Daily Archives: 14 January 2006

Australia-Japan Baseball Diplomacy

1930s:

The Claxton Shield [national baseball competition] was inaugurated without fanfare at the 1934 carnival in Adelaide. Held between 4 and 11 August 1934, the first series was won by South Australia.

Shortly before the second Claxton Shield, a Japanese team visited Sydney as part of the Japanese Training Squadron. New South Wales played their representative Claxton Shield side against this team and won 9-2. As the other leading baseball nation of the world besides the United States, Japan was highly regarded by Australian baseballers. The Australians made numerous efforts to play visiting Japanese sides and recruit Japanese residents into Australian teams. Japan reciprocated this support, with the Japanese consul general sponsoring the Sydney first-grade competition, to be known as the Nippon Cup, the most significant trophy in New South Wales baseball to date.

1950s:

In 1954, nine years after the end of hostilities against Japan, the ABC [Australian Baseball Council] arranged for a Japanese baseball team called the Tokyo Giants to tour Australia. Prime Minister Robert Menzies gave assurances that the tour would proceed without hindrance or incident, but he did not count on the powerful Returned Serviceman’s League (RSL), who had objected to the tour from the outset. Nor did the Japanese team improve their standing with the RSL by arriving in Australia on Remembrance Day, 11 November. The visitors defeated the Queensland team 10-1 before only five hundred spectators. Three easy victories over Sydney teams were followed by the first “test” against Australia on 17 November. This test proved the most exciting game of the tour, with the score tied 8-8 after ten innings. The Giants would score 6 runs in the eleventh inning to win the game.

Traveling to Canberra for games on 19 and 21 November, the Japanese met Prime Minister Menzies, along with his minister for the interior, Kent Hughes, a former prisoner of the Japanese. Both warmly welcomed the visitors. Tokyo’s schedule had included games in Melbourne and Perth, but relentless pressure from the RSL forced the cancellation of the rest of the Australian tour.

SOURCE: A History of Australian Baseball: Time and Game, by Joe Clark (U. Nebraska Press, 2003), pp. 53, 64

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Australian Baseball Lingo

It’s not surprising that Australia has its own particular Strain of baseball jargon. Here’s a sampling.

  • “BALLS OUT!” – called by umpire to tell fielding side to throw practice balls back into the dugout as the inning is about to start.
  • BLUE – Umpire, because of blue umpire’s uniform, even used when the umpire is not wearing blue. Victorian Baseball Association umpire, Greg Howard, has the car number plates “HEYBLU”!
  • DEAD – Out, as in “How many dead, Blue?” “Two dead”.
  • FOUR – colloquial reference to home plate. Only used in context of game situation though, as in “Look at Four! Look at Four!” from the third base coach to a runner running full speed into third, or “Four! Four!! Four!!!” from a catcher calling for a throw with a runner going home.
  • HOOKIE – Left handed batter, announced as “Hookie!” or by swallowing the first consonant ” ‘ookeeeee!”. Called by fielding side so outfielders can shift to the right side.
  • LOADED BASES – Bases Loaded. (Australian baseballers always place the adjective first here).
  • SIDE (Batting or fielding) – possibly a cricket term, referring to “the fielding side” (defence) or “the batting side” (offence).
  • SIDE – Called by the umpire to indicate three outs have been made in a half inning and it is time to swap from offence to defence and vice versa.
  • “TIME AND GAME!” – Most Australian club games are timed, usually two hours or less. When a timed game is over, the umpire yells “Time and game!”. Mixed reactions are predictable when this is yelled, from jubilation by the winners to painful shrieks of ‘C’mon, Blue!?!” and other prevarications by the losers who may feel unjustly denied their right to try and win.

The Australian Baseball History website contains a fuller list.

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