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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 16 - 22  > Baseball Hall of Fame and war
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2008 January 16 - 22 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Baseball Hall of Fame and war

January 14, 2008
Akahata ‘Current’ column

In his conversation with a scholar in constitutional law carried in the January 4 issue of Akahata, Inoue Hisashi, a leading novelist, described the oppressive atmosphere he had experienced during WWII.

“When I was an elementary school pupil, our teacher said to us, ‘You will die when you turn 20. You have to be prepared for this from now on.’ This had a profound effect on me,” Inoue said.

When turning 20, male citizens were required to take physical examinations for conscription. In reality, however, even teenagers were mobilized and died in “suicide-attack” operations.

We cannot help thinking of those young people who were destined to die.

It was in 1939 when Shima Seiichi accomplished a spectacular achievement that has been remembered in Japan’s baseball history. At that time, Japan waged the Sino-Japanese War.

In the national junior high school (today’s high school) baseball summer tournament in that year, Shima, the pitcher for the Wakayama Prefectural Kaiso Junior High School, shut out all five opposing teams. He even accomplished no-hitters in the semifinal and final games.

Nishimoto Yukio, who later became a manager of the professional baseball team Kintetsu Buffaloes, faced Shima in the tournament. He said, “Shima’s pitching was so fast that I could hardly see the ball.”

Shima was sent to battle after entering Meiji University. In 1945, he was killed at the age of 24 off the coast of Vietnam by a torpedo fired by U.S. forces.

“If Shima was still alive, Japan’s baseball history after the war would have been different,” said Nishimoto. Shima, however, could not say that he wanted to play baseball after the war ended. He had to be prepared to die instead.

Last week, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum decided to admit Shima to the Hall of Fame.

The decision was announced on the same day when the new anti-terrorism special measures law to send the Self-Defense Forces to the Indian Ocean was enacted by the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei parties.
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