Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan

Robert K Fitts, Author
Robert K. Fitts. Univ. of Nebraska, $34.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8032-2984-6
Reviewed on: 01/30/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Open Ebook - 366 pages - 978-0-8032-4024-7
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-8032-4581-5
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Formerly trained as an archeologist, Fitts (Remembering Japanese Baseball) turns his discerning eye as a historian on the waning months of 1934 in his new book, as America and Japan marched toward conflict, with a star-studded tour of U.S. baseball pros the only hope to avert a crisis. Wonderfully researched and brought to life in lively prose, he recalls political tensions between the two nations and the rise of Nipponese ultranationalist sentiment; The tour, the brainchild by Shigenori Ikeda, father of Japan’s eugenics movement, is concocted to foster goodwill, entertainment for the diehard local fans, and a distraction from a restless military bent on a power grab. The hastily gathered team included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Moe Berg, and Connie Mack on a barnstorming month-long trek through this baseball-crazy land in packed stadiums and crowded venues, the players unaware of the dark anti-Western forces on simmer there. Fitts, a master at depicting all of the key elements in prewar Japanese social and political life, gives the reader valuable insights into the influential moderates trying to hold the line against the army, as well as the American ballplayers taking a victory lap in front of adoring foreign fans. This book is a powerful snapshot of men from two contrasting cultures attempting to stop a slide into aggression. (Mar.)
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