’s “Cy Young”
NOVEMBER 11, 1934
• SHIZOUKA, JAPAN
The “Cy Young” award in Japan is named after Eiji Sawamura, and a display he put on this date in 1934 is one reason why.
At the age of 17, and still in high school, Sawamura faced a team of American all-stars, several who became Hall of Famers, and are considered some of the greatest players in baseball history – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. The Americans won all 16 exhibition games played in
Japan that year, but on this date Eiji Sawamura showed he had major league ability.
Eiji Sawamura (left) later in his career
Sawamura entered the game in the fourth and pitched the rest of the way. In five innings, the teenager gave up just one run on five hits. The highlight was when Sawamura struck out Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession. Though Sawamura took the loss, he provided
Japan with a moment of national pride. Incidentally, it was earlier that same year that New York Giant pitcher Carl Hubbell got so much attention by striking out five future Hall of Famers in the Major League All-star game.
According to Joseph Reaves, author of Taking in a Game: a History of Baseball in Asia,
Sawamura was later scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he was not interested. This was a few years before the Japanese attached Pearl Harbor and Sawamura’s attitude was, “I hate
America and can’t make myself like Americans.” Sawamura served in the Japanese navy in World War II. He was killed toward the end of the war when his ship was torpedoed.
Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia,
by Joseph A. Reaves, 2004,