Kon Ichikawa hits a home run with “Tokyo Olympiad”

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan were scheduled to begin on July 24. As we all know, that did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, to get my Tokyo Olympic fix, I turned to The Criterion Channel to watch “Tokyo Olympiad,” a documentary about the 1964 summer games.

Released in 1965 by Japanese filmmaker Kon Ichikawa, it is described as “one of the greatest films ever made about sports.”

Here’s the complete summary:

A spectacle of magnificent proportions and remarkable intimacy, Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad remains one of the greatest films ever made about sports. Supervising a vast team of technicians using scores of cameras, Ichikawa captured the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo in glorious widescreen images, using cutting-edge telephoto lenses and exquisite slow motion to create lyrical, idiosyncratic poetry from the athletic drama surging all around him. Drawn equally to the psychology of losers and winners—including the legendary Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila, who receives the film’s most exalted tribute—Ichikawa captures the triumph, passion, and suffering of competition with a singular humanistic vision, and in doing so effected a transformative influence on the art of documentary filmmaking.

The run time for the film is long at 2 hours and 50 minutes, so I watched about an hour a day over a three-day period. If you appreciate the Olympic games, sports history, or just Japanese culture in general, you will enjoy this film.

Despite the fact that baseball was included as a exhibition sport in the 1964 games, there is no footage of their play in the film. However, as a baseball historian, I could not help but notice two noteworthy baseball-related moments with connections to two of the game’s greatest home run hitters.

Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima at the 1964 Olympics

Oh and Nagashima, Yomiuri Giants

The filmmakers occasionally included shots of the crowd taking in the games, and at one point the camera captures two Japanese baseball stars of the Yomiuri Giants -- Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima. This rare footage of 24-year old Oh occurred just a few weeks after the end of the 1964 season when he set the single-season record for home runs (55) in Japanese Baseball.

And for those who don’t know, Oh and Nagashima are recognized as one of the all-time great 3-4 hitters in baseball, comparable to Ruth-Gehrig, Maris-Mantle, and Mays-McCovey. In fact, their combined nickname was “The O-N Cannon”.

So, knowing that Oh and Nagashima are in the crowd watching the games, the appearance of one noteworthy American athlete makes for some interesting home run synergy.

Representing the U.S. in the Women's 80-meter hurdles was Rosie Bonds -- the sister of MLB star Bobby Bonds and the aunt of Barry Bonds, MLB home run king.

Rookie baseball cards for Bobby Bonds (1969) and Barry Bonds (1986).

Despite her first-place finish in the qualifying rounds with a time of 10.6 seconds, Bonds hit a hurdle in the final race and finished 8th with a time of 10.8 seconds. For the record, it was reported that shortly before the race, someone stole her spikes and she had to compete in borrowed shoes.

Rosie Bonds at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

If interested to watch her run, a clip of the Women’s80-meter hurdles is available online with the “Tokyo Olympiad” promotional page on The Criterion Channel (scroll to the bottom until you see the opening scene below).

Video still: Rosie Bonds, far lane, prepares for the starting gun. 

Extra Innings

Not baseball related, but it is an inspiring human-interest story that appeals to anyone, regardless of their sports preference.

Billy Mills is a Native American (Oglala Lakota) track and field athlete who ran the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was unknown going into the event and surprised the world by winning the gold. His 1964 victory is considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

Billy Mills wins the gold in the 10,000 meters in 1964.

I recommend that you watch Mill’s TED Talk from 2018. He uses his story of overcoming the odds at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and his experiences with his non-profit organization, Running Strong, to illuminate lessons about our personal, national, and international history.

If you can’t watch the whole thing, jump in at the 7:56 mark to hear him talk about how he overcame depression, set a goal for himself in running, and his description of the vision that came to him in the final stretch of the 10,000 meter run in 1964.

In 2013 he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by Barack Obama, reinforcing the fact that Mill’s is both an American icon and inspiration to all human beings.


