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Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan Hardcover – 30 Jul 2012
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An intelligent, well-crafted account of an important period in the history of U.S.-Japan relations. Painstakingly researched, rich in color and detail, it goes beyond baseball, illuminating the social, economic, and political life of a distant era, the impact of which can still be seen today. --Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and The Meaning of Ichiro.
How did two nations that shared the values of the same national pastime go from baseballs to bullets? Historian Rob Fitts tells a dark tale of baseball caught between democracy and fascism in prewar Japan. Banzai Babe Ruth is a sayonara home run! --John Thorn, official historian for Major League Baseball.
About the Author
Robert K. Fitts graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, USA and received a PhD from Brown University. Originally trained as an archeologist of colonial America, Fitts left that field to focus on his passion, Japanese baseball. He is also the author of Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game and Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball (Nebraska, 2008).
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
One of my favorite subjects is 1930's baseball and in particular barnstorming so this book on the 1934 MLB tour to Japan was right down my strike zone. I read countless numbers of baseball books doing research for my own stories and drawings and most of them seem to fall in 2 categories - either they are too pedestrian, edited down to appeal to the broadest common reader - or they are meticulously researched but dry as burnt toast.
This book hits the sweet spot, well written, a bunch of different story lines all weaved into a thoroughly well-written book. Of course the subject matter doesn't hurt. It's 1934 and the Babe is at the end of his career but he's a God in Japan and it's his last hurrah as a player. Connie Mack, leading the expedition, secretly uses the tour as an on-the-job tryout to see if Ruth would be responsible enough to manage the Athletics the following season. The Japanese put together a national all-star team of the country's best players to meet the Americans and so as not to be embarrassed when they play each other - this team forms the nucleus of the famed Tokyo Giants. The culture clash between east and west is vividly described in the players' own recollections and the nationalistic undercurrent in 1930's Japan gives a great background to the coming war with the US and the player's ambivalence to it because of the warm reception the Japanese people gave them. There's Moe Berg, journeyman catcher and future WWII spy who films strategic locations throughout the country. With story lines like this you can't go wrong but, like I said, it isn't a dry balls and strikes sports book, it is extremely well written and the author moves the story along at a nice pace.
If you haven't noticed, I highly recommend this book!
While it would have been wonderful if this game could have brought our two nations together and avoided WWII, today as more countries step to the plate, we begin to see much more inclusion.
In Japan today baseball is alive and well, Banzai!
Overall, it was OK and, as I said I learned some interesting facts, but neverthelss a disappointment.