In November 1934 as the United States and Japan drifted toward war, a team of American League all-stars that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, future secret agent Moe Berg, and Connie Mack barnstormed across the Land of the Rising Sun. Hundreds of thousands of fans, many waving Japanese and American flags, welcomed the team with shouts of Banzai! Banzai Babe Ruth!
The all-stars stayed for a month, playing 18 games, spawning professional baseball in Japan, and spreading goodwill. Politicians on both sides of the Pacific hoped that the amity generated by the tour and the two nations shared love of the game could help heal their growing political differences. But the Babe and baseball could not overcome Japan's growing nationalism, as a bloody coup d tat by young army officers and an assassination attempt by the ultranationalist War Gods Society jeopardized the tour's success.
A tale of international intrigue, espionage, attempted murder, and, of course, baseball, Banzai Babe Ruth is the first detailed account of the doomed attempt to reconcile the United States and Japan through the 1934 All American baseball tour. Robert K. Fitts provides a wonderful story about baseball, nationalism, and American and Japanese cultural history.
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Excellent story, reader needs pronunciation chart
Yes and no. I would recommend the book as it is a fascinating account of history that isn't covered in any text book, in English or in Japanese. (My kids, who came up in the Japanese education system, never heard of many of the incidents.)
But the reader, Robin Bloodworth, detracts from the story by getting most names of people and places wrong. Not simply poorly pronounced, but saying valid names of completely different people.
How the Babe showed extreme patience with the thousands asking for his autograph in multiple places throughout the book.
Also, when photographers placed film roles on the legs of carrier pigeon to carry back to the newspapers, my first thought was how good the bandwidth for photo sharing was in in 1934.
Robin could have read the first chapter of any Japanese language textbook that explains that vowels are pronounced the same every time. I find myself on the verge of shouting the correct words at him as I listen. I can live with gaijin getting the "R" wrong, but almost EVERY VOWEL in names of people or places? Aihara and Iihara are two very different names, yet he says the latter as the former.
And saying "Rusa" instead of "Rusu"! Argh! That's just unacceptable!
Also, did Lefy O'Doul, a San Francisco native, really have a Jersey thug accent? I'd have never thought that.
The natural follow up book to this would be Nagata Yuichi's "The Tokyo Giants North American Tour of 1935" (Toho Shuppan, 2007, ISBN 978-4-86249-076-6). It would need to be translated from Japanese, though.
Please re-record this with somebody in studio who can give direction to the reader about how names should be pronounced. The reader doesn't have to have perfect native pronunciation, but he/she needs to at least get vowels right.
- Michael Westbay
Heavy on boxscores, light on espionage
I liked the descriptions of 1930's Japan, and the perceptions and commentary of the players to the land and the people. I can identify with that as a foreign resident of Tokyo.
As stated in my headline, there is a lot... A LOT!... of play-by-play of baseball games between the American all-stars and various Japanese teams, with attempts at some shoehorned drama (a potential no-hitter broken up in the 4th inning). But very little in the way of the espionage and assassination that is promised in the title. To be fair, it is dealt with, and played out, but it accounts for only a fraction of the entire story. Some individual stories are followed through, but others are kind of forgotten.
His voice was not objectionable, but as a previous review states, he mangles several names and Japanese words. As a resident of Japan, I notice these more than outsiders, of course, but the sheer number of mispronunciations becomes quite annoying. Even a little preparation could have helped with simple place names like "Edo", universities like "Waseda", and names like "Daisuke". To a non-resident or non-Japanese speaker, it may not matter so much, but it does reflect poorly on the professionalism of the enterprise.In addition, his attempts to differentiate quotes from Japanese people is rather disconcerting. It's not identifiably Japanese (could be used for Polish or Egyptian, for all anyone would know). And he even uses it at times to quote American newspapers. (Presumably a mistaken reading of italicized or quoted text.)
There would have to be some dramatic catalyst for the story to be screen-worthy. The Moe Berg aspect was a non-story, but that might be manufactured into an interesting fictional plot.
If you enjoy baseball, as I do, the book holds some interest, with regard to the exploits of Hall-of-Famers from the 30's traveling abroad as goodwill ambassadors (and not always covering themselves in glory doing so). But as a complete story with the intertwined elements of political intrigue, espionage and the road to war... it falls a bit flat.