The low point inthe life of Joe Stanka came when he chalked up an earned run average of nine,pitching in Class D ball down in Oklahoma, and got optioned to the Duncan Utts.Joe remembers the ERA with a kind of wry pride because he looked up thepitching records the next year to see if there was anybody in the whole oforganized baseball who had topped (or bottomed) him for that season. He foundthat he ranked 26th from the bottom among the 3,500-odd pitchers in the minorleagues. As for what happened with the Duncan Utts, he says, "How can youwin with a name like that? The guy who owned the club was Otto Utts. He thoughtthe team should be named after himself. The night games were murder. Sevenlight poles, each with a 300-or 400-watt bulb. We had to wade throughgrass."
The lights arefine where Joe is playing now, and his earned run average has been highlysatisfactory. He often pitches before giant crowds in beautiful major leagueparks. A national television figure, he is one of the best known of Americansto millions of baseball fans, a target for autograph hounds, a man so famousthat on one occasion when he stopped in a furniture factory on some personalbusiness he was recognized by the workmen and production stopped dead. He was ahero of last year's pennant race, pitching in four games in the big series, andhas become one of the best-paid ballplayers in the country. The only trouble isthe country is Japan.
Most Americansnever heard of Joe Stanka. He is considered the best of the 20 Americans whoare playing in the two Japanese major leagues: the Pacific and the Central. The12 teams in these two leagues last year drew 8,718,000 enthusiasts to theirgames, a few thousand short of the total National League attendance in the U.S.Joe's team is the pennant-winning and perennially popular Nankai Hawks ofOsaka, in the Pacific League. He lives with his wife Jean and their threechildren in a hillside house at the foot of Mount Rokko, just above Kobe andclose to Osaka. Three of the six Pacific League teams are located in theOsaka-Kobe area, where some 6 million Japanese are concentrated. It is a50-minute trip from Joe's home to Namba Stadium, the Hawks' ball park, andabout an hour to the stadiums of the other two Pacific League teams in. thearea, so Joe travels to most of the games each season merely by taking thesubway or a short train ride. He is a 220-pound, 6-foot 5-inch athlete with afriendly pink face, sandy hair, clear blue eyes and an air of cool, quietauthority, all of which makes him an extremely conspicuous gaijin, orforeigner, among the baseball fanatics who are his fellow subwaypassengers.
In the clubhouse,where the other members of the Hawks treat him with friendly deference andconsideration and the Hawks' road secretary, who speaks English, acts asinterpreter, Joe Stanka is also an extremely conspicuous ballplayer. He towersso far over the rest of the team that he sometimes looks as though he had beenoptioned to the Little League. And on the field, when the Hawks arc playing theHankyu Braves or the Nishitetsu Lions, Joe would be exceptional among Japanesepitchers even if he weren't so tall. Japanese pitching runs to sidearm andsubmarine work. This makes Joe's full overhand delivery, coming from such aheight, all the more difficult for the Japanese batter and, incidentally, makeshim seem even more than ever a gaijin to the fans. Tourists who drift into abaseball game at Namba Stadium in Osaka these days are startled to seethemighty frame and beaming Occidental face of Joe Stanka rising above hisJapanese teammates—though Japanese ballplayers are generally 5 feet 10 or so,tall by Oriental standards.
June 24, 1962
Americans,however, rarely see Joe Stanka pitch, and few of them—outside of Oklahoma—haveever heard of him. If they have, they think of him as a big fish in a smallpond. But for a baseball player, what a pond Japan has become! "I know wedrew 250,000 to 500,000 people in the street," Casey Stengel told anenthralled Senate hearing a few years back, describing a Yankee postseason tripto Japan, ' "in which they stood in front of the automobiles, not on thesidewalks." Japan is, in every respect, a baseball-mad country. Little kidsplay baseball—yakyu—in the rice fields. Workers keep their baseball mitts intheir lockers and bolt their lunch in order to get in enough time forketchibaru. American baseball expressions have been adopted intact (except fora brief chauvinistic period during the war, when Japanese substitutes wereused), but Japanese pronunciation gives them a flavor of their own. "Prayborru! the umpire shouts, and the broadcasters start jabbering about striku!Safu! outu! and homu run! White-jacketed vendors hustle about the standsselling softo drinku, Pepusi-Coru, icu creamu and cold hot dogs, not to mentionpeanuts, popcorn and the local equivalent of Cracker Jack. Almost everyJapanese factory has its own baseball team. No geisha party seems completewithout a bit of foolishness known as the baseball dance. In the springtimepeople by the thousands pay money to watch the intrasquad games of theirfavorite teams. The season opens early in April, and tens of thousands offanatically loyal followers of the Flyers, Hawks, Giants, Tigers, Buffaloes,Dragons, Swallows, Whales and Carps fill the parks day after day until theseason ends in October, and the Japan Series, between the pennant winners ofthe Central and the Pacific leagues, settles the championship of Japan. Thework pace
of the nation slows to a shuffle as television and radio carry the games to themost remote rice hamlet and fishing village. College baseball, played in boththe spring and fall seasons, draws crowds up to 60,000, gets fullradio-television coverage and raises so much national blood pressure that itcan only be compared to big-time college football in the U.S.
