Major League Baseball (MLB) Japanese player Shohei Otani’s performance is amazing!
“I heard that there was a pitcher who defeated the major leagues in the Taisho era when there was no professional baseball in Japan yet!” “I want to hear this story! Tell me!”
I will answer these questions.
The first Japanese pitcher to beat the major league championship was in the Taisho era, SHOT-TIME!
Michimaro Ono, the man who broke the major league for the first time
During the Taisho era, there was still no professional baseball in Japan. The difference in ability between the major league all-American team and the all-Japan team was isolated. However, there was a pitcher who won the All-American team in such an era.
Michimaro Ono, the ace of the Mita Club. With a fastball that stretches and a drop like Kakegawa, he made fun of the major leaguers.
This article summarizes the story of Michimaro Ono, an amazing pitcher who was said to be “as good as a major league major player” several hundred years ago.
Strong Ono Michimaro
— 野球殿堂博物館図書室 (@librarybaseball) November 10, 2020
In inter-city baseball, there are two awards named after people. One is the “Kuji Award”, a prize for bravery, which was awarded to Jiro Kuji, a famous catcher before the war.
The other is the “Ono Award”, which is a special award given to players, managers, and teams who have performed wonderfully in the tournament.
The “Ono Award” was created in 1956 to honor the achievements of Michimaro Ono, who can be said to be the “parent” of inter-city baseball.
What kind of player was Michimaro Ono?
In fact, Michimaro Ono was the first pitcher in Japan to win against a major league team.
Ono was active as the ace of Keio University in the Taisho era. After that, he belonged to the semi-professional Daimichi Baseball Team.
When inter-city baseball began in 1927, he devoted himself to its development, and after his retirement he made a keen argument as a reporter for the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun.
Now, let me introduce Ono’s profile.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1897. He entered Kamakura Normal School and started playing baseball in earnest, but at first his shoulders were weak.
However, by throwing to batting practice every day, he learned the form of throwing using the power of his whole body instead of relying on his shoulders and arms, and improved his control and speed. He was also 177 cm tall and had a well-proportioned physique, making him an instant ace.
After graduating, he pitched for a club team in Yokohama, but Ryozo Hiranuma, an alumnus of Keio University, invited him to join Keio University in 1918 at the age of 21.
Drop curve of Michimaro Ono
Ono is taught a certain type of pitch by Shigeru Mori, a senior member of the Keio University baseball club. This was the turning point for Ono.
He was taught how to throw outdrops (curves that escape to the outside corner).
In particular, Ono’s ball changed so much that it was called “hanging river”, and the outside angle was full of low eyes, so the opponent’s batter was out of hand.
Rookie Ono became an ace along with Kyoichi Nitta (Go-Giants coach), and was called “Tough Ono, Waza Nitta,” and the two major aces became a signature team.
Michimaro Ono Confrontation with real baseball
— 【公式】石川県野球連盟 (@jaba_ishikawa) July 29, 2020
In the autumn league of 1919, when he pitched against Hosei University on November 15, he struck out 14 times and achieved a no-hit, no-run streak without allowing a single hit. On the 18th, two days after the break, he achieved two consecutive no-hitters against Meiji University, becoming the first feat in Japanese history.
And, for the first time, Ono will face an American, the home of baseball.
In May 1920, the powerhouse University of Chicago made an expedition. The University of Chicago has visited Japan twice in the past and has never lost to a Japanese university.
However, Ono will be the starting pitcher in the second game of the year. He pitched 10 extra innings to bring the game to a 3-3 draw.
Ono’s good pitching in the heavy rain seemed to captivate the eyes of the people, and the spectators were deeply moved by his throwing.
However, in November, a professional team composed mainly of the American Coast League (minor league) came to Japan. Ono is rarely hit with 11 runs.
At this moment, Ono realized. He “considered that the difference in ability was beyond reach.”