"Sort of Like Baseball": MLB Texas Rangers Honor the Negro Leagues Centennial

In a 1937 interview, Joe Barnes talked about the games he played when he was growing up as a slave in Texas. He said when he was young he and the other kids would play marbles and chase rabbits, and when they got a little bigger, they would "play ball, sort of like baseball."

Source: Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 16, Texas, Part 1, Adams-Duhon. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938 (603).

Joe Barnes was born around 1847, and by the early 1860s he was playing the game of baseball, or something close to it. Joe is proof that African Americans have been playing baseball in Texas decades before the Negro National Leagues were founded in 1920.


This weekend (July 18 & 19, 2020) the Texas Rangers will celebrate the legacy of Negro Leagues baseball during their Intrasquad Games by naming the teams after the Fort Worth Wonders and the Dallas Black Giants.

The cause for celebration is the 100th Anniversary of the Negro National League, founded by Rube Foster in 1920. You can learn more about this at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO.

Foster, as native Texan, is recognized as "The Father of the Negro Leagues." But his league was not the first, and definitely not the first in Texas.

With that in mind, I want to share a list of Texas cities with a documented Negro League team prior to 1920. Texas was a fertile baseball environment, much like Latin America today, that produced hall of fame caliber players.

Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played in Texas prior to 1920 include:
  • Rube Foster - Waco Yellow Jackets (1899-1901), Fort Worth Colts (1901-1902)
  • Smokey Joe Williams - Austin (1905), San Antonio Black Bronchos (1908)
  • Louis Santop - Fort Worth Wonders (1909), Fort Worth Black Panthers (1920)
  • Biz Mackey - Dallas Black Giants (1918-19), Waco Black Navigators (1919), San Antonio Black Bronchos / Black Aces (1919-20)
  • Andy Cooper - Dallas Black Giants (1919)
Below is a long, but not complete, list of black baseball teams and leagues that existed in Texas prior to 1920. Also included are a few major milestones of black baseball history in Texas.


Gentle Black Giants tells the story of Negro Leaguers who participated in goodwill tours to Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s. Among the list of Trans-Pacific Barnstormers includes Texans: Biz Mackey, Andy Cooper, manager Lon Goodwin, William Ross, Ajay Johnson, and O'Neal Pullen (featured on the book cover above with Japanese Hall of Famer Shinji Hamazaki).
Click here to learn more.


Black Baseball in Texas (1862 to 1920)

Year City/Team Notes

1862 Documentation of slaves playing baseball in Tyer County, Texas.
1865 Galveston - Juneteenth (June 19th)
1867 National Convention of Base Ball Players voted to ban black teams and players
1868 Houston Six-Shooter Jims (first Negro League team documented in Texas)

1874 Waco
1875 Houston colored team
1875 Galveston Colored Beneficiary Baseball Club
1876 Galveston Colored Baseball Club
1879 Brenham Lee colored baseball club

1882 Columbus Negro team
1882 Austin colored base ball club (performed concert)
1883 Corsicana
1883 Galveston Brown Stockings
1883 Galveston Quicksteps
1883 Galveston Blue Stockings
1883 Tyler
1883 Houston
1883 Palestine
1883 Austin
1883 San Antonio
1884 Fort Worth
1884 Tyler
1884 Waco
1884 Paris Quicksteps
1884 Dallas Black Stockings
1884 Waxahachie colored club
1884 Galveston True Blue
1884 Callendar's Minstrel's Blue Stockings
1885 Mexia
1885 Crockett
1885 Belton
1885 Waco
1886 Dallas Black Stockings
1886 Abilene Colored nine
1886 Albany Colored nine
1887 Houston Sunflowers
1887 Fort Worth Young Strikers
1887 Galveston Tidal Waves
1887 Galveston Flyaways
1887 Colored State Fair Dallas
1887 Colored State Fair New Jersey Cuban Giants
1887 Colored State Fair Union Base Ball Club of New Orleans
1887 San Antonio Jack Rabbits
1887 San Antonio National League
**1888 Texas Colored Baseball League Founded**
1888 Galveston Flyaways
1888 Houston Sunflowers
1888 Houston Blue Stockings
1888 Dallas Browns
1888 Fort Worth Mayflowers
1888 Austin
1888 Waco
1888 Galveston (first game in Texas between a Negro League team and white ball club)
1888 Fort Worth
1888 Dallas Blues
1888 Shreveport Hudsons
1889 Jefferson
1889 The Harrison's Famous Colored
1889 Giddings

