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’etat 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.
About Robert K. Fitts
Robert K. Fitts graduated from the University of Pennsylvania 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).
Fitts (Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball, 2008, etc.) brings an academic’s thoroughness to his topic, with an eye on the gathering storm clouds that would soon lead to war between the two nations. Organized by a Japanese newspaper publisher as a promotional stunt and supported by American and Japanese politicians who hoped to mend increasingly difficult relations, the tour was a rousing success on the first count, and a resounding failure on the second. Fitts provides context on the history of baseball in Japan, as well as on the country’s political situation at the time, with various nationalist groups hoping to restore true power to the imperial throne. Though the information on the coup and assassination attempts by these groups provides insight into the state of Japanese politics and culture, the link between them and the baseball tour is tenuous. The tour itself provides some entertaining culture-clash moments and interesting background on some of the Japanese players, even if the outcome of most of the games is a foregone conclusion. The Babe is, as ever, the star of the show. Reluctant to participate at first, he eventually embraced the experience, helped no doubt by the adulation of a whole new set of fans during the twilight of his career. Perhaps the tour’s most lasting contribution to history is its part in helping create a professional baseball league in Japan, which remains massively popular to this day. Any goodwill engendered by the American players’ 1934 visit quickly vanished into the fog of war, however, with the spectators’ cries of “Banzai Babe Ruth” replaced by Japanese soldiers’ shouts of “To hell with Babe Ruth!” as they rushed American positions during World War II. – Kirkus Reviews
Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan” by Robert K. Fitts
The Washington Post Book Review – June 8, 2012 (Excerpt)
From their foxholes on Cape Gloucester in the South Pacific, U.S. Marines fighting Japanese forces in 1944 heard an unusual war cry from their enemies: “To hell with Babe Ruth!”
Almost 10 years had passed since 500,000 Japanese crowded the streets of Tokyo to welcome the Sultan of Swat and 14 other all-star American baseball players taking part in a barnstorming tour of the country. Part diplomatic mission and part vacation for the players, the 1934 tour was organized as a way to bring the two baseball-loving countries closer together during a particularly rough period.
As baseball historian Robert K. Fittsrecounts in his admirable and deeply researched new book, “Banzai Babe Ruth,” in 1934 the world was edging closer to war. A naval treaty among the United States, Britain and Japan was on the brink of failure. The Japanese army was conducting exercises in preparation for combat. Who better to ease tensions than America’s ambassadors of the baseball diamond?
Fitts explains that the introduction of baseball to the Japanese is credited to one Horace Wilson, a Civil War veteran who taught English in Japan in the early 1870s. In the intervening decades, several American players had visited Japan to promote the sport, but no roster was more star-studded than the team that arrived in Tokyo on Nov. 2, 1934. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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