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Robert Whiting

Robert Whiting's Homepage at JapaneseBaseball.com

The Chrysanthemum and the - what? And The making of 'The Chrysanthemum and the Bat'

by Tom Chapman (Jul 10, 1977)

Digitized by Jessica Suchman and Catherine Nissley.

Early Fall – and the excitement and tension of baseball pennant races occupy the thoughts of fans of the ancient and honorable sport wherever it's played. And especially in Japan with the almost fanatical adventure of Yomiuri Giants' slugging hero Sadaharu Oh approaching, tying and finally last week breaking the home run record of 755 hit by Henry Aaron of the United States' Major Leagues. Almost everyone was caught up in Ohs' drama – whether baseball fan or not.

In the midst of the intensive interest in the sport of baseball around the world, a new and fascinating book probing the Japanese persona and sociological make-up as revealed through the sport of baseball was being published almost simultaneously in the U.S. and in Japan. The book – entitled "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" by Robert Whiting – is a fascinating bisecting of Japanese social and cultural mores as seen through the unique methods of fielding professional baseball teams in the country. Copiously illustrated with scores of photographs, "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" explains meany of the mysteries inherent in the game as played in Japan which have perplexed American fans for many years. The traumatic experience of foreigners playing the game according to the "Samurai Code of Yakyu" is investigated thoroughly by Whiting.

The American version was published by Dodd, Mead and Company in New York and has received many good reviews from such esteemed publications as Time, The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews and others. The English version in Japan is published by Permanent Press and hits the stands today, Sept 9. A Japanese language translation will appear in October.

Baseball fan Tom Chapman – editor of Pacific travel magazine and head of a multi-media firm in Tokyo – interviews Whiting on elements of Japanalia and baseball as found in the book, beginning on Page 4 of this edition and Chapman's review of the book appears on Page 6.

The Making of "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat"

(EDITOR'S NOTE: With the distribution beginning today of Robert Whiting's new book "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat," Weekender's longtime friend and sometime contributor Tom Chapman – a notorious baseball fan – conducted the following question-and-answer interview with Whiting concerning the whys and wherefores behind the creation of the rather remarkable book.)

Q. Why did you decide to write a book about Japanese baseball?

A. I wanted to write a book about Japan that would help people understand the Japanese a little better, and, at the same time, generate some interest in this culture.

I've spent a lot of time in Japan, and every time I go back to the States and try to describe my experiences, all I get is a blank stare. I'm sure someone who's lived here for any length of time knows what I mean.

There are a lot of people who know absolutely nothing about this country. They couldn't come within 5,000 miles of guessing where it's located. I'd like that to change that. People just don't understand what you're up against here as a foreigner.

Q. Why choose baseball?

A. Through baseball you can focus on a variety of aspects of Japanese life. It's a business. It's a game. And it's the leading spectator sport in this country. The Japanese are incredibly involved with it emotionally.

The Japanese are incredibly involved with it emotionally.

The Japanese are extremely guarded in most business and social situations. But when it comes to baseball, they let their true feelings and their real attitudes about foreigners – slip out. The frenzy over Oh and whether his record is really a "world" record or not, is one good example. All in all, a close look at baseball and the attitudes that go along with it provide the clearest view of the Japanese I can think of. You really see "group think" in action. Emotionally, it is where the Japanese present their most honest face.

Q. What inspired the title?

A. I admired Ruth Benedict's book a lot. I tried to write about the same things she did, only from a different perspective. I only hope people don't think it's a nature book.

Q. How much benefit do you think the average foreigner in Japan would get from reading your book?

A. I attempted to present an overview of the Japanese personality. There have been a lot of interesting and informative books written about Japan, but many focus on specific areas like business or Japan's role in the international economic community, so I tried to provide something for everyone: something which would not only help the foreign businessman understand what's going on in his company, but also help his wife to understand what her husband is up against.

Some of the nicest compliments I've had about the book so far have come from people who don't watch baseball. That made me feel like I accomplished what I set out to do.

Q. How long did it take you to write the book and how did you gather your information

A. I started in late 1973 when I moved to New York, after living more than eight years in Tokyo. I laid in a good supply of peanut butter and beer and wrote the first draft pretty much out of my head. I flew around the States and interviewed as many people as I could find. Then I went to the Library of Congress to double check my information. Since they don't have many Japanese publications, I had to spend three months here going over newspapers and doing more interviews, among other things. Wally Yonamine was kind enough to invite me to spring training for 10 days. John Sipin and Clete Boyer in particular, helped me immeasurably. It took me over a year to put the whole thing together.

