Thursday, December 07, 2006

Post WWII: Bringing Baseball Back to Japan [J. Mark English]

As the struggle for the control of Bagdhad wages on, it may help to look towards history for possible solutions that could lead to good will. Few may remember, but in the after years of World War II, Japan too experienced a difficult time to resume any sort of normalcy following the war.
John Holway, from Baseball Guru, tells a fascinating story about how baseball helped to bridge the divide of a worn and tattered Japan, to a peaceful and resourceful Japan. The man in the center of this wonderful tale is Lieutenant Harada, a man of paradox, but a man who had immense importance in helping to create one of the great democracies in the Asian continent. Many credit General MacArthur with restoring hope to Japan, but really it was his faith in Harad, that sparked hope for Japan.
Meanwhile, another youngster, a Japanese- American named Cappy Harada, was playing semipro baseball in California and being scouted by the St Louis Cardinals.
Then came Pearl Harbor, and the next day Harada joined up. He spent the war as a Japanese translator and scout, working with the Navajo “ghost talkers” in the jungles of New Guinea and the Philippines. On a parachute drop behind enemy lines, their plane crashed into a mountain, breaking several of Cappy’s bones, and for 17 days the Navajos cared for him until Australian soldiers finally reached them. “I owe a lot to the Navajos,” he says, “they were great guys.”
Reassigned to General MacArthur’s staff, Harada was shot by a sniper in the Leyte landing in the Philippines, then was shot in the head by a Zero fighter that strafed the hospital. Another few inches, “and that would have been the end of it.”
Harada was luckier than Sawamura, who went down with his torpedoed troopship in 1945. (Today Japan’s Cy Young Award is named the Sawamura Award in his honor.)
Cappy’s wounds ruled out hopes of a baseball career, so he stayed in the army in Tokyo, where General Douglas MacArthur gave Lieutenant Harada the job of reviving baseball in Japan , starting with high school ball.
In 1949 MacArthur asked Harada to look into bringing an American goodwill team to Japan. Cappy flew to San Francisco and asked O’Doul to bring the Seals. Lefty immediately agreed.
Nagata calls it the most crucial of all the American visits, which had begun almost 40 years earlier, in 1911. But this was special as Japan struggled to recover from the devastation of the worst war in history.
Harada asked MacArthur for permission to raise both the U.S. and Japanese flags before the first game. “Go ahead and do it,” Mac replied.
When the U.S. National Anthem was followed by the Japanese anthem, Harada remained at attention in a salute. One U.S. colonel was so furious, he demanded that the Supreme Commander fire Harada. “It’s OK,” MacArthur replied. “I told him to do it.”
The tour was a financial success, and O'Doul donated the profits to Japanese charity. He and Harada became lifelong friends. “We pissed in many a pot together,’ Cappy says.