PBS Premiere: July 4, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Koshien: More About Japanese Baseball

Jim Allen

Interview with Jim Allen, columnist for The Daily Omiuri.

The sad thing is, and this is part of the charm of high school baseball, is that [at Koshien,] everybody knows today is the last day for half the teams in the tournament. Half the teams playing today will not be here tomorrow, and if they're seniors, they'll never make it to the top. This is their last moment to shine, we know they're going to give everything they've got, and I think that is really the allure that Koshien has. These kids aren't holding back.

People refer to pro baseball players as "salarymen" players. They're corporate guys — they make big salaries, they drive fancy cars. [For the kids,] the attitude is that because they could lose this game today and never be heard from again, they're going to give it their all. For a pro team, if they lose 40 or 50 games, it's a successful season. For a team at Koshien, if you lose the first game, you finish the tournament 0-1, and you're forgotten. It's a disaster. The kids will be sobbing and watering the infield with their tears as they scoop up the dirt to take home with them. It's kind of pathetic, but the fans eat it up. That spirit — give it all you got, and then cry when you lose, and cry when you win, so much emotion — that's [Koshien's] real drawing power.

In many ways, it's fitting that the national tournament is in August. Japan lost the war in August. Koshien is as much about defeat as it is about winning, as baseball is in America as well. [It's about] epic losses. Japan is very big on epic failure. The Second World War was an epic failure, but the fallen veterans are not forgotten.