SABR member Bill Staples Jr. finds earliest recorded game involving Japanese players in 1872

From Kyodo News on July 18, 2019, with mention of SABR member Bill Staples Jr.:

An American researcher has identified the earliest known records of baseball games involving Japanese players — a series contested in the United States in the summer of 1872 between local teams and a group of traveling performers.

According to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the earliest previous record of Japanese playing organized baseball was an 1876 contest between the students of Tokyo Kaisei Gakko and foreigners in Yokohama.

A teacher at that school, American Horace Wilson, is widely credited with introducing the game to Japan when he began coaching his students in either 1872 or 1873.

But thanks to baseball historian Bill Staples Jr., the date of the earliest documented game involving Japanese has been pushed back four years.

“It’s an amazing discovery,” said Takahiro Sekiguchi of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Without a doubt, it’s the oldest record of Japanese playing the game.”

Staples has identified newspaper accounts of a series of games in 1872 played by some members of the Yeddo Royal Japanese Troupe after he came across a mention of a June 7 game as a note in Japanese researcher Harue Tsutsumi’s Indiana University doctoral thesis.

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Originally published: July 18, 2019. Last Updated: July 18, 2019.