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Baseball fans attempt to save nearly a century-old ‘sacred’ Tokyo stadium where Babe Ruth once played

Thousands of fans have signed a petition in an effort to save a stadium in Tokyo where baseball legend Babe Ruth once played.

Nearly a century-old Meiji Jingu stadium is also touted to be the place that inspired best-selling author Haruki Murakami to first pick up a pen.

The stadium, often compared to legendary US baseball venues Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, is slated to be torn down and rebuilt in a massive redevelopment project undertaken by the city administration that would surround it and an equally famed rugby ground with towering skyscrapers and hotels.

"The citizens of Tokyo are going to regret it," said Robert Whiting, who has written books on Japanese baseball and started an online petition to save the stadium.

"They're going to lose a really beautiful, quiet, relaxing spot and a great place to watch a baseball game," he told Reuters.

The petition addressed to city governor Yuriko Koike and several others, had garnered more than 11,500 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. "There are so many things that will be lost and could go wrong if this goes forward," he said.

Developers Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd said they were aware of the opposition to the razing of the stadium and are taking steps to reflect it.

"The Jingu Gaien area is faced with several urban development issues,” a spokesperson for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, was quoted by Japan Times as saying.

In this undated file photo, New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth hits a home run (AP)
In this undated file photo, New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth hits a home run (AP)

The area is struggling with ageing sports facilities, obsolete athletic and spectator environments, lack of space for people to casually enjoy sports, congestion due to lack of pedestrian space and lack of continuous barrier-free routes, the spokesperson added.

Built in 1926, the stadium is home to the Yakult Swallows, a team that has both plumbed the depths and won multiple national championships. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played there in 1934 as part of a Japanese tour, making the stadium only one of a handful remaining where Ruth played.

Author Murakami has previously said that he was drinking a beer and watching a game in 1978 when he first thought of writing a novel. He began writing his first book Hear the Wind Sing that very night.