One member of the American team, Herbert Hunter, was impressed by the strength of the Japanese players’ aspirations, and envisioned a major league team coming to Japan later in the year.
After that, Ono left the university and pitched in various places as the ace of the company’s club team “Daimaikyudan” and the Mita Club, which was created by Keio University alumni, and grew as a pitcher even more than when he was a student.
Confrontation with a major league team
In 1922, Hunter came to Japan again. This time it was a genuine major league selection team. For members…
With 240 wins, he was among top players such as Herb Pennock (Red Sox), pistol-shot fastball Joe Bush (Yankees) and George Kelly (Jean Antz).
The first match was held against Keio University on November 4th at Shibaura Stadium. In the free batting of the major leaguers before the game, most of the batted balls went out of the arena… the audience was stunned.
Waseda University’s coach at the time Tobita muttered, “If they play seriously, they’ll get 50 points. It’s like a grand sumo yokozuna competing against a university sumo wrestler.”
Of course, the major league team won four games in a row, but the fifth game was an unexpected result.
On November 19th, the match against Mita Club was held at Shibaura Stadium. The starting pitcher is Ono, the ace. But the big league teams aren’t serious about it. Giving points to the Japanese team first, Japan leads 8-1 by the 4th inning.
However, Ono was in serious mode from the beginning, and in the bottom of the 4th inning, he finished with 3 outs. In the 5th inning, the major leagues added 2 points, but Ono did not collapse. He has had few strikeouts, but he doesn’t give a lot of points with his let-and-take pitches.
The complexion of the major league players was changing. “This pitcher, you can’t underestimate it!”
Out of impatience, they repeated big swings aiming for one shot, and became more and more addicted to Ono’s fine control. Ono’s fastball whipped from the batter’s knee, and if the ball with stretch was decided, it was all he could do to hit the big leaguer.
At the end of the 8th inning, Japan leads 9-3… In the bottom of the last 9th… Ono grounded out all the infield grounds and set the game! The Mita Club defeated the major league selection team by a large margin, and Ono pitched a complete game victory.
At the moment of victory, the spectators couldn’t believe the sight in front of them. After a while, out of nowhere, a voice called “Mita Club Banzai!” was repeated here and there.
Wheat, who was the losing pitcher, told the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun, “Ono is the best Japanese pitcher we’ve come into contact with, not only with his excellent body swing, but also with his fastball, curved ball, and good control. I felt like I was there,” he praised, and said, “Pitcher Ono is a splendid player, and at this level he can play an active role in the major leagues.”
George Kelly also said, “Ono thinks about each pitch and follows the hitter’s shortcomings.”
Michimaro Ono is the “parent of adult baseball”
There was another achievement of Ono. In 1949, when professional baseball was divided into two leagues, many players were recruited from adult baseball.
With the outflow of leading players, naturally there was concern that the level of inter-city baseball would drop. Therefore, Ono introduced a “reinforcement system” that allowed players from other teams in the same district to participate, which could compensate for the thinness of the national team, and maintained the level of inter-city baseball.
This is the reason why Ono was said to be the “parent of adult baseball”.
In the prologue of Ono’s book “Baseball”
“I have devoted myself to baseball all my life. During that time, I have developed a firm belief that ‘baseball can make a person.’ This belief is the result of my precious experience.”
— 日刊スポーツ (@nikkansports) May 15, 2022
Japanese baseball has overcome the points pointed out by the major leaguers in the Taisho era, and now they have acquired detailed techniques called “small baseball” that the United States has learned from the opposite. Activities such as Seiya Suzuki, who has both, overwhelm MLB.
Starting with Nomo, he is the starting point of Japan, producing many Japanese major leaguers such as Ichiro and Hideki Matsui.
I look back at the prosperity of the Japanese baseball world today while thinking back to the Taisho era when there was a strong pitcher who threw through the major leaguers without taking a step back.
— THE DIGEST (@THEDIGESTweb) May 20, 2022
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