WTF Fun Fact 13303 – MLB Opening Day in Japan

In 2000, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets played the first-ever MLB Opening Day game outside of North America. The game was held in Japan at the Tokyo Dome between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. This was a watershed moment for baseball fans all over the world. Although not all fans were pleased because they had to get up pretty darn early to watch their teams play.

Mets vs. Cubs

The Chicago Cubs actually had a special connection to Japan at the time. That’s because their former first baseman, Ernie Banks, served as a goodwill ambassador in Japan in the 1980s for Major League Baseball. That made him a highly respected figure by Japanese baseball fans.

The games were broadcast live in Japan, and in the United States. The broadcasts featured a mix of American and Japanese announcers.

The two-game “Opening Series” saw the Cubs and Mets play. The Cubs won the first game 5-3 on March 29, 2000. The following day, the Mets beat them 10-1.

The success of an international MLB Opening Day

The games were a huge success, drawing crowds of over 55,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome each day. Many Japanese fans were experiencing live MLB games for the first time.

Since the 2000 Opening Series, MLB has continued to expand its international presence. They’ve scheduled regular-season games in Mexico, Australia, and Puerto Rico. The league has also focused on building relationships with baseball organizations in South Korea and Taiwan.

The Opening Series was not the first time that MLB teams had played games in Japan. In fact, in 1956, a group of MLB All-Stars, including future Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, played a series of exhibition games against Japanese teams.

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Source: “Box score of the day: Piazza, Sosa slug in Japan” —

WTF Fun Fact 13051 – Pairing Cheetahs and Dogs

Zoos are pairing their male cheetahs with emotional support dogs so that they have companions. It turns out that pairing cheetahs and dogs is a great idea for both animals.

Why pairing cheetahs with dogs works

Cheetahs are very nervous animals. Their “fight or flight” response is largely set to flight. That means they’re always looking out for predators. But in a zoo, they don’t have any. Nevertheless, it’s an instinct, so all the nervous energy builds up inside them. Needless to say, no one wants a stressed-out cheetah.

While the San Diego Zoo was one of the first places to try pairing cheetahs with companions, the idea originated elsewhere.

According to Atlas Obscura (cited below), it all began in Oregon. “In 1976, research scientist and conservation biologist Laurie Marker was living in Winston, a town of about 3,000 people. As the curator of a cheetah-breeding program at Wildlife Safari, she found herself hand-rearing a lonely cheetah cub named Khayam.”

Marker didn’t have a littermate to entertain Khayam, so she turned to man’s best friend. More specifically, she enlisted the help of a Lab-mix named Shesho.

Fast friends

Khayam and Shesho grew up together and acted as surrogate siblings for one another. The experiment was a success and the dog chilled out the cheetah. “Now, when a cub that’s abandoned or orphaned ends up in human care, many zoos pair the cat with a dog as a substitute sibling,” noted Atlas Obscura.

Marker provided the San Diego Zoo with a cheetah named Arusha a few years later and recommended they raise him with a dog. That was when the pairing hit the news. Who doesn’t love an interspecies friendship story?

Cheetah moms will often forsake single cubs, so finding a way to make captive cubs happy (or save them from death by neglect in the wild) was an important move for those trying to save cheetahs from extinction.  WTF fun facts

Source: “An Emotional Support Dog Is the Only Thing That Chills Out a Cheetah” — Atlas Obscura