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The Chrysanthemum and the Bat Review

Robert Whiting's Homepage at

The Chrysanthemum and the Bat Review

by Frank O'Hearn (Sep 15, 1977)

Digitized by Jessica Suchman and Catherine Nissley

Tired of the baseball free agent syndrome? Have the Reggie Jackson temper tantrums and the lack of accomplishments by those over-priced "super stars" strained your love for the national pastime? Do you yearn for the old days when players were humble and always doffed their caps?

Don't worry, those humble players and that great old game haven't disappeared from the face of the Earth. They're alive and well... and living in Japan.

"The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" is a somewhat in depth study of the game of baseball in Japan. It's an analysis of the game, the players and the fans in a country which has fallen in love with a sport.

From spring training to the final game of the season, in Japan, the name of the game is respect. Not only for the team executives and the manager and the coaches but also for the most important people... the fans.

Whiting's effort gives American baseball fans (not necessarily the baseball fanatics) an interesting and enviable contrast to the game played here.

For instance, losing is serious business in Japan. After a loss team members will bow to the fans to apologize for their error and promise to mend their ways. One the other hand, in a normal game played in the United States, it's hard to tell the winner's locker room from the loser's because players feel that it was just a single game and not that important.

A player would never attack a manager physically or otherwise, in Japan. That lack of respect could ban him from the game for life. But here, Reggie Jackson can battle with Yankee manager Billy Martin in the dugout on national television and that causes rumors of Martin getting fired.

Whiting points out that respect is not just an on the field thing either. A player must live by the code when he is off the field too. There is no such thing as a playboy baseball player in Japan... because that is below the standards of the game.

Although sometimes redundant in an effort to get across the virtues of Japanese baseball, Whiting has many funny and interesting stories to tell, ranging from home run king Sadaharu Oh, to legendary third baseman Shigeo Nagashima and all time pitching great Masaichi Kaneda.

Also discussed are the Americans who have infiltrated the game. From Joe Pepitone, the super "ripoff", Frank "the Giant" Howard to Darryl Spencer who was told to lose the home run crown by his manager.

In general, "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" is easy, enjoyable reading for any American sports fan who would like a glimpse at an idealistic style of professional play.

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