragons of Nagoya visited there in 1988.
1966 Japan TourBy Mark Langill
Ten years after their first visit to Japan, the Dodgers embarked on another goodwill tour following the 1966 season that blended familiar images with new faces on the international baseball scene. Sponsored by The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, it was a chance for Dodger President Walter O’Malley and his organization to renew acquaintances with Japanese baseball officials and monitor the progress made by the host country more than two decades since the conclusion of World War II.
The traveling party, which included Major League Baseball Commissioner William D. Eckert, arrived at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo under the same circumstances as the 1956 Dodgers, as reigning National League champions and one year removed from a World Series crown. Manager Walter Alston was still at the helm of the Dodgers — a position he would serve for 23 seasons until 1976 — but the 1966 Dodgers had a different makeup from the 1956 version.
That celebrated Brooklyn Dodger group featured a core of famous veterans in the autumn of their respective careers — shortstop and team captain Pee Wee Reese; infielder Jackie Robinson, catcher Roy Campanella and first baseman Gil Hodges, among others. The 1956 Japan tour would be Robinson’s last appearance in a Brooklyn uniform as the Dodgers posted a 14-4-1 record.
Robinson announced his retirement at age 37 following the tour and Campanella would play just one more season before a tragic automobile accident ended his career as the Dodgers prepared to relocate in Los Angeles in 1958.
Strong pitching became a Dodger trademark on the West Coast whether playing at the Los Angeles Coliseum — converted from a football and track stadium — or at Dodger Stadium, a sparkling showplace that became the standard for subsequent major league ballparks when it opened in 1962. The Dodgers captured World Championships in 1959, 1963 and 1965 as Alston became the first National League skipper to capture four World Series titles.
Emerging from a wild pennant race with San Francisco and Pittsburgh, the 1966 Dodgers staged a dramatic September rally, winning 21 of their last 31 games to qualify for another World Series. The pitching carried a Dodger offense that was shut out 17 times — the most by a pennant-winning team. As a staff, the Dodgers’ 2.62 ERA was the lowest by a N.L. team in 23 years and held opponents to two runs or less in 80 games, including 20 shutouts.
“It is our sincere hope that we will bring to Japan the 1966 World Champions of baseball,” O’Malley wrote in a letter to Japanese fans published in The Yomiuri magazine previewing the baseball tour. “As you know, we are headed for our own World Series clash with the Baltimore Orioles on October 5 in Los Angeles, California. You will know the results of our efforts long before we land in your country.
“Be assured, however, that whether we come out champions or not, our visit to Japan will be a highlight in the year of 1966 for all of us.
“Our hearty congratulations to your own championship team and our sincere good wishes that BASEBALL will long continue to be a meeting place for representatives of both our fine countries.”
The upstart Orioles, though, stunned Los Angeles with a four-game sweep as the Dodgers were outscored 13-2, and failed to score in the final 33 innings. Unlike the 1956 Dodger team that began its goodwill tour schedule on the same day of the final World Series game, Los Angeles had several days to regroup from its disappointing showing against Baltimore to prepare for its Japan journey.
But the season took its toll on the Dodger pitching staff and ace starters Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale — who combined for 40 wins and 597 innings in 1966 — opted for rest following the 1966 Series. Koufax would stun the baseball world a few weeks later by retiring at age 31 due to arm trouble. Rookie Don Sutton didn’t get a chance to pitch in Japan, either. The future Hall of Famer went 12-12 in his first season, but Alston used him sparingly in September after Sutton pulled a forearm muscle on Labor Day.
When the Dodgers traveled to Japan, the climate of its professional leagues had changed in terms of American participation, including former major leaguers who were extending their careers by playing overseas. Ex-Dodger infielder Daryl Spencer, for example, batted .273 with 20 home runs for the 1966 Hankyu Braves.
“We want to spread goodwill, but we also hope to beat the Japanese on the baseball field,” Alston said at welcoming ceremonies in Tokyo. “When we were here 10 years ago, we thought the Japanese ballclubs were well organized. They must be better now than then.”Pacific Stars and Stripes, October 22, 1966
The timing of the 1966 tour also coincided with the career choice of Masanori Murakami, a left-handed pitcher who became the subject of an international debate in the early 1960s. Murakami was one of three Japanese prospects that signed minor league contracts with the San Francisco Giants’ organization in 1964. Murakami’s surprising recall from Single-A Fresno to the Giants in 1964 and his subsequent success in 1965 pushed United States and Japan baseball relations into uncharted waters. Political pressure from his home country eventually led to Murakami’s decision to return to Japan for the balance of his professional career. It would be another 30 years until the Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo in 1995 became the first player from Japan’s professional leagues to appear on an American major league team.
The Yomiuri Giants of the 1960s were led by two of the most famous players in Japanese baseball history — first baseman Sadaharu Oh and third baseman Shigeo Nagashima. Oh would hit 868 home runs in a career that spanned from 1959-80. Nagashima, nicknamed “Mr. Giant,” hit 444 home runs from 1958-74. The Giants, Japan’s first professional team founded by Yomiuri newspaper publisher Matsutaro Shoriki in 1935, captured Japan World Series crowns in 1961 and 1963, and nine consecutive titles from 1965-73.
