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You Gotta Have Wa

Robert Whiting's Homepage at

You Gotta Have Wa

by Kirkus Reviews (Apr 1, 1989)

Digitized by Jessica Suchman and Catherine Nissley

Eye-popping report on Japanese baseball by a journalist based in Japan.

In Whiting's The Chrysanthemum and the Bat (1976) he provided a hilarious look at the history and customs of Japanese besoboru, here, he zooms in on American major-leaguers who play for big bucks in the land of the rising sun. Most of these – the likes of Bob Horner, Davey Johnson, or Reggie Smith – are second-rung athletes, garnering respect but no Hall-of-Fame votes. In Japan, however, by dint of their superior height and weight, they excel: most spectacular, perhaps, is Randy Bass, a journeyman National Leaguer who turned Japanese baseball upside down a few years ago, winning two consecutive Triple Crowns and setting a new season batting mark (.389). Bass also threatened Sadaharu Oh's revered season home-run mark, precipitating a national crisis. Japanese baseball is unabashedly xenophobic: Americans are expected to smash lots of home runs, but not too many; they must also adapt to Japanese "workball" – ten-hour drills; slavish devotion to the team; no drinking, smoking, or sex; absolute conformity, following the popular Japanese precept that "the nail that sticks up shall be hammered down." As one might expect, many American ballplayers head home as soon as possible. Whiting fleshes out his account with tales of some of the stranger aspects of Japanese baseball, such as the intimate link between baseball teams and giant corporations – so that, for example, the Nippon Ham Fighters are owned by a pork producer.

The author knows his topic inside-out, and his love for the sport shines through. Not quite as innovative as Chrysanthemum, this nonetheless ranks as one of the finest books ever on baseball, non-American style.

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