1890 Brenham Famous
1890 Brenham Lone Star
1890 Giddings
1890 Austin
1890 Bryan
1890 Bastrop
1890 Navasota
1890 Galveston Anderson's Sluggers
1890 Galveston Flyaways
1890 Houston
1891 Fort Worth
1891 Galveston Quicksteps
1891 Galveston Stars
1891 Galveston Flyaways
1891 Galveston Black Stockings
1892 Houston Rosebuds
1892 Houston Silver Socials
1893 Galveston
1893 Wichita Falls
1893 Galveston Flyaways
1893 Houston Little Rocks
1893 Houston Brownstockings
1893 Fort Worth (versus White Team)
1893 Article: Negro players not good enough to play in major leagues
1894 Galveston
1894 Longview
1894 Denison
1894 Marshall
1894 LaGrange
1894 Brenham
1894 Tyler
1894 Jacksonville
1894 Brenham
1894 Austin Red Stockings
1894 Navasota
1894 Galveston Quicksteps
1894 Temple
1894 Waxahachie
1894 Waco
1894 Denton
1894 Galveston Flyaways
1894 Houston Rosebuds
1895 Denison
1895 Fort Worth
1895 Waxahachie
1895 Galveston Quicksteps
1895 Houston Christian Moerlelns
1895 San Antonio
1895 Austin Lightweights
1895 San Antonio Sunflowers
1895 Brenham
1895 Burton
1895 Galveston Flyaways
1895 Austin Reds
1895 Dallas
1895 Fort Worth
1895 Waco
1895 Houston
1895 Houston Hub City
1895 Galveston Flyaways
1895 San Antonio Sunflowers
1895 San Antonio Monte Carlos
1895 Navasota
1895 Bryan
1895 Palestine
1896 San Antonio Alamo Grays
1896 San Antonio Giants
1896 Waco Yellow Jackets
1896 Dallas Black Navigators
1896 Fort Worth Black Panthers
1896 San Antonio Sunflowers
1896 Galveston Fencilbles
1896 Houston Pickwicks
1896 Austin Reds
1896 Galveston
1896 Greenville
1896 Stephenville
1896 Brownwood
1897 Galveston Quicksteps
1897 Galveston Fencibles
1897 Galveston Flyaways
1897 Galveston
1897 Palestine
1897 Austin
1897 Brenham
1897 Cameron
1897 LaGrange
1897 Houston
1897 Beaumont
1898 Victoria Black Wonders
1898 Edna negro baseball
1898 Houston Creole Giants
1898 Galveston Flyaways
1898 Waco
1898 Austin
1898 San Antonio Alamo Grays
1898 San Antonio Rosebuds
1898 San Antonio Webster Colts
1898 San Antonio Policy Writers
1898 San Antonio East End Ketchups
1898 Abilene
1898 Albany
1899 San Antonio Rosebuds
1899 Waco Yellow Jackets
Andrew Foster, member of the 1899-1901 Waco Yellow Jackets
and 1901-1902 Fort Worth Colts
Related article: Rube Foster's 20 strikeouts, Waco vs. San Antonio, 1899

1899 Galveston Flyaways
1899 Austin colored nine
1899 Dallas Browns
1899 Brenham
1899 Pine Bluff (AR)
1899 Little Rock (AR)
1899 Tyler
1899 Hillsboro
1899 Corsicana
1899 Gainsville

