Transpacific Field of Dreams: How Baseball Linked the United States and Japan in Peace and War

By Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu | Go to book overview
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4
THE BUSINESS OF
BASEBALL

Just as “winter ball” in Mexico and Cuba evolved into a commercially viable seasonal institution of American organized baseball in the early decades of the twentieth century thanks to improved trans-Caribbean transport, communications infrastructures, and a growing fan base, American baseballers began traveling across the Pacific in search of money, fame, challenge, and, of course, fun and adventure. The expansion of regular passenger-liner services in the first decade of the twentieth century accelerated with the opening in 1905 of the Canadian Pacific Railroad’s new bimonthly ocean-liner routes originating from Vancouver. Now with three major ports of embarkation along the North American continent, transpacific oceanic travels became more affordable and reliable, furthering the integration of the circum-Pacific regions as a social field, a site of cultural cross-pollination, and a market for commercial entertainment. Baseball was but one of many cultural and business forms that flowed through this widening transnational circuit.1 By sports sociologist Kiku Kōichi’s count, in a ten-year period between 1905 and 1915 alone, twenty American, Japanese, and Filipino amateur baseball teams, the bulk of them collegiate, toured across the Pacific and engaged one another on baseball diamonds.2

Paralleling this growing traffic in amateur baseball, various formats of commercialized squads began venturing out of the U.S. West Coast to offer their athletic virtuosity and visual spectacles for pay in Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines. Some traveled with sophisticated business prearrangements. Others took off with only preliminary or tentative plans— or no plans at all. Every American professional expedition introduced new business and crowd-pleasing elements to Japanese baseball and left a taste of what playing ball commercially was like. By the beginning of the 1930s, swaggering big leaguers were ready to travel west to Asia on this

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