Could baseball prevent conflict between Japan and the United States? Connie Mack believed so. Shortly after leading a contingent of Major League players on a tour of Japan and the Pacific Rim in 1934, the legendary A's manager proudly stated that "[t]here will be no war between the United States and Japan." Though we all know what happened next, it's hard to fault Mack for believing so after his experiences there. In Banzai Babe Ruth, Robert K. Fitts gives an absorbing account of that legendary tour.
This postseason tour of Asia, though not the first by American ballplayers, was significant for the big names included--Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Earl Averill, Lefty Gomez, Lou Gehrig and, the biggest highlight of all, the Babe himself. These players were greeted as heroes throughout Japan, wined and dined by dignitaries and selling out ballgame after ballgame. At the same time, however, an undercurrent of resentment and jingoism stirred on the fringes of the Japanese population. This nascent rage would outpace any goodwill towards Americans during that time period, culminating in the war we are all too familiar with. This is a definite must-read for any baseball or Asian history fan.
Brett @ Central