1900 Cuero Negro nine
1900 Palestine
1900 Calvert
1900 Houston
1900 Galveston Flyaways
1900 25th Infantry
1900 San Antonio Sluggers
1900 Dallas
1900 Brenham Crackerjacks
1900 Austin colored nines
1900 Waco
1901 Corsicana
1901 Cleburne
1901 Bryan
1901 Hearne
1901 Palestine
1901 San Antonio Jones Rough Riders
1901 Fort Worth Colts
1902 Hearne
1902 Temple
1902 Waxahachie
1902 Lancaster
1902 Austin
1902 Round Rock
1902 Dallas 
1902 Fort Worth Colts (with Rube Foster)
Rube Foster FW Colts March 1902 -
Source: The Fort Worth Record and Register, Fort Worth, Texas, 26 Mar 1902, Wed  •  Page 7

1903 Brownwood
1903 San Angelo Light Weights
1903 Houston Hard Hitters
1903 Galveston Big Fours
1903 Beaumont
1903 Brenham
1903 Austin
1903 Bryan
1903 Victoria Sharpshooters
1903 Texas Guide nine (Victoria)
1903 Cuero negro nine (game called in 7th inning, score 143 to 106)
1904 Beaumont
1904 Calvert
1904 Hearne
1904 Victoria Teddy Roosevelts
1904 Victoria Booker Washingtons
1904 Palestine
1904 Jacksonville
1904 Marshall
1904 Nelleva
1904 Bastrop
1904 Taylor
1904 Galveston Big Fours
1904 Beaumont
1904 Galveston Giants
1904 Houston Orphans
1904 Galveston Panamas
1904 Houston Smart Set
1904 San Marcos
1905 Austin colored baseball team

Joe Williams Perfect Game Austin 1905 -
Source: Austin American-Statesman, Austin, Texas, Mon, May 29, 1905 · Page 7

1905 Houston Dillard Colts
1905 Waco
1905 Bryan
1905 Navasota
1905 Hearne
1905 Calvert
1905 LaGrange
1905 Galveston Flyaways
1905 Taylor
1905 Georgetown
1905 Wharton Colorado Flyers
1905 Victoria Swift Kids
1905 Houston Rice Hotel Waiters
1905 Houston U.S. Mail Carriers
1905 El Paso colored nine
1906 Palestine Cracker Jacks
1906 Brenham
1907 Houston
1907 New Orleans (LA)
1907 Tuscumbia (AL)
1907 San Antonio Black Bronchos
1907 Birmingham (AL) Giants
1907 Houston Black Mud Cats
1908 San Antonio Black Bronchos
1908 Fort Worth Wonders
1908 Dallas
1908 Austin
1908 Waco
1908 San Antonio Black Bronchos
Joe Williams, member of the 1905 Austin club and 1908 San Antonio Black Bronchos

1908 Fort Worth Wonders
1908 Waco Yellow Jackets
1908 Victoria
1908 Austin
1908 Temple
1908 Palestine
1908 Longview
1908 New Orleans Black Pelicans
1908 Houston
1909 Austin Black Senators
1909 Weimar
1909 Rockdale
1909 Corpus Christi Cotton Belts
1909 Victoria Guide
1909 Canton
1909 Wills Point
1909 Temple
1909 Hempstead
1909 Courtney
1909 Houston Black Buffaloes
1909 Galveston Flyaways
1909 San Antonio Black Bronchos
1909 Dallas Black Giants
1909 Fort Worth Black Panthers
1909 Fort Worth Wonders
Louis "Santop" Lofton, member of the 1909 Fort Worth Wonders

1910 Chicago Giants (IL)
1910 Galveston Flyaways
1910 Oklahoma City
1910 Gainsville
1910 Fort Worth Wonders (played at McGar's Park | MAP)
1910 Dallas
1910 Waco
1910 Houston