Q. You've had some nice reviews in the States and the book has gotten quite a bit of attention. For example, Sports Illustrated and Sports Magazine ran excerpts and Time Magazine gave you a nice plug. How has it been received over all, and how it is selling?

A. Many of the newspapers in the States, the NY Times and the Washington Post included have given the book some attention. Overall, the reviews have been quite favorable. As for sales, I have no idea. The book's only been out for two months, and I've yet to hear from my publisher.

Q. Could you tell us what your plans are for the book in Japan?

A. The Permanent Press is publishing an English edition here and it's available in the bookstores now, at about half the price of the U.S. version. The Japanese language edition will be published by Simul Press in October.

Q. Some nitpicking and condescending fans of the American version of the game who have read your book think you overrate the quality of Japanese baseball. How much U.S. baseball have you seen, and is a comparison even relevant?

A. I don't recall rating the quality of Japanese baseball in my book. I did, of course, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese approach to the game vis a vis the American view.

Having spent three out of the last four years in New York City, I've seen my share of Met and Yankee games. And while most people would agree that U.S. major-league baseball is superior to what's played here, a comparison isn't relevant for my purposes.

Q. If, as you have taken great pains to point out in your book, the Japanese do not wish foreign players to succeed, and have even conspired in a variety of interesting ways, many of which you describe, to prevent the success of the foreign player, why should anyone who loves baseball assume that the game, as it's played here, has integrity at all levels, and honor it by taking it seriously?

A. Why should anyone assume that the game, as it's played in the U.S., has integrity at all levels? Most americans are familiar with what Jackie Robinson went through. The situation in that area, although vastly improved, is still less than ideal. Yet, the game goes on being "honored: by millions of people.

And I'm not at all sure what level of integrity the spectacle of an athlete leaving his team and demanding millions of dollars for a new contract really represents. You'd never see a Japanese player doing that.

It goes without saying that the Japanese have been unfair towards foreigners. They're elitist and they have their famous "inferiority complex" to deal with. It really bothers me to see an American cheated out of some accomplishment or robbed of his share of the credit in a team victory as a result. What the Japanese did to Daryl Spencer, for example, still infuriates me whenever I think about it.

I think the Japanese are wrong in doing some of the things they've done. They only hurt themselves in the long run. Prejudice is bad in any country. That it exists is an unfortunate fact of life.

Q. Do you see any signs of change?

A. Things don't seem to be quite as bad as they were a few years ago. Clarence Jones won two home-run championships in three years, and the Pacific League survived the trauma. Out of the necessity, the Yomiuri Giants "integrated" in 1975 – although very cautiously, I might add. And the Hiroshima Carp even went so far as to hire an American, Joe Lutz, to manager their team.

The Japanese have their pride. They don't want to be robbed of their identity as Japanese. They're tired of being inferior to Americans in the sport, and to me, that's understandable. I'm sure it pained the Carp to do what they did, but then they realized they need help. Unfortunately, as it turned out, they weren't quite ready emotionally for that particular kind of relationship.

It takes time. Now that Oh is the leading home-run hitter of all time, perhaps the Japanese will feel a little less insecure about their role in the overall picture.

Q. Writer Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated, in his recent article, suggested the other eleven teams are foils for the Giants. And you said as much yourself. Much of your book deals with the Giants in the scheme of things. Is Giant Power good or bad for baseball?

A. That's like asking if the Zaibatsu is good or bad for Japan. It's a fact of life and one has to live with it. I think it's fascinating to study the whole Giant phenomenon though, because the aura that surrounds them, is, in my opinion, the key to understanding the fantasy life of the average Japanese.

In terms of this culture, the Giants have it all. They're the oldest professional team, and, by far, the most successful. They've traditionally had the greatest names in the sport, and, not at all accidentally, the most-disciplined and best-mannered players. It's also no coincidence that the Emperor of Japan chose Korakuen Stadium for his first visit to a pro-ball game. The Giants somehow embody the spirit of Japan.

Of course, there's the great Yomiuri media machine which propagates the myth of Giant divinity. Nagashima was a great player, but there were others with comparable statistics. None were as worshipped as he was. It's interesting to speculate how things would have turned out if he'd played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes instead of the Giants.

Q. You claim, in your book, that the Japanese fan is the most sophisticated in the world. Yet nobody goes to watch the P.L teams play. It is the opinion of many seasoned observers, Japanese and foreign alike, that the best baseball in Japan is played in this league. What level of sophistication does that represent.

