(This blog post also appears in JapaneseBallPlayers.com blog.)
Filling this under interesting and odd/strange story related to Japanese baseball.
The name Horace Wilson is well-known in Japan. I can confirm that it is true — I even knew his name. “The one who taught us baseball,” Japanese say. It’s an answer to a trivia question, and in first sentence in the “History of Baseball In Japan“. He has a plaque at Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame at Tokyo Dome. I seem to recall seeing that in person last time I visited there in 2008.
He is originally from Maine, and there was an interesting report on Boston’s WBUR, about his decedents, who didn’t know anything about what he did in Japan. The reporter, Theo Balcomb, is a family member.
After Horace Wilson left the farm in Maine and fought in the Civil War, he traveled to Japan in 1871 and became a teacher. He then taught at what would become Tokyo University. There, he introduced to the students the game of baseball. This is my own opinion, but I think the duel between a pitcher and a batter, even though this is a team game played between teams, had appealed to the Japanese “samurai” style — I think of the duel between Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki on Ganryujima in the early 1600’s. but I digress.
I think it is fascinating that his family was completely unaware until the Japanese historian contacted them. I guess Horace never bothered to tell the family, or perhaps he didn’t think much of it then — who could imagine that the baseball will be cultivated in Japan over hundred years, through World Wars, and produce likes of Ichiro Suzuki and two World Baseball Classic Titles. Whatever the reason, this is a very unique story, and worth a read/listen.