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1955 Flashback: Yankees co-owner hopes to 'some day have outstanding Japanese players' in N.Y.

Looking back at the Yankees' 1955 tour of Japan

In 1955, following their loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, the Yankees took off on a six-week tour of Japan -- one of the world's then-burgeoning baseball enclaves. The tour included Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, as well as the team's co-owner Del Webb and MLB Commissioner Ford Frick.

On November 3, the Yankees stopped off in Osaka to play against the All-Stars, a team made up of top players from each of Japan's professional leagues. The Bombers won that game, 7-3, on the back of some solid hitting from Billy Martin, who had a single and a home run.

Webb was heading back to the United States after that game, but before he boarded his plane, he took time to talk to reporters about the trip and the team's newest hire: a Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer named Tadashi Wakabayashi, who'd spent the year serving as a coach in the Japanese Pacific Professional League.

According to Webb, Wakabayashi was hired with the express purpose of integrating Japanese talent into the Yankees' system and, in explaining his reasoning behind the decision, made a pretty prescient comment:

Webb, co-owner of the New York Yankees, expressed hope today that his ball club may some day have outstanding Japanese players on its roster … "The enthusiastic interest shown by the Japanese public in baseball has impressed me with the deep significance of the visit of the New York Yankees in the promotion of Japanese-American friendship."

Of course, the Yankees would eventually sign the dominant slugger Hideki Matsui, and the 2013 Yankees roster included outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, veteran hurler Hiroki Kuroda and superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. We hear those guys are pretty good.


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