A. Being sophisticated about baseball and being a fan are two different things. Sophistication, to me, is knowing when and how a pitcher makes a mistake. Being a fan is something else again. If you're brought up believing that the sun rises and sets on the Giants, it's awfully hard to change – especially when everyone around you believes the same thing.

It's a funny thing to contemplate. I sometimes wonder if the average Japanese simply likes the Giants solely because everyone else does.

Q. Not long ago, Asia Week described a recent management psychology study of Japanese middle and upper level corporation managers working in the U.S. and Japan, that concluded, among other things, that the Japanese "in their dealings with people are disastrous," that they "refuse to make adjustments when they come into contact with people who have different values, cultures and languages," and that they are "good at things but not people." This all sounds faintly reminiscent of the complaints reported in your book that Japanese baseball management has had about "The Ugly Americans" who have been brought to Japan. Would you care to comment on this?

A. I think that most Americans come here with the best of intentions in regard to doing things the Japanese way. And, for their part, I think the Japanese bend over backwards to make life as comfortable as possible for them. But the value systems of the two countries are so different that "making the adjustment" is extremely difficult.

It's easy for the American to say when he gets here that he'll do things like the Japanese. But actually doing it is something else again. For example, he sees nothing wrong with losing his temper now and then, if he strikes out. But to the Japanese, it's bad manners and poor sportsmanship. The American has developed his own individual style of training and play, but his new coaches will insist and he do things the way everyone else does them. In the hot months, he'll naturally want to ease up on practice to conserve energy for the games, but his manager will demand he train even harder. "It's the only way to beat mid-summer fatigue," he'll be told. If he refuses, even once, to go along with the system, he's labeled another "selfish gaijin" by the local press.

After trying in vain to break a lifetime of habits to please his hosts, sooner or later he begins to think that cross-cultural understanding isn't all there is to life.

Q. Are things getting better out on the field? Is this a gap that can ever be bridged to the satisfaction of everyone, or is it more of an abyss?

A. I'm tempted to call it an abyss, because the same problems keep cropping up year after year. But, I do see some encouraging sings, Last year, for example, Clyde Wright, the Yomiuri pitcher was removed from a close game. He got angry and did some minor damage to his arm, and the Giant Clubhouse. The next day, their nation was howling for his head over his "outrageously rude behavior."

But, instead of fining or suspending him, as many Japanese would do, all manager Nagashima did was to say: "I'm glad he cares that much about wining." That is a step in the right direction.

If things are getting better on the field, it means that they're getting better throughout the entire society. Baseball seems to reflect the current national mood.

Q. What's the most outrageous thing you've heard lately?

A. I'll tell you the funniest. Early this year, the Giants issued a special set of rules and etiquette for their foreign players – which one newspaper here described as "The Gaijin Ten Commandments. They include the following: "Don't yell and scream while on the bench or destroy objects in the dugout"; "Don't severely tease your teammates"; and "Don't reveal team secrets to foreign players on the other teams."

Here's one that appeared in a local magazine. Buddy Bradford's manager on the Buffaloes insisted that Bradford, who hit .300 with the White Sox, stand closer to home plate and told his batting practice pitchers to throw nothing but outside curve balls to the foreigner.

Bradford was forced to stand closer to the plate, all right, but then he started zinging line drives off various parts of the batting practice pitcher's anatomy. The pitchers complained to the manager, and refused to throw to the "mad gaijin" anymore. I guess that was a set-back to the cause of better Japanese-American relations.

Q. OK. Let's look at this another way. To the average fan, would Japanese baseball be more or less interesting without gaijin players?

A. First you have to understand the role that gaijin are supposed to play in this country. Of course, they're here to hit long home runs and to help their team win. They're also here to be interesting to provide some amusement – some diversion from the usual gray style of play here, and to serve as a measuring stick for gauging Japanese improvement in the sport.

But their most important function comes when things really start to go wrong on a team. When that happens, they become the scapegoats.

Q. Do you think most ballplayers leave Japan having learned something?

A. Some have and some haven't. People like Jim Lefebvre and George Altman who have been willing to pay the tuition, have certainly gained a different perspective on life. Some guys I know, on the other hand, have been so wrapped in the U.S. values they hardly knew they were here. Ethnocentrism is a major problem for both Americans and Japanese. There are plenty of other examples in the book.

