Lefty O’Doul waved from the backseat of the open limousine as it drove through the streets of Ginza. Tens of thousands lined the fivemile parade route. Many waved American flags and shouted, “Refty Odurru!” Confetti and streamers fell from the windows of the taller buildings as the line of cars passed a large banner reading, “Welcome San Francisco Seals.” It was October 12, 1949; fifteen years had passed since the 1934 welcoming parade for the All Americans and four since the end of World War II.
American bombers had leveled Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe and obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Almost three million Japanese had died during the war, millions of civilians were displaced, and another million soldiers were stranded overseas. As the war had cut communication with Japan, O’Doul had not corresponded with his Japanese friends throughout the conflict, leaving him unsure of their whereabouts or fates. In early 1946 Lefty went to Japan to find them.
Arriving in Tokyo O’Doul drove through block after block of flattened debris. The former splendor and wealth of Tokyo was gone. Survivors, dressed in worn, patched clothing, struggled to rebuild their lives. Food, water, and fuel were scarce and electricity nonexistent in most areas. The trip was filled with sadness. Many of his friends had died.
O’Doul located Victor Starffin. He had learned English at the Karuizawa detention camp and after his release worked briefly for the Allies as an interpreter before returning to baseball. Starffin would pitch for ten more seasons, retiring in 1955 as the first player to win three hundred games. Two years later, just after his fortieth birthday, he would die in a car crash. O’Doul was unable to pay his respects to Yomiuri Shimbun owner Matsutaro Shoriki. The Allies had arrested