Saturday, February 4, 2023

Portland Beavers vs. Dai Nippon: April 1-2, 1935

Following the hugely successful tour of U.S. baseball players to Japan in 1934, Japanese organizers, along with Lefty O'Doul, decided to capitalize on said success by arranging a tour of their own. 

A new team, dubbed, Dai Nippon, made up mostly of players from three universities, was assembled, and in 1935 would become the first professional Japanese team to play on North American soil.

The original plan was for the team to play between 60-80 games, but by the time all was said and done, they wound up competing in 109 contests in just a little over four months. 

Given Lefty's then current position as manager of the San Francisco Seals, it's not much of a surprise that the Coast League teams would be worked into the schedule. A total of 22 games were played against the eight Coast teams, each team seeing the Japanese at least twice.

Portland's final two warm-up games before starting the 1935 season were played against Dai Nippon on April 1st and 2nd.

Game 1:

The Ventura County Star 4/2/35
[Note: Because of how they were originally laid out in the paper, I had to do quite a bit of chopping, more so than normal, to get both of today's recaps to fit, and be readable, on Blogger.] 

Dai Nippon only had four designated pitchers for this tour; Eiji Sawamura, Kenichi Aoshiba, Toshihide Hatafuku, and the very young future HOFer, Victor Starffin (who had won the day before against Seattle). The only relief they got was from third basemen, Shigeru Mizuhara, who pitched in seven games, and second basemen, Takeo Tabe, three games; this being one of those three games. It's worth noting too that Takeo Tabe, who Lefty O'Doul thought had MLB potential, was one of the standouts from this tour, amassing 109 stolen bases, among other things. Despite his success, he for some unknown reason never played baseball again, and died in the war ten years later.

Game 2:

The Ventura County Star 4/3/35
There's no way of knowing for sure, but it sounds like this would've been closer to the real score, had it not been for all of the errors, in the first game as well. And it doesn't appear that Kenichi Aoshiba's injury was too severe, as he was back on the mound two days later (picking up the win against a Brawley, CA ensemble called Pirrone's All-Stars).

In 22 games against the PCL, Dai Nippon went 7-15. However, they did beat 7 of the 8 teams at least once; the Beavers being that one outlier. 

If anyone's interested in reading more about Dai Nippon's mind boggling 1935 tour, Western Canada Baseball has a very in-depth piece up on their website about it (nothing about the two losses to Portland though), which I would highly recommend. Knowing almost nothing of Japanese baseball, I used the article as my primary source for information on the players, and the tour itself.


  1. I knew I recognized Eiji Sawamura's name. He was on the Banzai Babe Ruth promo card for Robert Fitts' book. I wish there were more international exhibition games these days. I'd love to see the NPB Champions face off against the College World Series Champions or maybe the NPB All-Stars versus the Oakland A's.

    1. I'm not familiar with the book or the image, so I'll have to go look it up. And yeah, it would be nice to see more international matchups. It would be even better see some teams barnstorming across the country like they did in the old days, but I don't think we'll ever see anything like that again.

  2. I feel like I've read a lot about U.S. players going to Japan to play, but not vice versa. Good stuff.

  3. I love old-time newspaper sportswriting. This isn't as flowery as even a couple decades earlier, but there are some moments ("husky double.")

    1. I think it's time that some of you guys start bringing this kind of language back :)

  4. Very interesting. I looked up Viktor Starffin, certainly an unusual story.

    Got to think that first newspaper headline was intended as a play on words.

    1. Indeed. His was the only name on that team that I had been familiar with.

      That's what I thought too.