Q. Do you have any favorite gaijin players?

A. I have a lot of respect for the accomplishments of John Sipin. I admire Wally Yonamine for what he's gone through, and I'm impressed with the patience and sensibility of Lefebvre. I have had the pleasure of getting to know others like Gene Martin, Leron Lee, Clyde Wright and Gail Hopkins.

Q. What do you think the American can learn from the Japanese?

A. A lot of things. The value of total dedication to a goal. A finer sensitivity for the feelings of the next person. And the willingness to let the group take precedence over one's individual desires.

Q. Getting back to an earlier question, exactly how would rate the level of baseball here?

A. I feel that the teams are generally below major-league level. But most people don't realize how many individuals here could make the stating line-up of an American or National League team.

Q. Could you name some of them?

A. Just about every American player who's seen Oh in action agrees he'd be a big star in the States. They also name Harimoto, Kakefu, Tabuchi, Fukumoto and a couple of dozen more. Most think a Japanese All-Star team would be competitive in the U.S.

Q. One burning question that everyone who knows something about baseball is asking these days. How many home-runs would Charlie Manuel have hit if he'd decided to play in the U.S.?

A. That would depend on how well Charlie could adjust to American customs, the food and the lower cost of living.

Q. What will happen to the Giants when Oh retires?

A. They'll find a way to stay on top. It's their patriotic duty. I'm sure the sight of Nagashima in the dugout and Oh in the first-base coach's box will be enough to keep Korakuen jammed until the Yomiuri machine can manufacture another national idol.

Q. How many complete games have you seen this year?

A. I seldom miss a game on TV, but I've been too busy this year to go to the ball park. Unfortunately, the Japanese don't see fit to broadcast complete games, which is why, along with the 110 million other people, I missed seeing OH's 756th home-run live.

Q. Finally, with your knowledge of the language and the nuances and the customs of Japan, and with your high level of interest in the empathy with the great game of baseball, how do you think you'd fare if you were named to manage a Japanese team, say the Giants, next year?

A. Given enough police protection, I might make it to the end of spring training.

Weekender's Bookshelf

Let me tell you about the first professional baseball game I saw in Japan. It had no class. With some Japanese friends who lived in Osaka but were infatuated with the Giants, I went out to Koshien, that barn of a stadium, to watch the hometown Hanshin Tigers play another, now forgotten, Central League team. This was the good old summer of 1966: you will recall that the Giants would win again, as they always do, and the Mighty Oh would strike 48 home runs, a handsome total, giving him a modest 260 for his career.

I was new to Japan. The level of the game struck me as being sort of a notch below the old Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League and a couple notches above the Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League. Still, the fundamental anxiety was caused by other problems. The park was dirty, a shame. The announcer was, for God's sake, female. There was no organist to play fancy riffs when the home team came to bat.

Worse was what the umpires did to the game after 10 innings of satisfying and quite robust play: They called it a tie and everyone, to my utter astonishment, uncomplainingly went home. For home, the feeling was that of being cheated out of the heart of the matter, like listening exasperatingly to a bad joke that is finally delivered up without a punchline. What was I to make of a culture that valued a tie over a victory?

(It is possible, although highly unlikely, for Japanese baseball team to win the professional championship by winning only one game during the 130-game season and tying the other 129. This, say, in competition with the second place team which would win 129 games, yet lose one.)

I imagined that no serious student of the game could put up for long with the way it was played here, and, of course, I was wrong, very wrong. Just how wrong has now been made clear in an impressive and valuable new book about Japan, the Japanese and the game that they prefer to play more than any other with the possible exception of pachinko.

The Chrysanthemum and the Bat by Robert Whiting, A Sophia University graduate, fan, long time resident of Japan, is illuminating in a way that few baseball books are. This is because it is a book that has less to do with baseball than about the Japanese, their culture, their attitudes.

Those of us who do take baseball seriously – meaning those of us who don't always care who wins or loses but whether the game is played – owe Whiting a huge debt of gratitude for putting the big picture together. (We can now spin endlessly fascinating yearns about The Super Samurai and The Emperor's Game).

But even for readers who know nothing of baseball – and, we shall presume, care even less – The Chrysanthemum and the Bat holds rich promise to elucidate in strange and wonderful ways some of the befuddlements of the East as seen through the mirror of a marvelously complex game that was introduced to Japan in 1873, only 20 years after Perry's Black Ships, and today, attracting millions, is far away the national sport.

What Whiting eloquently and perceptively clears up are my own problems about comprehending the style of the game in Japan. "Outdoor kabuki" is what he calls the Japanese version, high drama often without satisfactory conclusion, and while it appears to be the same game played in the U.S. – it definitely is not.

