Sunday, April 10, 2011

Calling Babe Ruth


When the earthquake/tsunami disasters first hit Sendai, Japan I found myself trying to research the area that had been hit. I wanted to know what type of area it was--the land, the people and the history. It just made it more "real" to me to understand the loss. My question, what happened to Babe Ruth?

Of the many things I came across while reading about Sendai, was the story behind a statue in the Yagiyama Zoo. Babe Ruth, along with other famous athletes including Lou Gehrig, visited Japan in 1934 as part of an American goodwill team. They played against Japanese players from six prominent universities. This Big 6 League was established in 1925 and sported some of the best baseball players in Japan, many who have gone on to the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.

There were 18 games played all together and the United States won all of them. On that day in November, 1934, Babe Ruth hit his first homerun in the country, with a final tally of two homeruns for the game. The Japanese people loved seeing the baseball team in action and many view to this day, that Babe Ruth is the reason baseball became so popular in Japanese culture.

In 2002, a statue, created by Kanji Okina, was erected on the exact site where Babe Ruth hit his homerun. The inscription read, “This bronze statue stands as a witness, to future generations, of Sendai’s part in Japanese-American baseball history”.

The tsunami hit Sendai hard. It wiped away lives, homes and structures from the town. As far as the zoo, from what I've learned none of the staff were killed and all of the animals are okay, but they are running short of food. There is a web site for anyone who wants to donate to help Japan's zoos.

I know I'm offbeat, but I also wonder how and if Babe's statue survived. It's not going to be on any headlines anywhere. I mean it's just artwork, but I have a soft spot for art. Especially for the emotions for everyday Japanese citizens donating their own hard earned money to have the statue created in the first place.

The decision makers of the Major League Baseball Association should think about helping the Japanese people rebuild its zoo and recover or replace its historical baseball artwork. The United States has a bond with Japan over many things and one of the major ones is baseball. Pure and simple.

If anyone knows what has happened to Babe Ruth's statue in the zoo, please let me know.

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