In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami on the island of Honshu in Japan, I looked up the response Japanese baseball had to the Kobe earthquake of January 1995. I found this, by Wayne Graczyk of the Japan Times in 2005:
Ten years have passed since one of the most unforgettable times in Japan’s history.
Two weeks ago, we observed the anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Kobe on Jan. 17, 1995. Six and a half weeks from now, on March 20, Japan will also mark a decade since the Aum Shinrikyo Tokyo subway gassing.
The year 1995 was also a most memorable one in Japanese baseball.
Orix BlueWave players, wearing the slogan “Gambare (Hang in There) Kobe” on the sleeve of their uniform jerseys, epitomized the fighting spirit and will to recover of the Kansai people, and they won the Pacific League pennant under manager Akira Ogi.
His roster included a skinny 21-year-old kid named Ichiro Suzuki who had just played his first full season, batted .385 and broke Japan’s single-season hits record with 210. . . .
In July of that year, a special All-Star Game was played at Fukuoka Dome, pitting the foreign players on the Japanese teams, managed by Valentine, against the best Japanese players, led by Oh. Proceeds from ticket sales were sent to help earthquake victims in Kobe.
The game featured the likes of [Tom] O’Malley, [Hensley] Meulens and [Terry] Bross, Troy Neel, Bobby Rose, Ralph Bryant, Alonzo Powell, Kip Gross, Lee Stevens and Glenn Braggs against such Japanese stars as Ichiro, Atsuya Furuta, Hideki Matsui, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Keiichi Yabu and Norihiro Nakamura. . . .
Now, here we are 10 years later, in the year 2005.
Will it also be a memorable year in Japanese baseball?
It should be. There is talk of another Gaikokujin vs. Japanese All-Star Game to be played March 14 and benefit survivors of the earthquake that struck Niigata on Oct. 23.
Valentine is back heading the Marines, joined as a foreign manager by Trey Hillman of Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
That benefit game did happen, as the Daily Yomiuri and The Yomiuri Shimbun reported in mid-March, 2005:
A team of Japanese-registered stars defeated a foreign squad 5-3 on Monday at Tokyo Dome in the Charity Dream Game, which raised over 8 million yen for the victims of three recent disasters in Asia.
The Japan Dreams decided the game in the bottom of the first inning, when they rocked Seibu Lions starter Hsu Ming-chieh for four runs on five hits.
Hanshin Tigers leadoff man Norihiro Akahoshi hit Hsu’s second pitch for a line single to center. The 28-year-old, who has led the Central League in steals in each of his first four pro seasons, swiped second on the next pitch and scored the game’s first run on a double by the Dragons’ Hirokazu Ibata.
“There were a lot of great things right from the start,” said Chiba Lotte Marines skipper Bobby Valentine, who managed the Foreign Dreams. “Akahoshi stole a base—the fans loved to see that—and there were fine defensive plays.
“I was as much a fan today as a manager,” added Valentine.
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks captain Nobuhiko Matsunaka, last year’s Pacific League MVP, made it a 2-0 game with an RBI single and Hawks teammate Kenji Jojima plated him from third after a double by the Giants cleanup man Kazuhiro Kiyohara.
The Hiroshima Carp’s Shigenobu Shima, last year’s Central League batting champ, added a fourth run with a clean single to center.
“It seemed my starting pitcher forgot what manager he was pitching for,” Valentine joked. “Since he usually pitches for the other manager.”
Hsu’s skipper with Seibu, Tsutomu Ito, managed the Japan Dreams.
Erick Almonte, a new acquisition of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, hit a two-run homer in the second to halve the Japanese lead.
John Bale of the Hiroshima Carp pitched two scoreless innings for Valentine’s foreign legion, but Yokohama BayStars right-hander Mark Kroon gave up two singles and a pair of walks to make it a 5-2 game in the fourth.
The Giants’ Tuffy Rhodes singled home a run in the top of the sixth after new Yomiuri teammate Gabe Kapler led off the inning with a double.
With Rhodes on first and one out, Marines shortstop Makoto Kosaka made one of the defensive plays of the game. The three-time Golden Glove winner went to his right to pluck a grounder in the hole and fire to second to start an inning-ending double play.
