Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Connie Mack headlined the roster of 15 stars who visited Japan in November 1934 to display their baseball skills. They, and Ruth especially, apparently made a big impression, because Japanese troops famously yelled Ruth’s name in jest when they fought U.S. soldiers in World War II. Here, from the Japan Times, are some reports on how the U.S. and Japan teams fared in their much less consequential mid-Depression battles:
Friday, Nov. 2
The most formidable team of the world’s best baseball players to arrive in Japan disembarked from the palatial Canadian Pacific white-hulled liner, Empress of Japan, at Yokohama at 10 a.m. today for a series of games in the Empire, its first being against the Tokyo Club Sunday afternoon at the Meiji Shrine stadium.
Leading this aggregation of 15 aces of the American major leagues, including the one and only George Herman ( Babe) Ruth , the Sultan of Swat, and Don Gehrig of the New York Yankees, was no less a person than Mr. Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack, manager of the Athletics who has been actively connected with baseball for 51 years.
The visitors were given a great welcome. No sooner had the yellow quarantine flag been lowered than Ruth and the other players were stormed with requests for autographs.
“How many home runs are you going to hit in Japan ,” Ruth was asked.
“I don’t know, but I am going to try to knock out as many as I can,” he said.
Monday, Nov. 5
Babe Ruth , Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx did not find the slow balls of three pitchers to their liking and failed to crash out homers, but the 56,000 or more baseball fans that packed the Meiji Shrine stadium Sunday sat back amazed all afternoon at the tremendous strength of Connie Mack’s American all-stars. The Tokyo Club nine, comprised of leading ex-university players, were slaughtered by 17 to 1.
With people standing in line for their tickets since Saturday night, every seat in the huge stadium was taken by noon Sunday, two hours before the game.
Saturday, Nov. 17
Babe Ruth has become quite the social lion of Tokyo. Together with other members of the American baseball team in Tokyo, he has been tea-ed, lunched, dined and danced, as never before.
It was a bright moment for several bellhops and girls of the Imperial Hotel when the baseball hero autographed his photograph for them the other day while having his shoes shined in its barber shop, and a Tokyo woman will always remember the time she had her hair bobbed — she sat in the next chair to the Babe.
Sunday, Nov. 18
The southpaw offerings of Lefty Hamazaki proved to be of no mystery to the portside sluggers of Connie Mack’s All-American professional baseball team and the latter routed the All- Japan nine by a 15 to 6 score Saturday afternoon at the Meiji Shrine stadium. It was the visitors’ final appearance in Tokyo (before they depart for matches in Omiya, Sendai, Nagoya and Osaka, then leave for Shanghai on Dec. 2).
Babe Ruth once again led the batting attack with two home runs. One of them came in the eighth inning with the bags loaded. He showed his aptitude to hit any kind of pitching by taking a healthy cut at Hamazaki’s slow teaser for a mighty drive into the right-field bleachers.
Wayne Graczyk, writer of the Times’ Baseball Bulletin, added that this “was the series when schoolboy phenom Eiji Sawamura struck out four big league superstars. Sawamura, after whom Japan’s version of the Cy Young Award was named, fanned Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx and Charlie Gehringer in a game in Shizuoka.
“He lost 1-0 on a homer by Gehrig but went on to fame briefly with the Giants until his career was cut short when he was called into service prior to the start of the Second World War. He was subsequently killed in action.
“Sawamura’s performance on that November day helped persuade Shoriki to work toward forming Japan’s first pro team one month after that major league tour ended.
“That team is still known as the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.”