Monday, January 18, 2010

The 1949 U.S. Goodwill Baseball Tour of Japan

“The 1949 U.S. Goodwill Baseball Tour of Japan” is currently a display at the Society of California Pioneers museum at 300 4th Street (at Folsom) in San Francisco. It runs through Spring. Call (415) 957-1849 for more information. If you’re a fan of baseball history, this is a must-see, featuring more than 250 items from this historical tour.

I enjoy studying about the long history of baseball in San Francisco. Next month, the City By the Bay will celebrate 150 years of baseball in the Bay Area.

Lefty O’Doul was a fascinating guy. He’s the second-greatest player from the area, old-timers say. (Joe D. is obviously #1). O’Doul loved Japan and spearheaded the 1949 U.S. Goodwill Baseball Tour of Japan in 1949. Even though we dropped the big bomb on their country, the Japanese were enthralled by American baseball and welcomed our San Francisco Seals players with open hands.

The 1949 U.S. Goodwill Baseball Tour of Japan was one of the first peacetime cultural exchanges of the post-war era between the two nations. It was the 1940’s equivalent of the famed “ping-pong” diplomacy practiced by the U.S. and mainland China in the 1970’s. The Tour captured the imagination of the Japanese public with a fervor unmatched by any other pre-war or post-war Baseball Tour of Japan. The publicity surrounding this Tour dwarfed all others – scores of graphic posters, hand colored and printed baseball cards, commemorative jewelry, kimonos, umbrellas, uniforms and tour jackets were produced and presented to each player upon arriving in Yokohama on October 12th. At tour’s end, each player was presented with a personalized fabric covered album containing large, high quality black and white photos of the players’ arrival, receptions, parades, team photos, and game action shots.

Upon the personal request of General Douglas MacArthur, the Tour was organized by Lefty O’Doul, a man beloved by Japanese baseball fans, who had toured Japan with various U.S. All-Star Teams as early as 1931. By 1949, O’Doul was manager of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. In that era, the P.C.L. was not the Triple A minor league team that we know today, but a league containing many major league caliber players who preferred to play west of the Mississippi for more money than major league teams had offered them. It was only fitting that O’Doul bring the Seals to play the Japanese All-Star teams, for over the course of the eleven game Tour, they drew more than half a million spectators to the games played at Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

In the span of a month, O’Doul and the Seals had managed to restore some of the nation’s morale, break the post-war tension in Japanese-American relations, and lay a new foundation for friendship between the two countries. Emperor Hirohito was so grateful that he invited the Seals to the Imperial Palace to personally thank them for all they had done. General MacArthur was even more effusive in his praise, fervently claiming of O’Doul’s 1949 Tour, “This is the greatest piece of diplomacy ever.”

Compliments of Tim Evans,
Exhibitions & Education Coordinator

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ed's Picks From the Street

Many sportswriters and/or prognosticators are skittish when they make their NFL postseason selections, but I'm ready to give you mine right now!

This year's playoffs features more parity than in any recent seasons. Will Wild Card teams like Green Bay and the Jets go deep in the brackets? Or will the leading teams (New Orleans & Indy) reach the Promised Land called the Super Bowl? Get your fantasy playoff rosters and your score squares ready, because here I go:

First Round:

Jets vs. Bengals: The Jets are hot and their defense is tough! Jets win!

Ravens vs. Pats: Baltimore is better and improving, but Brady and Moss will prevail. Pats!

Eagles vs. Cowboys: Dallas is ready and primed to make a run & Philly is slumping. Boyz!

Pack vs. Cards: Green Bay is playing a hot hand and Arizona has big holes on defense. Cheese!

Second Round:

Jets vs. Colts: The NY magic ends here. Manning and Addai will make everything right. Colts!

Pats vs. Chargers: San Diego will outscore New England and Belichick will whine. Chargers!

Cowboys vs. Vikings: This could be close, but Dallas will prevail with DEFENSE. Cowboys!

Pack vs. Saints: New Orleans is real, but the Pack is Back. Packers!

Championship Round:

Chargers vs. Colts: Decided by a field goal. (Final score: S.D.: 27-23) Chargers to the Bowl!

Green Bay vs. Cowboys: Decided by a TD. (Final score: 'Boyz: 31-24) Dallas Back on the Grassy Knoll!

Super Bowl:

Chargers vs. Cowboys: San Diego is better and deeper overall. It will be close until the 4th quarter when two crucial turnovers bury the Boyz. (Final: Chargers 30 Cowboys 20. Super Bowl MVP: Phil Rivers)

Yo, Meathead!

Even though I'm wary of giving picks, Big Ed and I are going to post them for this year's NFL playoffs, just for fun!

Here are my picks.

Wild Card Round:

Jets vs. Bengals: Much to my chagrin, Jets will win (sigh). Hey, I made a rhyme!

Ravens vs. Patriots: Even without Wes Welker, New England has enough to take this one, darn it. Pats will win.

Eagles vs. Cowboys: A deadly matchup for me. Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since 1996, and it will stay that way. Eagles will win.

Packers vs. Cardinals: Just like the last game of the season. Packers will win.

Divisional Round:

Jets vs. Colts: Don't make me laugh. Colts will win.

Patriots vs. Chargers: Bolts are too much for injured Pats. Chargers will win.

Eagles vs. Saints: Iggles find their midseason form. Eagles will win.

Packers vs. Vikings: A Favre postseason grudge match. Vikings will win.

Championship Round:

Chargers vs. Colts: Manning can't be stopped. Colts will win.

Eagles vs. Vikings: Vikes will choke, McNabb will shine. Eagles will win.

Super Bowl:

Eagles vs. Colts: Now it's the Eagles' turn to choke, as they so often do at this time of year. Final: Colts 27, Eagles 17. Super Bowl MVP: Who else? Peyton Manning.