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First Giants Visit to U.S.?

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First Giants Visit to U.S.?
Who were those guys? Does anyone know the roster of the 1935 visit to the west coast by the team that became the Yomiuri Giants? I think it was largely drawn from the team assembled to play against Connie Mack and Babe Ruth's American All-Stars in 1934. Presumably the team included Sawamura and Starffin. Reportedly, they played semi-pro, college, and PCL teams and racked up an astonishing W-L record. I'm guessing it was their pitching that dominated, but I don't know. Joe DiMaggio was enjoying his last year with the Seals, his PCL MVP season, and I wonder how he did against the visitors. What did people think of this Yomiuri team?
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Feb 22, 2008 10:56 AM | YBS Fan ]

There is a book by Tokyo SABR member Yoichi Nagata entitled "The Tokyo Giants North American Tour of 1935" (in Japanese). The tour's scope was much larger than just the west coast, as the Giants traveled as far east as Cincinnati and Detroit. A part of the team also went down to Mexicali, Mexico, and they hit a number of Canadian cities as well.

See below for the team roster. And, yes, Sawamura and Starffin were both on it.

There was some trouble with Starffin's passport and visa status that had to be taken care of while the team was in Southern California and Mexico. While the team enjoyed celebrity status amongst many of the Japanese-American communities and most of the west coast, newspapers in the mid-west often referred to the team in derogatory terminology.

A spreadsheet of all of the games Starffin pitched in is here (in reply to this request).

If you can read Japanese, this book is the definitive guide to that tour. The bibliography cites sources ranging from personal and university collections to newspapers from throughout the U.S. I'd highly recommend it.

1935 North American Tour Members

General Manager
Ichioka Tadao - November 15, 1891 to June 23, 1964

Miyake Daisuke - July 7, 1893 to January 3, 1978

Business Manager
Suzuki Sotaro - May 4, 1890 to May 11, 1982

Aoshiba Kenichi - September 1, 1912 to November 2, 1944
Sawamura Eiichi - February 1, 1917 to December 2, 1944
Victor Starffin - May 1, 1916 to January 12, 1957
Hatakefuku Toshihide - January 31, 1913 to May 23, 1981

Uchihori Tamotsu - March 12, 1917 to February 3, 1997
Kura Nobuo - October 14, 1909 to 1944
Nakayama Takeshi - May 17, 1916 to August 18, 1975

Eguchi Yukio - April 4, 1915 to Unknown
Karita Hisanori - January 19, 1911 to August 3, 2001
Tabe Takeo - March 28, 1906 to June, 1945
Nagasawa Fujio - September 13, 1904 to March 19, 1985
Mizuhara Shigeru - January 19, 1909 to March 26, 1982

Shintomi Usaburo - February 13, 1915 to August 1, 1945
Tsuda Shiro - May 10, 1908 to February 23, 1965
Nidegawa Nobuaki - August 31, 1901 to October 16, 1989
James Fumito Horio - March 15, 1907 to December 11, 1949
Yajima Kumeyasu - June 30, 1907 to April 29, 1945
Yamamoto Eiichiro - March 8, 1902 to December 15, 1979

[If anyone catches any errors, please post corrections.]

[Link to Starffin stars updated by: westbaystars on Jun 6, 2019 5:15 PM JST]
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Feb 25, 2008 5:23 AM ]

Thank you for such a thorough reply. I wish I could read Japanese well enough for the cited book, which would be a perfect source. Unfortunately, I'll have to rely on the kindness of people like you.

The roster is a great start, but were these players so good that they had little trouble against AAA-level teams? The record seems to prove that they were that good.

And how did DiMaggio fare? I suppose it is on that tour that the purported attempt at signing Sawamura took place. No such interest in a big guy like Starffin?
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Feb 26, 2008 3:32 AM ]

Upon further examination of the table provided of those games pitched in by Victor Starffin, it appears the Japanese team did not dominate the PCL. I don't know how many other games they played against the PCL in which Starffin did not pitch, but in his games they were 2-4 against the PCL, and had another loss against Omaha of the comparable Western League. They played the Seals at least once, and lost a close game to Lefty O'Doul's team, presumably with Joe DiMaggio playing. So their great record was primarily against semi-pro and sandlot teams, including at least one semi-pro Negro team.

