Between 1927 and 1934, the Philadelphia Royal Giants of the U.S. Negro Leagues embarked on several goodwill tours across the Pacific. They were relegated to second-class citizenship at home, but abroad they were treated with tremendous respect. Unlike the well-known tours of major league stars who ridiculed their opponents through embarrassing defeats, the Royal Giants made the games competitive, dignified, and enjoyable for opposing players. This book makes the argument that the mutual respect – and spirited competition – between the Black and Japanese players played a significant role in the founding of professional baseball in Japan. For more, check out our book review.
I picked up this book shortly after it came out in 2008. I was a senior in college, and looking to pursue a career in baseball. This book meticulously described to me how baseball was in the process of becoming a truly global game, and I wanted to be part of that movement. I immediately tried to figure out how I could combine my love of baseball with traveling the world. And hey, what do you know – here we are!
Baseball legends like Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, and Randy Johnson are some of the most extraordinary talents that the game has ever known. But before they were pros, there was no industry consensus on these players – none of them were drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. But Bob Fontaine, Jr. saw in them something that the other teams didn’t, and millions of fans can thank him for drafting their franchise icon.
For nearly five decades, Fontaine looked into the future. He traveled the world and beat the bushes to scout, sign, and develop baseball’s constantly-refreshing next generation of stars. He led a relentless search, logging countless days abroad and wearing his car’s odometer out in the U.S.
But this book doesn’t just tally the biggest hits of Fontaine’s illustrious scouting career. Anyone who’s ever talked to a scout knows that scouts can tell stories like Ozzie Smith fields a routine grounder: with ease and just the right amount of flare. And Fontaine can spin a yarn with the best of them.
In this book, you’ll read about the inspiring draft story of Jim Abbott (who was born with only one hand), around-the-world baseball adventures (Fontaine three players in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union!), the early days of some of baseball’s biggest characters (Ozzie Guillen and John Kruk, for example), drafting the foundation of the 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels (Tim Salmon, Garrett Anderson, etc.), and scouting amateur players all over the world, including Yu Darvish in Japan (read an excerpt on scouting Darvish).
This book is a baseball lover’s dream. It has just the right amount of history and nostalgia mixed with humility and humor. Get a first-hand look at the life of a legendary baseball man who exemplifies the vital role that scouts – the unheralded soothsayers of the game – play.
Did you know that 30+ years before Hideo Nomo, the San Francisco Giants had a Japanese pitching sensation on their club? I don’t blame you if you don’t, because Masanori Murakami’s tale is not well-known. “Mashi” had an adventurous and courageous spirit to pair with a talented left arm, and his place in history is iron-clad: he was the first Japanese player in Major League Baseball.
Historian Rob Fitts has written 6+ books about Japanese baseball, but it all started with this one. Inspired by the relative lack of written information about historical baseball figures in Japan, especially in the English language, Rob relays the tales that make up the unique character of the Japanese game. This book is an important one, and I recommend it for anyone that wants to take that next step in getting to know some of NPB’s legendary players – or just loves a great baseball story, because it’s full of them!
Japanese art, from the beautiful woodprint waves of Hokusai to the modern anime films of Studio Ghibli, has long been globally revered. Any appreciator of art and baseball will see from this book why vintage Japanese baseball cards are among the most beautiful baseball collectibles in the world.
Acclaimed author Robert Whiting is best known for his bestseller You Gotta Have Wa!, published in 1989. And he burst back onto the Japanese baseball scene with 2004’s The Meaning of Ichiro. But it all started with The Chrysanthemum and the Bat: The Game Japanese Play.
We are working with Mr. Whiting to make this book available to you with a personalized messaged in your name (or whatever name you request) and signature from the author!
Whiting moved to Japan in 1962 and found that whenever he talked to his friends back in the U.S., they always wanted to hear more of his stories of Japanese baseball. Nothing about the country’s fascinating history of rulers, the rapid transformation of Tokyo, or the perfect balance between Buddhism and Shinto – just baseball. But Whiting found that baseball was actually the perfect vehicle to talk about Japan’s unique national character.
