1930s Tokyo Giants Signed Photo Hits Block

A decades-old piece of Japanese baseball memorabilia hits the auction block later this month.

An original vintage 8" x 10" black & white autographed photo of the 1936 Tokyo Giants will be sold by Philip Weiss Auctions on May 30.

The high grade photo is autographed in Japanese by 22 players. The back carries the stamp of photographer Haas-Schreiner. Minimum bid is $750. The lot is part of a May 30 sports card, memorabilia and toy auction conducted live and on the internet at the company’s Oceanside, New York headquarters.

Tokyo Giants 1936 team photo

The Yomiuri Giants, based in Tokyo Japan competes in the Central League of Japan’s top-tier major league, Nippon Professional Baseball, and play their home games in the Tokyo Dome. The team is known as the "Tokyo Giants" but the team is officially known by the name of its corporate owner. The team’s owner is the Yomiuri Group, a media conglomerate including newspapers and a television network. The Giants are the oldest professional team in Japan. They won nine Japanese Baseball League titles before the establishment of the two league system in 1950.

The Yomiuri Giants are regarded as the New York Yankees of Japan due to their past dominance of the league, due to the Yomiuri company’s vast influence in Japan. The Giants are successfully marketed to the Japanese people as "Japan’s Team." For some years the Giants’ uniforms had "Tokyo" on the jersey instead of "Yomiuri" or "Giants," seeming to imply that the Giants represent the vast metropolis and geopolitical center of Japan. Correspondingly, fans of other professional baseball teams in Japan are often openly derisive and contemptuous of the Giants’ bandwagon marketing tactics, and an "anti-Giants" movement exists.

Eiji Sawamura was a right-handed pitcher who faced a team of visiting all-star players from the United Sates Major League Baseball, including Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig, the high school pitcher struck out nine batters and held the Americans to a single run over five innings pitched; a home run by Gehrig in the seventh that would saddle Sawamura with the loss. However, he did manage to strike out Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx in succession. Connie Mack, who was managing the American team, was so impressed by Sawamura’s performance that he tried to sign him to a Major League contract; Sawamura refused to go, citing a reluctance to leave home.

With the formation of the Japanese Baseball League, Eiji joined the Tokyo Giants in 1936 and became one of their aces. He pitched the first no-hitter in Japanese pro baseball. In 1937, he went 33-10 with a 1.38 ERA. From 1937 to 1943, Sawamura accumulated 105 games pitched, a career record of 63-22, 554 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA.

In 1943, after the Pearl Harbor attacks, Eiji enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Navy. He was killed in battle when his ship was torpedoed near the end of World War II.

Eiji was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1959. The Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent to MLB’s "Cy Young Award"), which is given to the best pitchers in the League since 1947, is named in his honor.

There is one American, Victor Starfin, in the group along with players Toshidide Hatafuku, Kenichi Aoshiba, Eiji Sawamura, Fujio Nagasawa, Haruyasu Nakajima, Osamu Tsutsui, Takeshi Nakayama, Tamotsu Uchibori, Seiichi Hayashi, Shigeru Mizuhara, Nobuo Kura, Katsumi Shiraishi, Shiro Tsuda, Takeo Tabe and Eiichiro Yamamoto.

Vintage baseball memorabilia