Author Rob Fitts Talks Cabs and Collecting on “Chatter Up!”
Check out a full transcript of the call here.
You can purchase a few of Rob’s books from Amazon via our site. If you do so, JapanBall receives a small commission. Check out Remembering Japanese Baseball, his first book on Japanese baseball, or his biographies of Hawaiian NPB legend Wally Yonamine and Masanori Murakami, MLB’s first Japanese player (read our review of the book here). If you’d like to purchase any more of Rob’s books, visit his website.
Author Rob Fitts has been almost everywhere in the baseball world, including the esteemed paths of Cooperstown and across the sea in the various ballparks of Japan. Now, he gets to add JapanBall’s “Chatter Up!” to that list.
Fitts stepped up to the plate to field questions from JapanBall’s dedicated audience on June 26, discussing his famous first book, “Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game,” his thoughts on Nippon Professional Baseball, and an ever-growing collection of baseball cards. When asked about his motivation in his career, he said it was mainly due to his love for the Japanese game:
“What excites me about Japanese baseball now is I think their game is developed in a different way than in the US,” Fitts said, commenting on the first time he saw a baseball game in Japan: “The whole stadium was shaking as the bands were playing and people were using the umbrellas, going up and down with them, and the balloons… I couldn’t believe baseball could be this exciting. So that’s the day I became a Japanese baseball fanatic.”
Before embarking on his baseball journey, Fitts worked in archaeology, even receiving his doctorate in the subject from Brown University. After that first game, however, Fitts found that almost nothing about the history of Japanese baseball was being published in English, and felt the game deserved to be shared with an international audience; a career was born.
“When I first started, I was just a fan and very passionate about archaeology, and I was a baseball fan on the side. But when I was over there… there wasn’t much written in English, and I was interested in the history, so I had to go out and find it myself. And that led to this book… It was a lot more fun than archaeology, which is a pretty fun field anyway, and I just decided before I even finished the first one, I was going to start the second.”
That first book, “Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game,” is written from former players’ perspectives as they remember their favorite stories and moments that occurred in their NPB careers. Fitts said that in order to write the book, he first got in touch with former player Wally Yonamine, who helped him set up the rest of the interviews. While Fitts was originally hopeful that former stars like Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto would contribute fantastic stories of their dominance, he found that as he interviewed more players, it wasn’t always the stars who had the best conversations.
“What I found out very quickly was it’s not the stars that are the best interviews- it’s the utility players. The stars have their stories memorized. They’re used to being in front of the camera, basically talking a lot not saying much. Utility guys have the stories because they’re sitting on the bench and they’re watching and they’re sucking it all in. So they’re the ones who give the good stories about the other players, and what it was like, because in a way it’s more meaningful for them.”
Fitts also commented that when conducting interviews, he was surprised at first to find out his interviewees expected upwards of $200 for participating, called “Cab Money.”
Fitts now has six books written on the subject of Japanese Baseball, and is widely considered an expert in the sport. Beyond “Remembering,” Fitts also spoke with the JapanBall group about his growing card collection and how to identify certain types (he is also the author of “An Illustrated Introduction to Japanese Baseball Cards”), his favorite interviews, his travels with Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in Major League Baseball, and other fun topics. To hear these stories and more, you can check out a full transcript of the call here, or watch and listen to him on JapanBall’s YouTube channel here.
Cooperstown, Tokyo, Chatter Up. Quite the list for Fitts.
For more “Chatter Up!” check out more discussions linked here!