Motivated by a $500 bet that he wouldn’t write a book within a year (as explained to JapanBall’s “Chatter Up” audience in August 2021), Whiting compiled his observations of Japan’s culture- exemplified through baseball – into this wonderful book that TIME named its 1977 sports book of the year.
I’m sure that many fans felt that Robert Whiting just had to write this book, and I’m sure glad that he did! In this unofficial sequel to You Gotta Have Wa, Whiting flips the script tells the fascinating stories of the trailblazing players that were part of the wave of Japanese players coming to MLB that started with Hideo Nomo in 1995. Whiting puts Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Irabu, Alfonso Soriano, and Hideki Matsui under the microscope, exploring each of their unique backgrounds and personalities and how they contributed to creating the star player you see on TV and in MLB stadiums.
The history of Japanese American baseball is nearly as long as the history of the game itself. This book chronicles the many iterations of Japanese American baseball, starting at the turn of the century, when Japanese immigrants used baseball as a way to garner respect from – and feel a sense of inclusion with – their white American counterparts. Baseball became a community staple in America’s Japanese communities and then became a vehicle for survival in the Japanese American concentration camps of WWII.
Author Kerry Yo Nakagawa is the founder of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, which seeks to preserve the history of Japanese American baseball and educate about the Japanese American concentration camps during World War II. Kerry Yo was a special guest on JapanBall’s “Chatter Up!” in April 2021, and his episode was the most powerful in our series. You can watch the video on YouTube or read the recap here.
40+ years after The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, which TIME Magazine named the best sports book of the year in 1977, and 30+ years after You Gotta Have Wa, an absolute must-read for any baseball fan, Robert Whiting is at it again. The original English-language written voice of Japanese baseball now has a lifetime’s worth of perspective, wisdom, and observations from straddling the American and Japanese cultures, and this book encapsulates it all.
As Whiting puts describes it in the book’s prologue, the “story is part Alice in Wonderland, part Bright Lights, Big City, and part Forrest Gump, among other things. It is a coming-of-age tale as well as an account of a decades-long journey into the heart of a city undergoing one of the most remarkable and sustained metamorphoses ever seen.”
Arriving in Tokyo in 1962, Whiting entered a metropolis that was on the cusp of bursting onto the world stage, most visibly via the 1964 Olympics. Since then, the city has flourished and grown almost exponentially in so many ways, but not without its share of dark secrets and growing pains.
Whiting’s unique perspective as a curious, thoroughly-adapted foreigner who also happens to be a critical observer and world-class writer makes him the perfect person to document the city’s modern history.
In a sea of baseball biographies, this one is a shimmering tropical fish! Rob Fitts certainly picked a good subject in Yonamine, the standout baseball and football player from Hawaii. The history of Japanese baseball couldn’t be told without Wally Yonamine, but his story is uniquely American too. I just wish that I could have seen Wally play in person!
I relate to this book in many ways, and I bet you will too! James McKnight, a longtime member of the JapanBall community, writes about his transformative experience at a Hanshin Tigers game during a vacation to Japan. After that game, James got caught up in the Japanese baseball experience, inspiring him to move to Japan and devote himself to cheering for the Tigers. The book is a genuine human story – not just a baseball story. It’s about loneliness and camaraderie, drifting and finding purpose, the challenges and rewards of living abroad, and much more.
This is the book that really opened my eyes to the uniqueness of Japanese baseball. It is the definitive book on the subject in the English language; a must-read for anyone that wants to learn about the intricacies of the Japanese game. Acclaimed author Robert Whiting put it all in here, from the very beginning of Japanese baseball to the international powerhouse that it is today. The book’s most entertaining chapters are told through the wide-eyed – and often frustrated – perspective of gaijiin (foreign) ballplayers that played professionally in Japan.