Dodger veteran shortstop Maury Wills was one of the tour’s headliners, but the speedster who swiped a record 104 bases in 1962 had trouble staying healthy in 1966. Wills stole 30 of his 38 bases that season by June 28 and had just one stolen base during a 45-game span in the summer. In his first World Series plate appearance, Wills singled and stole second base. But Wills didn’t get another hit and went 1-for-13 overall (.077).
Wills played in just four games on the Japan tour. On the trip, Wills told O’Malley that he needed to fly home for treatment of a knee injury.
However, O’Malley later learned that Wills had gone to Hawaii and was playing the banjo in a well-known nightclub and had not returned to Los Angeles. The veteran would later be dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, part of an offseason roster shuffle that included the trade of longtime Dodger Tommy Davis to the New York Mets. The Dodgers reacquired Wills in 1969 and he finished his career in Los Angeles in 1972.
Wills’ departure from the Japan tour hampered a Dodger roster that already was missing many familiar names. In addition to Koufax, Drysdale and Sutton, first baseman Wes Parker didn’t travel to Japan, which gave a chance to rookie first baseman Tommy Hutton, a 20-year-old prospect with three career games in the majors and a 0-for-2 ledger at the plate. Other young prospects included pitchers Alan Foster, Nick Willhite and Leon Everitt; outfielder Al Ferrara, infielder Tommy Dean and outfielder Jim Barbieri.
On October 21, Baseball Commissioner Eckert presented Shoriki with a bronze plaque bearing an engraved message and signature from President Lyndon Johnson. After handing the message to Shoriki, Eckert also presented him with a World Series championship ring. It was the first World Series ring ever presented to a person not connected with a team participating in a World Series.
“I myself and other Japanese concerned would like to further continue to promote Japan-U.S. friendly ties and contribution to peace, through baseball,” Shoriki said.
Eckert and O’Malley later paid a courtesy call on November 6 to Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. During a five-minute meeting at Sato’s official residence, the Americans presented a baseball with Walter O’Malley’s signature and a badge good for all American and National League games for the 1967 season.
The Dodgers opened the Japan tour with a 16-5 victory over the Giants. But any thoughts of the Dodgers’ steamrolling through the schedule ended in the second game when Giants’ left-hander Akio Masuda pitched a three-hitter en route to a 5-0 victory.
That set the pace of the tour as the Dodgers finished with a 9-8-1 record. Oh paced the Giants with 21 hits on the tour, including five home runs. The Dodgers’ Jim Lefebvre, who hit a career-high 24 home runs in 1966, powered Los Angeles with five home runs on the tour and a .388 batting average.
Guests at the November 6 game at the Tokyo Korakuen Stadium included The Emperor and Empress, seeing their first baseball game in a number of years.
“The Dodgers may have drawn blanks elsewhere, but they are diplomatic successes in Japan,” reported Los Angeles Times sportswriter Frank Finch. “No matter where they go, to a shrine, a restaurant or a ballpark, they are besieged by the friendly grins of red-hot baseball fans. The official badge issued by Walter O’Malley to the touring troupe is like an open sesame. People who can’t read English instantly recognize the familiar ‘Dodgers’ name in its script form. ‘Doh-jars,’ with the accent on the second syllable, is one of the most popular words in Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, Sendai, Nagoya and other cities where the team has appeared.”Los Angeles Times, November 1966
While the players entertained overflow crowds, other members of the traveling party had a chance to see other sights. They spent three weeks touring the countryside and visiting everything from the 1964 Olympic facilities in Tokyo to the 330-foot cascade of the Kegon Waterfall near Lake Chuzenji.
Lela Alston, the manager’s wife whose family lived in a small town in Ohio, was also in Japan during the Dodgers’ tour in 1956. “Even from what little I have been able to see so far, I should say that Tokyo really has changed amazingly since that time,” she said.
During the final week of the tour on November 15, the Japanese government conferred on O’Malley the high honor for a non-Japanese of the Order of the Sacred Treasure Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon award, in recognition for his efforts to foster Japan-United States friendship through professional baseball.
Commissioner Eckert reached an accord on future American visits in discussions with the Japanese Baseball Commissioner and the two league presidents. The next full-fledged team visit would be in 1968 and at two-year intervals at the alternating invitations of the Mainichi and Yomiuri newspapers. The Yomiuri Giants would visit Dodgertown for spring training in 1967, the second of four trips to the Florida training complex.
At a farewell sukiyaki party at a restaurant in the Ginza, Yomiuri Shimbun Vice President Yosoji Kobayashi thanked the Dodgers for providing millions of Japanese fans the chance to see “fascinating” baseball. Kobayashi presented each of the American guests with a photograph album of the Dodgers’ Japanese tour.
Alston praised the level of competition, rating the Giants better than the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, and suggested with a little more pitching, the Yomiuri squad could compete in the majors.
Giants Manager Tetsuharu Kawakami was pleased his team had won more games that he expected during the tour, but also understood the Dodgers’ position in terms of changing its World Series roster to accommodate many new players.“The tight schedule and the absence of their ace pitchers like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale might have helped bring on the unexpected results,” he said. “Anyway, I don’t believe the results truly reflect on the true strength of the Dodgers. But I’m glad to learn that the standards of Japanese baseball have risen tremendously in all aspects.”The Mainichi Daily News, November 17, 1966