"The Japanese view of life stressing group identity, cooperation, hard work, respect for age, seniority and 'face' has permeated almost every aspect of the sport," writes Whiting. "Americans who come to play in Japan quickly realize that Baseball Samurai Style is different. For some it is fascinating and exciting; for others, exasperating and occasionally devastating."

Some history: an American professor at Tokyo University is recognized as the first teacher of the game to the Japanese. A Japanese critic once called it a "pickpocket's sport... in which the players are easily on the lookout to swindle their opponents, to lay an ambush, to steal a base. It is, therefore, suited to Americans, but it does not please Englishmen or Germans."

The first professional league is established in 1936, not long after the visit of American super stars Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Lefty O'Doul. The Yomiuri Giants are founded by Japan's largest newspaper. War calls a halt to the use of baseball English: in 1944 when a runner slides into home plate he is called ikita or shinda ( "alive" or "dead") instead of "safe" or "out."

Douglas MacArthur, controversial post-war umpire, personally issues the order to clean up and reopen Korakuen Stadium. The game goes on.

But what a game! Japan, claims Whiting, is a baseball fan's paradise. There's more news about the game in five major daily sports newspapers than is almost fit to print. Mountains of statistics, exhaustingly detailed summaries, feature stories in the fan magazines ("I Owe My Career To My Mother – She Did My Homework For Me While I Practiced Baseball"), radio reports, live television reports that "for some inexplicable aesthetic reason" go off the air after one hour and 26 minutes of play.

Life is but a dream for the surfeited fan who responds with lively enthusiasm to such annual entertainments as the 10-day national high school championship, the monumental semi-annual three-game series between collegiate rivals Keio and Waseda and, especially, to the Yomiuri Giants, perennial professional front-runners, who draw about two-and-a-half million spectators a year to Korakuen Stadium.

What of the game itself? It is intrinsically good-natured, according to Whiting, the art of group cooperation, with individual desires subordinated to the collective good. Whiting outlines a strict but unwritten Baseball Bushido code, rules which he claims a Japanese player is expected to observe on and off the field. The name of the gamer, we discover, is duty, personal honor, responsibility, form over content, loyalty, self-discipline, reverence for nature, simplicity, modesty and unquestioning obedience.

With rules of conduct like these, who needs Reggie Jackson?

A player comes early, stays late, doesn't ever criticize the manager. Nor does he complain about the food, "even though it may be whale meat and rice." He follows established procedure, by swinging the bat in the ways taught by batting masters, by throwing the ball with a deliberate, uniform motion.

"This obsession with form," notes Whiting, "has its basis in the Japanese belief that form has a reality of its own. There is a right and wrong way to attack an opponent with a sword, to arrange flowers in a wave, to construct a garden, to make and serve a cup of green tea and to throw a curve ball. The correct form, which is the most economical way of doing anything, has been discovered and refined some times through centuries by the great masters of the past. A good player is one who can merge his own movements with correct form; everything else will follow in time."

Not surprisingly, the stubborn individualist is not tolerated, although a few foreigners are – and more about their harrowing experiences later.

A player undergoes hard training ... and then some. Whiting treats us to a typical daily schedule for infielders and outfielders at one Japanese training camp that is sure to have you breathing hard as you read. We see Taiyo Whales running up the steps of a nearby shrine and Hashin Tigers running down stadium seats carrying 50-pound sacks strapped to their backs. Pitchers throw 300 pitches a day in training. Batters intensely try up to 500 "shadow swings" a day.

We learn how Giant manager and former star Shigeo Nagashima draws strengths by retreating to Mt. Fuji for two weeks in the winter. "I really like Mt. Fuji," he says , "Perhaps people will say that I am childish, but when I see the outline of that mountain against the sky, I feel my heart is purified and everything becomes well with me."

The player plays "for the team." Tired or injured, he tries to perform at peak efficiency. He demonstrates proper decorum in such ways as the winner of the 1974 Japan Series "fighting spirit" award, who played with a broken ankle. He has a will to win, evolved from spiritual strength. He willingly endures suffering. "A player's will is considered supreme to his infinitely teachable body," notes Whiting.

A Japanese player is a gentleman on the filed (although there have been some notorious exceptions). Fea Pure (fair play) is the rule. No beanballs, brushback pitches, spikes-high slides, no displays of temper on the field, no violence. ("Violence just isn't supposed to happen in Japan.") When he makes an error on the field, he will normally smile, a defense mechanism intended to show the opposition and his teammates that all is well in his world.