** 1910 Negroes Organize Baseball League**
1910 Bay City
1910 Wharton
1910 Pleasant Green Woodchucks
1910 Victoria Yellow Jackets
1910 Paris
**1910 Negro Ballpark construction protested by whites in Beaumont**
1910 Galveston Flyaways
1910 Giddings
1910 Brenham
1910 Rockdale
1910 Austin Reds
1910 Houston Black Buffaloes
1910 Galveston Flyaways
1911 Caldwell
1911 Teal Prarie
1911 Corsicana
1911 Calvert
1911 Al G. Field Minstrels
1911 Rockdale
1911 Teal Prarie
1911 El Paso Reds
1911 El Paso Cubs
1912 Kansas City Giants
1912 Galveston Sante Fe Specials
1912 Houston Black Buffaloes
1912 Caldwell
1912 Brenham
1913 Houston Colts
1913 Galveston Sandcrabs
1914 Belton Outlaws
1914 Brownwood Tigers

1915 - Gardner Park, home of the Dallas Black Giants, Opens in Dallas, Texas (Location: Jefferson & Comal | MAP)

1915 Dallas Black Giants
1915 Fort Worth Wonders
1915 Victoria Black Rosebuds
1915 Wharton Black Giants
1915 Galveston
1915 Plano colored baseball team 1915 McKinney colored baseball team
1915 Austin Reds
1916 Waco Yellow Jackets
1916 Corsicana Blues
1916 Victoria Black Rosebuds
1916 Cuero Black Turkeys
1916 Goliad Black Ginks
1916 Galveston Black Pirates
1916 Brownwood
1916 Brady
1916 DallasBlack Giants
1916 Corsicana Blues
1916 New Orleans
1916 Waco Yellow Jackets
1916 Hubbard City
1916 Ennis
1917 Dallas Black Giants
1917 Kansas City Black Giants
1917 Beaumont
1918 Galveston Black Santa Fes
1918 San Antonio Black Bronchos
1918 San Antonio Joske Stars
1918 Dallas Black Giants

Biz Mackey, member of the 1918-19 Dallas Black Giants
Click here for related article

**1918 Texas League folds (white) due to war**
1918 Camp Travis Negro Nine
1918 Oklahoma City (OK) Colored Indians
1918 Hot Springs (AR) Bear Cats
1918 Beaumont Black Oilers
1919 Terminal Red Caps
1919 Dallas Black Giants

Andrew Cooper, member of the 1919 Dallas Black Giants

1919 Galveston Black Santa Fes
1919 San Antonio Black Aces
1919 Austin Black Senators
1919 Corsicana All-Stars
1919 Mexia
1919 Italy

**1919 Texas-Oklahoma League**
1919 Waco Black Navigators
1919 Fort Worth Dark Panthers
1919 Dallas Black Marines
1919 Galveston Black Pirates
1919 Shreveport
1919 Oklahoma City Black Senators
1919 Beaumont Black Oilers
1919 Houston Black Buffaloes
1919 San Antonio Black Aces

**1920 Texas Colored Baseball League**
1920 Dallas Black Giants
1920 Fort Worth Black Panthers
1920 Beaumont Black Oilers
1920 San Antonio Black Aces
1920 Waco Black Navigators
1920 Houston Black Buffaloes
1920 Austin
1920 Galveston Black Pirates
1920 Wichita Falls Black Spudders
1920 Port Arthur Black Sandcrabs
1920 Galveston Black Santa Fes
1920 Galveston W&N Aces
1920 Galveston Black Pirates


The list of teams above was compiled via research of newspaper archives between 2004 and 2020. There are more cities and teams that still need to be documented. With that in mind, I am sharing this incomplete list so that others might build upon it, or take a deeper dive into one of these teams, with the goal of developing a more complete picture of Texas Negro Leagues Baseball history.

Baseball and Burning the American Flag

I'll be honest. I did not know the name William Errol Thomas, Jr. until today. Thanks to the fascinating article "Old Glory" by Eric Nusbaum, I learned the identity of the man who on April 25, 1976, "scurried onto the field at Dodger Stadium (with his son) in the middle of a game between the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs ... knelt in the outfield grass and unfurled an American flag" and attempted to set it on fire.

