Today in baseball history - March 4 - The father of Japanese baseball

The Father of Japanese baseball

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA | MARCH 4, 1927 - Horace Wilson died on this date in 1927 at his home in San Francisco. Who was Horace Wilson? He was the father of Japanese baseball.

Here's the story:

Baseball hasn't existed in Japan as long as it has in the United States, but our national pastime has been part of Japanese culture for over 130 years? According to Japanese baseball officials, the game was brought to the Land of the Rising Sun in the 1870's by Horace Wilson, a Tokyo University English Professor from the United States.

Wilson was born on a Gorham, Maine farm in 1843. After the Civil War he headed west to California and later to Japan. One day in 1872 (or 1873, depending who's telling the story) he decided his students at the First Higher School of Tokyo, now known as Tokyo University, needed some recreation. He got their blood pumping with a bat and ball, and taught them the game of baseball, which he probably learned during the Civil War.

According to Steve Solloway of the Portland, (Maine) PressHerald, a game was organized a few weeks later between the Japanese players and a group of foreigners, one of whom was Horace Wilson. The foreigners won 34-11 and a Japanese pastime was born.

Contributing sources:
Japan Baseball Daily
Portland PressHerald, May 20, 2007, by Steve Solloway 
Horace Wilson 
More on Baseball in Japan

This baseball history story about Horace Wilson is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

Today in baseball history - Feb 25 - Work stoppage ends

Wrong kind of "strike"

NEW YORK, NEW YORK | FEBRUARY 25, 1973 -  Major League Baseball goes through phases where "strikes" seem to out-number "balls," and we're not talking about what the homeplate umpire barks out after a pitch is thrown. According to Sports Illustrated, since 1972 there have been eight work stoppages, including the year we're focusing on - 1973.

The news was good on this date. The players' union and team owners announced a new three year agreement ending a lockout by the owners at the start of spring training.

The 1973 agreement instituted what has become as common as the hit & run - arbitration. After so many years in the league a player who couldn't agree on a salary with his team could take the issue to arbitration.

Considering what happened a year earlier, a strike right at the start of the regular season, everyone was relieved. Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals.

Baseball didn't learn however, there were work stoppages in 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990 and a devastating strike in 1994-95 that wiped out the entire post-season including the World Series.

Contributing sources:
Herschel Nissenson, Associated Press (AP), The Gettysburg Times, February 26, 1973
Sports Illustrated, May 25, 2002

This baseball history story about work stoppages is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

Today in baseball history - Feb 24 - The Tony Conigliaro tragedy

Tony "C" gone too soon

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS | FEBRUARY 24, 1990 - A life of such promise ended sadly at 4:30 in the afternoon on this date in 1990. Tony Conigliaro, the youngest player to hit 100 home runs died of pneumonia [also see FEB 7th story]. He was 45.

"Tony C" as he was known, had been in poor health since suffering a heart attack in 1982. The turning point in his life, though was 15 years earlier when he was on top of the world.

On August 18, 1967, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Conigliaro wasn't able to get out of the way of an inside fastball from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. The ball hit him on the left side of his face nearly blinding him. He was out of baseball for over a year.

Conigliaro made a promising recovery in 1969. His blurred and double vision appeared to have cleared up. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 82. In 1970 he had the best year of his career - 36 home runs and 116 RBI, but by '71 his vision had deteriorated again. He wasn't able to play in '72, '73 or '74. After an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback in 1975 he retired for good. He was 30.

A legacy of Tony Conigliaro's beaning was players starting wearing helmets with flaps on the left side for right-handed hitters and the right side for left-handed hitters. Today such helmets are mandatory.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP), Boston, Massachusetts, February 25, 1990
Tony Conigliaro

Today in baseball history- Feb 23 - Howser hangs it up

Sad news from Fort Myers

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA | FEBRUARY 23, 1987 - Kansas City Royals manager Dick Howser gave it all he could, but on this date in 1987 was forced to tell his players they would have to go on without him. Howser had been diagnosed with brain cancer the previous summer. He underwent two operations to try to remove a malignant tumor.

Howser hadn't filled out a lineup card since the 1986 all-star game. Observers noticed during that game that he didn't seem as sharp as he normally was. It would be the last game Dick Howser ever managed.

Howser gave it another try in the spring of '87. He put the uniform on for the first time since that 1986 all-star game on the first day of spring training. The uniform didn't fit. He looked tired and weak. Two days later, according to the Associated Press (AP) he said, "It's just that I need more time to rest. I can't do it like this." He didn't get better. Howser died three months later on June 17, 1987.

Dick Howser guided the Royals to their only World Series championship in 1985. In five full seasons as a manager, and parts of three others, his teams never finished lower than second place. Besides the Royals, he managed the New York Yankees for one full season and part of another. The Florida State University graduate had an eight year playing career, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1961. He played for the Royals, Cleveland Indians and Yankees. Dick Howser was just 51 when he died.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press (AP), Fort Myers, Florida, February 24, 1987
Dick Howser as manager: Baseball-Reference
Dick Howser as player: Baseball-Reference

This baseball history story about Dick Howser is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

Today in baseball history - Feb 22 - Cardinals sign QB

Cardinals hire gunslinger

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | FEBRUARY 22, 1938 - The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of two-time All-American quarterback Sammy Baugh on this date in 1938. And, no, not the football Cardinals, they were still in Chicago at the time, the baseball Cardinals. Baugh had just graduated from Texas Christian University where he was an innovative quarterback who relied heavily on a seldom used offensive weapon - the forward pass. He earned the nickname Slingin Sammy.

Baugh also played third base for the Texas Christian baseball team. In fact, he was initially recruited for baseball and that was the sport he wanted to pursue. After signing with the Cardinals to play baseball Baugh was sent to the minor leagues. He didn't excel as well as he hoped and never played a major league baseball game.

Baugh played sixteen years in the National Football League, eventually being elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Here are some other noteworthy athletes who played more than one professional sport:

John Elway - New York Yankees minor leagues/Denver Broncos
Danny Ainge - Toronto Blue Jays/Boston Celtics
Dave DeBusschere - Chicago White Sox/New York Knicks
Chuck Connors - Chicago Cubs/Boston Celtics/TV's "The Rifleman"
Brian Jordan - Various MLB/Atlanta Falcons
Deion Sanders - Various NFL/Various MLB
Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards/Chicago White Sox minor leagues
...among others.

Contributing Sources:
United Press (UP), February 23, 1938, St. Louis Missouri

This baseball history story about multi-sport players is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

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