This weekend’s World Baseball Classic with teams from the United States, Venezuela, Japan and Korea highlight the international ties to Dodger Stadium.
When the ballpark was built in 1962, the dean of Japanese sportswriters, Sotaro Suzuki, was invited by the Dodgers to the dedication ceremonies on April 9 and the first game the following afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds. Suzuki returned to Japan and commissioned a stone lantern to mark the opening of Dodger Stadium.
During his career, Suzuki played a major role in the Dodgers’ relationship with Japan, often serving as a liaison when the Dodgers traveled overseas. The Brooklyn Dodgers toured Japan following the 1956 season and returned 10 years later as the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Tokyo Giants sent three players to the Dodgers’ spring training in 1957, with Suzuki serving as an interpreter, and the entire Giants team trained in Florida in 1961, 1967, 1971, 1975 and 1981.
The stone lantern from Suzuki was shipped to Dodger Stadium in the winter of 1965. The 10-foot tall, 3,921-pound stone lantern was built by the Shimizugumi Stone Works Company. The lantern was the centerpiece for a Japanese garden in the 1960s and 1970s that was maintained by local gardeners and contained two cherry blossom trees, river-rock paths and pine trees cut Japanese style.
The lantern was placed on a hill adjacent to Parking Lot 37, which later was re-named Parking Lot 6 beyond the Right Field Pavilion.
Alongside the Japanese stone lantern is a bronze plaque from Korean American Community Night at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 20, 2003, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Korean Immigration to America.
The most famous Dodgers from Japan and Korea are both pitchers. Chan Ho Park in 1994 became the first native of South Korean to appear in a Major League game. In 1995, Hideo Nomo became the first Japanese professional player to appear in the Majors in 30 years.
The all-time Dodger roster features many players from Venezuela, including Vic Davalillo, Carlos Hernandez, Omar Daal, Roger Cedeno, Giovanni Carrara, Cesar Izturis, Dioner Navarro and Luis Maza.