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Robert Whiting

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You Gotta Have 'Wa'

by Leon H. Carter (Jun 4, 1989)

Digitized by Jessica Suchman and Catherine Nissley

Darryl Strawberry probably would dominate Japanese besoboru,but does he have "wa" – a requirement of all baseball players there. "Wa" means team spirit (strike one, Darryl), unity (strike two), and the ball club always comes first (strike three).

In Japan, Strawberry is out before he steps up to the plate. Japanese baseball players believe in "wa." "The Nail That Sticks Up Shall Be Hammered Down" is the national slogan. "The fastest way to knock a team's 'wa' is to hire an American," Robert Whiting told Timeout. Whiting's new book, "You Gotta Have Wa," deals with the two baseball cultures clashing. "In America, individualism and personal achievement are glorified, while Japanese players grow up learning the opposite," Whiting said. "They believe humans have no limits. Pitchers pitch until their arms fall off.

"Spring training begins in the bitter cold in January," Whiting said. "Players aren't taken to places such as Florida. The regular workday is 10 hours. Americans go to the ballpark for about three hours and go sit by the pool."

Some Americans, such as former major leaguer Randy Bass who played for the Hanshin Tigers, have done well in Japan. Last year, however, Bass returned to America because his 8-year-old son required surgery to remove a tumor. Bass' sudden departure caused resentment in the organization. "One official said a Japanese player would never do what Bass did," Whiting said. A month later, Bass was released.

He didn't have enough "wa."

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