Banzai Babe Ruth
Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan
2012 - University of Nebraska Press
Winner of SABR's 2013 Seymour Medal for Best Baseball Book of 2012
2012 Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medalist
2012 Casey Award Finalist
Reviews for Banzai Babe Ruth
New York Journal of Books
Wall Street Journal
Only a Game
Only a Game
& in Japanese
In November 1934 as the United States and Japan drifted toward war, a team of American League all stars that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, future secret agent Moe Berg, and Connie Mack barnstormed across the Land of the Rising Sun. Hundreds of thousands of fans, many waiving Japanese and American flags, welcomed the team with shouts of “Banzai! Banzai Babe Ruth!” The all stars stayed for a month, playing 18 games, spawning professional baseball in Japan, and spreading goodwill. Politicians on both sides of the Pacific hoped that the amity generated by the tour—and the two nations’ shared love of the game—could help heal their growing political differences. But the Babe and baseball could not overcome Japan’s growing nationalism, as a bloody coup d’état by young army officers and an assassination attempt by the ultranationalist War Gods Society jeopardized the tour’s success. A tale of international intrigue, espionage, attempted murder, and—of course—baseball, Banzai Babe Ruth is the first detailed account of the doomed attempt to reconcile the United States and Japan through the 1934 All American baseball tour.
"Banzai Babe Ruth reads like a multi-stranded mystery novel. Fitts has an eye for the quirky details that make historical writing vivid."
Michael R. Stevens, Books & Culture
"A fascinating story of international intrigue. ... This is a well-researched, fascinatingly told tale of two super powers whose shared passion for baseball wasn't enough to maintain the peace, though it did help to restore it in the years following World War II."
James Bailey , Baseball America
"This book was tough to put down... I enthusiastically recommend Banzai Babe Ruth."
"How did two nations which shared the values of the same national pastime go from baseballs to bullets? Historian Rob Fitts tells a dark tale of baseball caught between democracy and fascism in prewar Japan.
Banzai Babe Ruth is a sayonara home run!"
John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball
"If I could have taken one road trip with anyone in the history of American sport, I think I would have traveled with Babe Ruth and the All-American All Stars on their 18-game tour of Japan in November of 1934. With the drumbeat growing louder and louder as World War II approached, with the Babe suddenly at loose ends near the end of his baseball career, with home runs and innocence dwarfed by political machinations and suspicions, the trip played out like a B-movie potboiler. Luckily for us, now Robert K. Fitts lets us come along in 'Banzai Babe Ruth!', his well-written chronicle of all that happened."
Leigh Montville, author of The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth
"An intelligent, well-crafted account of an important period in the history of U.S.-Japan relations. Painstakingly researched, rich in color and detail, it goes beyond baseball, illuminating the social, economic and political life of a distant era, one whose impact can be still felt today. Fitts's best work and a valuable addition to any baseball (or Japan) lover's library."
Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and the Meaning of Ichiro
"Wonderfully researched and brought to life in lively prose... Fitts, a master at depicting all 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....a powerful snapshot of men from two contrasting cultures attempting to stop a slide into aggression."
"Fitts presents a magnificent account of the 1934 baseball tour of Japan in Banzai Babe Ruth."