A player must never be materialistic ("Japan is a poor country"). Family name, school or profession give a man stature and respect; not a high salary. He express himself with great care to the press, taking care never to upset team harmony. He follows the rule of sameness: no long hair, no goatees, no beards. "A player whose appearance is extraordinary might start to act in a manner different from his teammates. And that would raise the danger of upsetting team unity," writes Whiting. "Too much individually is generally considered dangerous in Japan."

Thus, with everything and everybody in its place, with harmony and unity dictating job and function, the food team, suggests Whiting, is like a beautiful Japanese garden. "Every tree, every rock, every blade of grass has its place. The smallest part ever so slightly out of place destroys the beauty of the whole. The rocks and trees viewed individually might be pleasing to look at, but, when organized properly, the garden becomes more than just the sum of its parts. It becomes a work of art. It becomes perfection."

That is, until the burly, contemptuous, rambunctious American steps into the batter's box, and starts kicking dirt around.

Pause for a moment. Listen to a Japanese baseball executive reflect on his decade and a half of dealing with foreign players:

"I remember the first time we signed a gaijin," he says. "The team appointed me liaison man. I didn't speak much English then, so I bought an English conversation book and memorized phrases which I thought would be useful: 'Your car is waiting, sir'; 'Please pass the salt'; 'Would you like some tea?' I really studied hard, but I soon found American ballplayers didn't speak that way. They would say: 'Hey man, pass the salt' or 'How 'bout a coke, man.' And it seemed that every other word was 'son of a bitch' or 'bullshit' or 'Jesus Christ Almighty.' I didn't know what they were talking about.

"I remember one of the first Americans on the team in 1963. That summer, would come to the park every day and the first thing he would say was: 'Jesus Christ, it's f-----g hot today.' I thought that was the way all Americans talked, so when he invited me to his house for dinner one night, I said to his wife: 'Jesus Christ, it's f-----g hot today, isn't it?' The next day he took me aside in the locker room and warned me to never use that word again to his wife. That's when my real education in English began."

The most conspicuous gaijin in Japan is the baseball player Dave Johnson of the Giants. Each time he struck out in 1975, after singing a huge contract, probably 30,000,000 people knew about it every day. The press and fans rode him unmercifully, sadistically. Toil in a huge foreign corporation, IBM, say, or Coca Cola, seemed a safer and saner existence in all ways than playing for the Giants. His first year in Japan Johnson lost 25 pounds.

You can turn to Chrysanthemum to find out what it's like to be a gaijin player, a big fish in a little pond. Writes Whiting: "Perhaps, the most difficult thing for the American to cope with is the chilling realization that Japan does not really want him to succeed. If he can help his team win a pennant, fine. But trouble comes when he does too well."

Suffer with Wally Yonamine, the Oriental Jackie Robinson, as he overcomes Japanese prejudice against Nisei to become the biggest American star ever to play in Japan. Cheer Daryl Spencer, perhaps the most popular and most fearsome gaijin ever to wear a uniform in Japan. Applaud pitcher Gene Bacque, big, hook-nosed, hairy-chested, the unrivaled gaijin stereotype, who wore the dreaded number "four" on his uniform, and once pitched a no-hitter against the Giants. Book the ugliest of Americans, Joe Pepitone, running for home with $70,000 after playing only 14 games. And take heart from Joe Lutz, only "white American" ever to manage in Japan, and the legacy he left.

Whiting's chapters on the role of the foreigner in Japanese baseball are notable for insight and balance. There is quite a bit of unpleasantness documented here, what with individualistic and out spoken Americans vying with elitist and chauvinistic Japanese to create initial pressures and inevitably explosive scenes. But, as well one might imagine, the anecdotes are splendid and the confrontations between manager and player often downright hilarious.

I suspect that "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" will become a minor classic in the literature of the culture of Japan, and deservedly so. Whiting is an informed and trenchant observer of the scene, a lucid and interesting writer, a satisfying judge of character, eminently fair with his opinions.

The question for the baseball fan who happens to live in Japan is where on the bookshelf to put Chrysanthemum. For the time being I have stuck my copy slightly to the right of Margaret Mead, Reischauer, Gibney and Sansome, down a selection or two from Robert Angell, The Boys of Summer, Jim Bouton , The Glory of Their Times and John Updike's classic little essay on Ted Williams' last day in Fenway Park. There it rests, next to my autograph Hank Aaron ball, and in seasons to come I can see myself reaching for it again and again.

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