Incidentally, the "SF Mutions" of the table is almost certainly the "Missions," a PCL team that shared Seals Stadium with the Seals.
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: Jbroks86 | Posted: Mar 7, 2008 4:43 AM | SFT Fan ]

- I suppose it is on that tour that the purported attempt at signing Sawamura took place.

The Pirates tried to sign him during the 1935 tour, but Sawamura showed the Pirates' contract to a Giants official who turned the scout away. The Philadelphia A's also inquired about his services in 1934, I figure that ended with the same result.

- [...] but were these players so good that they had little trouble against AAA-level teams?

Using the spreadsheet given above, it shows that the Giants struggled against the Pacific Coast League and other organized minor leagues going 2-6. Using that as a record, I would take it that many teams weren't impressed by Starffin's performance seeing as the most of the wins were against semi-pro and sandlot teams.
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: Guest: Joe W | Posted: Jun 4, 2018 8:00 PM ]

Westbaystars --

I realize that this is an old thread, but I appreciate the opportunity to add this. We had the opportunity to meet briefly on Mr. Bavasi's tour in 2016.

Does the spreadsheet cited above (drawn from Nagata's book) still exist? The link is showing as dead. If it is still available, could you direct me?

Thank you!
Re: First Giants Visit to U.S.?
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Jun 6, 2019 5:25 PM | YBS Fan ]

Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Joe. I have updated the link. Sorry it's taken so long.

Take care.
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Mar 7, 2008 10:16 AM | YBS Fan ]

I've added a sheet to the games against PCL teams. Their record was 7 wins and 15 losses to PCL teams. The Giants' record for games that Sawamura pitched in was 4 and 6.

There are a number of stories involving DiMaggio, but no stats on how he did. Sorry.

Anyway, I guess that this disproves the myth that the team "racked up an astonishing W-L record" against the PCL teams it faced. Unless you consider that nobody expected a group of amateur Japanese to win 1/3rd of their games against professional talent back then.

Hope this helps.
Re: Vs. PCL
[ Author: ckartman | Posted: Mar 7, 2008 10:24 PM ]

Westbaystars: You've done us all a great service by compiling the records from Mr. Nagata's book. I would not dismiss the Japanese record against PCL teams. In fact, it's pretty impressive. The overall record may have been 7-15, but the games were close. In fact, in the games decided by over 4 runs, their record was 4-2.

As far as I know, the Japanese team was not strong in hitting, but was very strong in pitching. So in a league that featured Joe DiMaggio, Ox Eckhardt, Smead Jolley, et al, for their pitchers to have fared so well is a pretty decent indicator of their major league potential. Remember, these Giants were very young guys who had not yet reached their peaks.

I guess I haven't figured out how to use this forum, since my two earlier replies to you showed "guest" instead of "ckartman". Regret seeming anonymous.
Re: Vs. PCL
[ Author: ckartman | Posted: Mar 7, 2008 11:57 PM ]

Typical of such stories, one finds repeated over and over that the Giants won 93 of their 100-plus games during this trip. Richard Leutzinger, however, and the 1957 biography of Matsutaro Shoriki both put the record at a slightly more plausible, though still impressive, 75-35. (Before writing off the semi-pro teams entirely, one should remember that most of the great stars of the period were recruited from precisely such teams.) The Yomiuri Shimbun reportedly carried play-by-play accounts of all the games.

Looking at the table of all PCL games (provided from the Nagata book by Westbaystars), Sawamura's eight starts resulted in four wins and four losses. But, in three of them (all complete games), he gave up a total of only three runs! If any scouts were watching those games, he must have had them reaching for their pens.

Incidentally there was only one other pitching gem against the PCL on that tour, a 2-1 loss against the Hollywood Stars by Hatakefuku. Starffin did not have comparable success at that level, yet.

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.

Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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