But that effort was soon matched by the Hawks’ Munenori Kawasaki in the seventh.
Kawasaki, the PL’s Golden Glove winner at short last season, was playing second when he robbed new Tiger Andy Sheets of a ground single up the middle for the second out.
“It was a well played game,” said Valentine, who would like to see the foreign vs Japanese format become a regular mid-season event.
“I think the fans would really enjoy it and the players would as well,” he said.
The uniforms worn by the players and coaches will now be auctioned off on the internet to further boost contributions from the contest.
Valentine, who suggested the idea of a game to raise money for victims of last year’s Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, also proposed and managed in a similar contest in 1995 that went toward relief of the earthquake that hit the Hanshin region earlier that year.
Proceeds from the game, attended by 16,728, will also go toward victims of December’s earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, as well as to those affected by last October’s typhoon No. 23.
Just for the record, here are a few more notes from Graczyk previewing that game:
Because there are no foreign catchers on the Japanese teams, Shinji Takahashi of the Fighters and Tomoya Satozaki of the Marines will brush up their English and be loaned to the Foreign Dreams to share the behind-the-plate work.
The game will benefit victims of recent earthquakes and typhoons in Japan and the Dec. 26 tsunami that struck the coasts of many Indian Ocean countries.
The format will follow that of a similar game played at Fukuoka Dome in July of 1995 which helped victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Kobe on Jan. 17 of that year.
Game time for this one is 6 p.m., and ticket prices are 3,500 yen for S seats, 3,000 yen for A seats, 2,500 yen for a boy-and-girl couple for White Day seats and 1,000 yen for reserved bleacher space.
And, there are two other earthquake relief games in the U.S. I thought I’d note as well. The first one apparently never happened; it would have been a benefit for recovery from the Loma Prieta earthquake, but, as the San Jose Mercury News reported in late February 1990, a lockout intervened:
To no one’s surprise, the A’s and Giants announced Monday that they’re postponing the spring-training earthquake relief benefit game originally scheduled for Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Thursday.
The World Series rematch was planned as the exhibition opener for both teams, but the owners’ lockout is endangering spring-training games in Arizona and Florida.
“We are going to attempt to reschedule the game, and tickets will be honored on that date,” said Steve Page, the A’s director of spring-training operations. But Page said fans can begin redeeming tickets for a refund at the place of purchase Wednesday. Tickets also will be refunded if the game is eventually canceled.
Fans have until March 31 to redeem tickets. But Page said fans will be encouraged to keep tickets, with the proceeds donated to earthquake relief.
Projections had the game raising between $70,000 to $90,000 for the Northern California Earthquake Relief Fund. Tickets were sold for $8, $10 and $15. Normally, tickets at Phoenix Stadium are $5, $6 and $8.
Although it’s obvious that a good portion of the spring- training schedule is in jeopardy, Page says no games have been officially canceled. The A’s plan an announcement today on upcoming games.
One likely scenario has the schedule resuming in progress, with missed games canceled, if owners and players reach a basic agreement in time to preserve some of the schedule.
Also, in February 2010, a group of Cuban-American professional baseball players played a game in Miami to benefit recovery from the Haiti earthquake. From the Miami Herald of February 5:
Former and current Cuban-American professional baseball players are putting on a game in Miami on Saturday to benefit Haitian earthquake relief.
The game, pitting a Blue Team against a Red Team, will feature pitchers Orlando ”Duque” Hernandez, a four-time World Series champ, against World Series champ, Jose A. Contreras. Other players confirmed to play: Livan Hernandez, Kendry Morales, Rey Ordonez, Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar and Yonder Alonso.
Professional Cuban players will also participate, along with current and former University of Miami baseball players of Cuban descent.
The event is being organized by Gulliver Schools baseball coach Hector Torres.
The Cuban All-Star Baseball Game for Haiti Relief Fund will be played at Miami Southridge Senior High, 19355 SW 114th Ave. Admission cost $10.
Gates open at noon. The game begins at 1:30 p.m.