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Transpacific exhibition highlights the relationship between the Dodgers and Japan | by Mark Langill | Jul, 2024

Dodger Insider
(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Mark Langill

Dodger Stadium – far from Cooperstown, New York and Japan – was the ideal venue for the announcement of an exhibition by the National Baseball Hall of Fame that connects Japanese and American baseball.

With Dodgers Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Dave Roberts in attendance, the Hall of Fame unveiled details of Yakyu baseball. The exhibit will explore the wide-ranging exchanges in baseball between Japan and the United States from the Meiji era to the present, as well as the transpacific spread of baseball concepts, playing styles, fan experiences, equipment and people that have shaped the game's shared culture.

The opening will take place in July 2025 in Cooperstown.

With artifacts on display on the podium, Dodger manager and Okinawa-born Roberts was joined by Ohtani and Yamamoto, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo (who played for the Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in 2000) and Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch to make the announcement.

The historical items ranged from a baseball used by Dodger pitcher Hideo Nomo in his Sept. 17, 1996, no-hitter against the Rockies in Colorado – which remains the only no-hitter thrown at Coors Field – to a jersey worn by former pitcher Yu Darvish as he closed out Japan's 5-3 victory over Korea in the final of the 2009 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium.

Also in attendance was the family of Ike Ikuhara, longtime executive assistant to Dodger president Peter O'Malley and a member of the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. Ikuhara joined the Dodgers in 1965 after playing baseball at Waseda University in Tokyo and then serving as head coach at Asia University.

Ikuhara joined the Dodgers in 1965 on the recommendation of Japanese sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki to Dodgers president Walter O'Malley. Ikuhara worked in various departments to learn more about American baseball. He served as a translator when the Tokyo Giants visited the Dodgers' spring training headquarters in Vero Beach, Florida in 1967. Ikuhara eventually became a key figure in the international baseball community when the Dodgers hosted the baseball competition at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

His work and passion was dedicated to the 30 years in which there were no Japanese players in the Major Leagues between pitchers Masanori Murakami (1965 Giants) and Nomo (1995 Dodgers).

Ikuhara died in 1991 at the age of 55.

On Tuesday, the Ikuhara family left the news conference and toured the historical displays adjacent to the Dugout Club, including a copy of Nomo's 1995 National League Rookie of the Year award. As they walked to their seats on the field level an hour before the game's first pitch, they were amazed to see the stands already filled with fans wearing special Japanese-themed jerseys as part of Japanese Heritage Night. Other on-field entertainment included Japanese music, and a video provided details of the Japanese stone lantern on display on the Top Deck. It was originally a gift from Suzuki to the Dodgers after Suzuki attended the grand opening of Dodger Stadium in April 1962.

“My husband would be so proud of what happened with so many star players from Japan in the majors,” said Ikuhara's widow, Kimiko. “It was his dream and he loved Peter O'Malley like a brother. They worked together to make baseball a truly international game.”