In the article, Nusbaum asks two important questions about the protest: "Who were the father and the son on the field? What brought them to this desperate point?" Unfortunately, there is no clear answer about the motive (although Thomas said he was protesting his wife's unlawful imprisonment in a mental institution in Missouri. Which doesn't seem like the full story, in my opinion.)

And thanks to Ancestry.com and newspaper archives, some interesting information is available about Thomas's background. And to my surprise, I found an unexpected baseball connection.

William Errol Thomas Jr. was born in 1939, and according to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census he lived in Old Town, Maine. He is also listed as Native American.


William Thomas Junior in the 1940 United States Federal Census
Name: William Thomas Junior
Age: 1
Estimated birth year: abt 1939
Gender: Male
Race: Indian (Native American)
Birthplace: Maine
Marital status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Son
Home in 1940: Old Town, Penobscot, Maine
Map of Home in 1940: View Map
Street: Indian Island
Household Members:
Name Age
William A Thomas 25
Dorothy E Thomas 21
Elisabeth Thomas 4
John S Thomas 3
Joseph A Thomas 2
William Thomas 1


His father, William Errol Thomas, Sr., died in 1958, and from the information in his obituary we learn a few interesting facts:
- The Thomas family are members of the Penobscot Indian Community;
- In 1958, William Errol Thomas, Jr. was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps (thus, the flag burner was a military veteran); and
- The Thomas family MIGHT BE related to the famous Sockalexis family from the Penobscot tribe.

William E Thomas Sockalexis 1958 -

It appears that Thomas' grandmother, Theresa C (Lyon) Thomas, remarried in 1947 after her first husband, John William Thomas, died.


Louis Sockalexis in the Maine, Marriage Index, 1892-1996
Name: Louis Sockalexis
Gender: Male
Residence: Old Town, ME
Spouse's name: Theresa C Lyon
Spouse's Gender: Female
Spouse's Residence: Old Town, ME
Marriage Date: 22 Jan 1947
Marriage Place: Maine, USA


Her second husband was Louis Edward Sockalexis (b. July 2, 1914), the nephew of Louis Francis Sockalexis, the historic Cleveland ballplayer. Louis Edward was born six months after his famous uncle died. Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8969642

This means that starting at around age eight, William Errol Thomas, Jr. most likely heard stories from his step-grandfather about his uncle and namesake, the famous baseball player.

IMAGE: 1950 U.S. Census -- featuring William Errol Thomas, Jr. (age 11) living in the same household as Louis Edward Sockalexis (age 35). 

Source: 1950 United States Federal Census for William E Thomas, Maine, Penobscot, Other Places, 10-129

One has to wonder if the family connection to Louis Sockalexis was a factor as to why William Errol Thomas, Jr. chose a major league ballpark as the location to make a protest by burning an American flag? 

Obviously, I don't know the answer, just posing the question ... and in doing so I wanted to share this fascinating and unexpected baseball connection.

Incidentally, after his arrest, Thomas was found guilty of trespassing at Dodger Stadium and given the option of serving three days in jail or paying a fine of $60. He chose the three days behind bars.

Rick Monday was later selected by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to lead the city's annual Flag Day parade. At the time, Monday told reporters, "I don't know how many veterans hospitals these guys have ever been in, but I visited a lot of them. I've seen a lot of fine men in those hospitals with their bodies torn up from fighting to defend that flag." Little did Rick Monday know that William E. Thomas, Jr., was also a military veteran.

Again, I do not claim to know the full motives behind Thomas' decision to pick a baseball field as the site of his flag burning protest, but if he is indeed related to the most famous Native American ever to play major league baseball, as a good friend often says to me, "There are no coincidences."

Thus, the more we learn, the more complex and fascinating this story becomes.


Old Glory, by Eric Nusbaum

When Rick Monday Saved The American Flag From Being Burned At Dodger Stadium, by David Davis