[Update 12/16: Thanks to reader Brian who translated this click here to view.]
A unique, well-traveled piece of Michigan athletics memorabilia showed up on eBay this week. It’s described to be a ticket stub from a game between Michigan baseball and a university team from Tokyo, played in Japan in 1932.
If anyone can translate the Japanese on there, please send it along. (And save the Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto emails). [Update 12/16: Thanks to reader Brian who had this translated, click here to view.]
At first glance I laughed thinking there was no way a college team traveled to Japan during in the throes of the Great Depression to play baseball. And the auction description didn’t help sell it for me:
1932 Michigan University [sic] vs Meiji University tour ticket stub from game 1 played at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo.
But of course a click here and a Google search there and Hiroshi’s your uncle. It looks legit and this is pretty amazing stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the men’s baseball team traveling Japan today would warrant a little bit of news, right?
From an excellent summary published in Michigan Today in 1998, it all started with Japan teams doing a college tour in the US years earlier, with many of the stops in Ann Arbor from 1911 to 1925. Then in 1929, Michigan coach Ray Fisher got an invite from the Meiji University inviting the maize and blue to visit Japan as “ambassadors of good will”. Fielding Yost and the board of athletics approved the trip and so they headed west, then more west, until they reach the Far East in 1929:
After playing several games on the West Coast and one in Hawaii, the Wolverines arrived in Japan for a 30-day visit. Lodged at the Imperial Hotel, the 14 team members and Coach Fisher and his family were received lavishly by Meiji University. Against a variety of Japan’s best college teams the Maize and Blue won 11 of 13 games, with losses to Meiji and Waseda. In a Michigan Alumnus article describing the trip, Straub opined that “Japanese pitchers are not as effective as our college pitchers in America. But their catchers are of a much higher standard.” He added that the umpires “were usually very efficient and absolutely impartial.”
The stub in the eBay auction claims the ticket to be from the 1932 trip, which per the Michigan Today piece did occur three years later. Michigan again excelled, taking eleven of the fifteen games played.
Other than the memories of their long trip, the Japan presented the Michigan players with two interesting gifts: a suit of armor in 1929 and a saddle in 1932. Here are photos from the Bentley library including Yost with the saddle:
As an aside, the well done Michigan Today piece researched Yost’s papers and found that he originally planned “to display the saddle in his den [Ed: think man cave], alongside the armor”. Obviously Mrs. Yost didn’t share the same fondness as she “donated” the armor to the University a few years after her husband’s passing. Typical!
Here’s the full auction. Bidding starts at $9.99 and ends December 21, 2008.