Oct 29

The Japanese Connection

With Sandy now moving into the area, we hope everyone is safe and that we can all ride this out. Many years back I saw reference to the Toyko Senators. This documents some of the links between the Senators and Japan.

Toyko Senators

One of the charter members of the Japanese Professional baseball League, formed in 1936, was the Toyko Senators. They would keep that name until changing it to Tsubasa in 1940, no doubt because of the war clouds that were forming. The Japans baseball leagues, like their American counterparts continued to play during the war, but folded after the 1944 season. The Tokyo Senators were reborn after the war. It seems even in Japan there is a phoenix quality to the name. Today the franchise is called the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Moe Berg

Berg made two trips to Japan during the pre-war period. On his first tour, in 1932, Berg stayed behind in Japan and toured other parts of Asia including Manchuria, which had been occupied by Japan in 1931. In 1934 during his second tour he took his celebrated movie pictures of downtown Toyko. He addressed the legislature in Japan and was one of the few Americans to tour Korea, which had been under Japanese occupation for some time. During the war Berg worked for the OSS in Latin America and Europe but not in Asia where his talents might have been useful.

Harry Kingman

Born 3 April 1892 in Tientsin, China. Kingman was signed by Washington on the 29th of June in 1914. Kingman was said to be a “southpaw pegger and swatter.” A left-handed first baseman who has been a sensation of the intercollegiate ranks of the far west. He was highly-touted to Griffith by a couple of friends on the Pacific Coast. The reporter adding, he may need considerably more seasoning but is expected to develop into a valuable man. The next day Kingman was quickly sold to the New York Yankees. He played four games for them in 1914 going hitless in three at bats. With his baseball career flat lining he moved in another direction. Packing his bags he moved to China serving as a missionary. He even spent time in Japan coaching a college baseball team. Returning home in the late 1920s to work at the University of California at Berkeley. Later while working in Washington he was a coach for the Democratic club in the Congressional baseball game. Kingman died at the age of 90 in 1982.

Don Blasingame

The infielder from Mississippi played for Washington from 1963 to 1966. In 1967 he played second bases for the Nakai Hawks, having previously participated in two baseball tours to that nation. It was the start of a long sixteen year career in Japanese baseball as a player, coach and manager. He died in 2005.