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Here Comes the Summer Special Section

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Here Comes the Summer Special Section

by Time (Jul 4, 1977)

Robert Whiting's book orients the baseball enthusiast in a different manner. Some 20 years after Admiral Perry revealed Japan to the world, an American university professor taught some of his students how to play baseball. Since then, the nation has been hooked. Each year, some 12 million fans jam its stadiums to eat an American import called the hotto dogu and scream "ganbare" (Let's go) as Japan's twelve professional teams battle each other with the ferocity of a samurai.

As old Asia hand Whiting explains, their enthusiasm is understandable. Managers demand that players perform like warriors both on the field and off. Sadaharu Oh, the 37-year-old first baseman for Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants, practices his swing with a katana, or long sword. Perhaps that is why he has hit more home runs than any man alive – including U.S. record holder Henry Aaron. Unsuccessful managers also behave according to the code of Bushido. None have thus far committed hara-kiri to atone for their teams' losing streaks. But most perform its modern-day equivalent. First they apologize to the players and the fans. Then, they resign.

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