The Baseball Traveler
Part One: Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
By Merle A. Branner, MS, MLIS
News Flash: The Friends of National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York have free entrance to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located in Tokyo Dome City in Tokyo, Japan. I was unaware of this fact and only found out during a recent visit to the Japanese HOF. I interviewed Mr. Ruche Suzuki, the International Public Relations Director at the museum. During our conversation, he told me that Dale Petroskey from the HOF arranged a reciprocal agreement with them in October 2006. Mr. Suzuki promptly refunded the entrance fee I had paid since I am a member of HOF in Cooperstown, New York. For individuals who are not members of the HOF, there is a discount coupon on the Japanese HOF web site: http://english.baseball-museum.or.jp/index.html
The Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum originally was located next to Korakuen Stadium from 1959 to 1988. That is where the Tokyo Giants played. They both moved into the Dome when it opened in 1988. The current facilities are twice the size of the original museum. The museum is divided into four parts, public exhibit space, archives storage, a library and office space.
The oldest book in their collection is American Pastime by Charles A Pererelly. Their copy is a second edition that was produced in America by the New York News Company. The library area is very cramped as it is filled with a large movable archival shelving system, computers, copier, digital copy stand, desks and other equipment. The library collection consists of over 50,000 items including books, magazines, newspapers, and many other items. There is an area set aside with table and chairs for the public to do research. Anyone is welcome to do research in the library and you need not be a member of the museum. The library collection is not completely electronically catalogued yet. The library and archive collection is completely inventoried on index cards. In1997, they began the computerization processes. They use Microsoft Excel and Access to inventory the collection. The library has two full time librarians and their main responsibility is to work with visitors. In turn, that leaves them little time to work on the modernization of the inventory process.
The Japanese HOF has patterned their entrance privileges after Cooperstown's rules. This consist of two committees; one that considers players and the other is a Special Selection Committee of 14 members; professional and amateur in the baseball world, scholars and critics (sports writers).
When asked about the type of people who use the HOF Library, Mr. Suzuki indicated that it is mostly scholars and students (Japanese, Asian, and American) who utilize the facilities. Mr. Suzuki said that American researchers are less common than Asian researchers. He knows Robert Fitts (SABR Chairperson of Asian Committee). Mr. Suzuki said, I read his first book Remembering Japanese Baseball - An Oral History of the Game 1948-1996, and I really loved it.
When asked if outside researchers help the HOF with their research, Mr. Suzuki said they normally do not ask them for help. But he did say, When we were researching 19th Century Players for a Special Induction, we did request help from outside scholars.
The exhibits at the museum are very interesting and many of them are bilingual, unlike Cooperstown. It is really helpful for foreigners to have the ability to read the exhibits and the Japanese HOF has done a great job at this. There is even a web site in English. I have never seen Cooperstown design a web site in another language. Unfortunately, this is true for most museums in the United States.
One of the exhibits that would interest many American baseball junkies is the ÔAmerican Tour, exhibit that started with A.J. Spauldings tour in 1908, the 1932 and 1936 tour with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Moe Berg, and Hank Greenberg. There were many more tours to Japan by American baseball teams than have been publicized, such as when the Cincinnati Reds visited Japan after they won the World Series in 1978.
The museum is not as large as Cooperstown, but they have covered the history of the Japanese game in great detail. One of the more recent exhibits is the 2006 World Baseball Classic, which was won by Japan. They have all of the team member uniforms in a showcase along with photographs, and other artifacts from the games. The gift shops around the Tokyo Dome and the museum gift shop do not promote the victory with sales of memorabilia for fans. Mr. Suzuki said, all of the collectables were produced in the USA, and we really did not sell them here in Japan. The Japanese people are very proud of our victory.
It appears that not many Americans visit the museum or at least arrange a meeting beforehand. Mr. Suzuki treated my husband and I like V.I.P.s. He introduced us to the Secretary General (President) of the museum, Mr. Fumio Kobayaski, along with one of the curators, Mr. Takahiro Sekiguchi. I thought that was special. But Mr. Suzuki did not leave it at simple introductions. We were lead to their boardroom and sat down for a chat, which turn into an interview for all of us. They had many question for me. I also had questions for them. The men were very interested in the types of membership that the Friends of the Baseball Hall of Fame have in Cooperstown. In addition, they were unaware that SABR is a worldwide organization. We had a brief discussion about SABR and how our organization tried to change our name last year so that it would be more inclusive of baseball worldwide. But I told them that we were unable to come to a consensus and find a new name yet.
Membership to the Japanese Hall of Fame and Museum is three tiers. First there is a Supporters (Individual) Membership. They have 100 members at that level, which cost 10,000 yen ($85.37), a Corporate Membership costs 100,000 yen ($853.68). They have 70 corporate members. A Junior Membership is 2,000 yen ($17.07). There is the Foreign Membership, which is at the (Individual) members level that cost $100.00. They have three members at that this level. Privileges with each membership level vary. But everyone gets a quarterly newsletter, a membership card that also can be used at The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, five courtesy tickets for non-members (Individual membership) and 20 courtesy tickets for non-members (Corporate membership). The send out occasional news releases, 10% off on all items the museum sells, The Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum 2002 book with addendum (for new Individual and sustaining members). Finally, Junior and sustaining members receive the Baseball Museum original pin. In 2006, there were 100,000 visitors to the museum. Most of the foreign visitors were from Asian countries. But they do get Americans from time to time. Even though they do not have a lot of Americans or foreign members, they still make a conscientious effort to making the museum enjoyable to non-Japanese speaking visitors.
The only room that looks similar to Cooperstown is the Plaque Room. This room is not as elaborate as Cooperstown. But the plaques are as impressive as the ones in Cooperstown. I of course needed to see the plaque of Sadahara Oh, the home run king of Japan. He accumulated 868 homeruns during his 22-year career. He has been the manager of the Softbank Hawks since 1995. He previously managed the Yomiuri Giants from 1984-1988. He managed the Japanese team to the first World Baseball Classic victory last year. They had a giant baseball at the end of the long and narrow room. The ball was the size of a large globe, similar to the Unisphere that was left over from the 1964/1965 World Fair. It is located in front of the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York. There were autographs all over the ball. Mr. Suzuki said The big globe (baseball) in the Hall of Fame was made in 2005 as a promotion campaign of the NPB with its slogan, "Full Swing!" It was autographed by leading players of all of the 12 clubs with a short message. It traveled around the country and greeted local fans at their stadium.
The history of Japanese baseball is very interesting, especially the rules that pertain to foreign players. This aspect will be covered in the second part of this article in the April issue of the Emil Rothe Newsletter. Sayonara, for now.