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75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan

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75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan
Seventy-five years ago today, nearly 500,000 Japanese had lined the streets of Ginza to welcome Babe Ruth and the All American ballplayers to Tokyo. Rows of fans, often ten to twenty deep, crowded into the road to catch a glimpse of Ruth and his teammates. The pressing crowd reduced the broad streets to narrow paths just wide enough for the limousines to pass. Babe Ruth rode in the first open limousine. At 39, he had grown rotund and just weeks before had agreed to part ways with the New York Yankees. His future in professional baseball was in doubt but his god-like charisma remained intact. To the Japanese he still represented the pinnacle of the baseball world. Millions followed his exploits in baseball magazines such as Yakyukai and Asahi Sports. Sharing the car was his former teammate Lou Gehrig—The Iron Horse—now the world's greatest player.

The rest of the entourage, distributed 3 or 4 per car, followed: Connie Mack, the venerated 71-year old manager of the Philadelphia Athletics; Jimmie Foxx, the Athletics burly third baseman known as "The Beast;" Earl Averill, the Snohomish, Washington native who had been the first American Leaguer to homer in his debut at bat—sportswriters tagged him the Earl of Snohomish when he played well and Big Ears on his off days; the slick fielding, power hitting second baseman Charlie Gehringer of the Detroit Tigers; Yankees goofy ace Lefty Gomez, who claimed to have invented a rotating goldfish bowl to ease the pain of tired fish, and his Broadway actress wife June O'Dea; former batting champion Lefty O'Doul, who had fallen in love with Japan during a 1931 tour; and a gaggle of lesser-known stars.

Only one player didn't seem to belong—a journeyman catcher with a .238 career batting average named Moe Berg. Although he was not an all-star caliber player, his off-the-field skills would explain his inclusion on the team. Berg was a Princeton and Columbia Law School graduate with a gift for languages (causing a teammate to quip that Berg could speak a dozen languages but couldn't hit in any of them) who had already visited Japan in 1932. Berg would eventually become an operative for the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, and many believe that his tour of Japan was his first mission as a spy.

Confetti and streamers fluttered down from well-wishers leaning out of windows and over the wrought- iron balconies of the avenues' multi-storied office buildings. Thousands waived Japanese and American flags and cheered wildly. Cries of "Banzai! Banzai, Babe Ruth!" echoed through the neighborhood. Reveling in the attention, the Bambino plucked flags from the crowd and stood in the back of the car waiving a Japanese flag in his left hand and an American in his right. Finally, the crowd couldn't contain itself and rushed into the street to be closer to the Babe. Downtown traffic stood still for hours as Ruth shook hands with the multitude.

Ruth and his teammates stayed in Japan for a month, playing 18 exhibition games against Japanese opponents in 12 cities. But there was more at stake than sport. Japan and the United States were slipping towards war as the two nations vied for control over China and naval supremacy in the Pacific. Politicians on both sides of the Pacific hoped that the goodwill generated by the tour and the two nations' shared love of the game could help heal their growing political differences. Many observers, therefore, considered the all stars' joyous reception significant. The New York Times, for example, wrote: "The Babe's big bulk today blotted out such unimportant things as international squabbles over oil and navies." Connie Mack added that the tour was "one of the greatest peace measures in the history of nations." But the shared love for a sport would not be enough to overcome Japan's growing nationalism and fanatics' desire for war.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1934 All American tour of Japan, over the next month I will post daily updates on this remarkable event. Follow Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Moe Berg and their teammates as they travel through Japan, China, and the Philippines. The story contains international diplomacy, espionage, attempted murder and, of course, baseball. Updates will be posted at All Americn Tour Diary.
Comments
Re: 75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan
[ Author: Guest: Rusty Dillingham | Posted: Oct 17, 2010 9:12 PM ]

[I realize that this is an old thread, but I just need to add this.]

Dear Rob,

Do you know the roster(s) of the Japanese players who played against the U.S. team. I am most interested in knowing if Victor Starffin was among the Japanese players.

Many thanks.
Rusty Dillingham
Re: 75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Jan 3, 2012 4:10 PM ]

[Old thread revisited]

I have a copy of team picture of US and Japan. It has Babe Ruth, Jimmy Fox, and Connie Mack.
Re: 75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Aug 20, 2013 1:51 PM ]

I have old photos taken by my father (in the Phillipines?) of Lou and Babe in the '30s. I think the Army team vs. the All Stars. Do you have any idea of who, when and where this occurred?
Re: 75th Anniversary of 1934 Babe Ruth Tour of Japan
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Aug 20, 2013 9:23 PM | YBS Fan ]

If you could go by a book store, Rob Fitts' book "Banzai Babe Ruth" does mention the 1934 tour stopping in the Philippines toward the end of the book. He's usually very good about having a useful glossary, index, and bibliography, so you could probably have the answer pretty quick there in the book store.

I would strongly suggest purchasing and reading the book, by the way. I had the Audible (audio) version, which is kind of difficult to search out certain passages. (And the reader was awful. If you do get it, get the paper version.)
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