The full impactof Japan's total fascination with baseball was brought home to one Americanobserver a couple of weeks ago when he and his wife took a cruise throughJapan's beautiful Inland Sea. The ship was a luxury liner, and the cruise wasthe classic scenic voyage of Japan, through the famous 310-mile-long sea, pastthousands of pine-studded islands rising from the salty mists like paintings onancient Japanese scrolls. Traditionally passengers are supposed to watch thewhirlpools go by, admire the white beaches and the lovely landscapes of theInland Sea National Park, and savor the warm spring days when the apricots andazaleas and cherry trees are in bloom. And so the foreign passengers did. Mostof the Japanese, however, were staring at a baseball game on the steamer'stelevision set or avidly listening to the broadcast of the same game that wascarried over the ship's loudspeaker system. The American asked a fellowpassenger which big league teams were playing. "This isn't a big leaguegame," the Japanese said indulgently. "This is a high schoolgame."
How does JoeStanka fit into this scene of national yakyu madness, and what has made him aJapanese hero? He had never been abroad before he landed at the Osaka airport alittle over two years ago, and he spoke no Japanese whatever. He had grown upin a succession of small Oklahoma towns, the son of a railroad repairman, andin his high school days there was certainly no television coverage when oneOklahoma high school baseball team played another. Joe only dabbled in baseballin those days, and when he went to Oklahoma A&M on a scholarship he playedbasketball. He married at 17, dropped out of college and started to work on therailroad. The only baseball he played was a little semipro ball on the side,and though he was talented enough to come to the notice of the Dodgers'scouting system, nothing came of it then. It wasn't until two years later, in1950, that baseball began to look like a better way of life to Joe. There was arailroad strike, he wasn't earning any money, and a baby was on its way. So hewent into minor league ball, pitching for Ponca City in the K-O-M(Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League) for $150 a month.
His memories areof bouncing around the country on buses and local trains, putting up at gloomyhotels, eating at greasy spoons and losing. After his deplorable start withPonca City and his appalling record with the Duncan Utts, the Duncan teamfolded, the franchise was shifted to Shawnee, and Joe went to the new club inthe last month of the season. There he won one and lost eight. He alsodelivered 10 wild pitches in his brief stay with Shawnee, walked 69 men, gaveup 11 home runs and hit three batters. His earned run average wasn't exactlynine—it was 8.72—but for a long time Joe was under the discouraging impressionthat it was the highest in organized baseball. (A mysterious figure namedBryant of Hazard, Kentucky, in the Mountain States League, had the highest ERAthat year: 14.79.)
During thewinters Joe worked in an Oklahoma furniture store. In his second season he wasback with Ponca City. He won 16, lost five, struck out 132 men and helped histeam win the pennant. At Pueblo he won seven and lost 11. With Cedar Rapids thefollowing season he won 12, lost eight, struck out 155 batters and turned in anearned run average of 2.35, best in the league. Wally Moon, Jim Lemon, WoodieHeld and Jim Gentile were among the sluggers in the league that Joe pitched in;they were sharpening their fangs on aspiring minor league pitchers. With Macon,Joe won 16 and lost five, his earned run average of 2.99 just a shade higherthan that of Luis Arroyo.
Joe's performancein Macon led to a trial with Los Angeles in the Pacific Coast League. It was adisaster. Joe pitched four innings and gave up four runs, achieving once againan earned run average of nine. But at Des Moines (Class A) he won 17 and lostnine—which resulted in his being yoyoed to Sacramento in the Coast Leagueagain.
That ended hiswanderings for a while, and all these intricate moves in his minor league dayshad a profound influence on his later experiences in Japan, where players areconsciously given a sense of security by their team and made to feel that theirfuture will be provided for in one way or another. Holdouts in Japan, forexample, are paid 25% of their salary for the period in which they refuse tosign, a player is traded only after long discussions as to whether the tradewill really be of benefit to him, and if a player is entirely washed up, theclub does all it can to find him a job.
There was nothinglike that in Joe's four years with Sacramento (nor would there have been on anyother team in any other league in the U.S.). In his first year at Sacramento,Joe won five and lost 14, the only satisfying part of the experience being thathe wasn't immediately shipped to Evansville or worse but was given anotherchance. In 1957 he won 10 and lost 14, the next year it was 10 and 14, and in1959 he won 12 and lost 12. It was part of Joe Stanka's ill-starred minorleague fate, however, that whenever he was going strong (Sacramento was asecond-division club) somebody else was going better. Rival pitchers on theCoast in those days included Ryne Duren, who struck out 183 batters the yearJoe struck out 108, along with promising beginners like Ernie Broglio, ChuckEstrada, Mudcat Grant and Arroyo. Among the heavy sluggers were Tommy Davis,Lenny Green, Brooks Robinson, Rocky Colavito, Gene Freese, Gus Bell, WillyMcCovey, Vada Pinson, Felipe Alou and Clay Dalrymple, to name only a few ofhalf a hundred players who were well on their way to the majors. They arrived,blazed brightly and went on and up while Joe remained at Sacramento.
In Joe's thirdyear there, for example, he faced a newcomer named Maury Wills, who had beenlearning to bat left-handed and tried out as a switch-hitter the first timeStanka faced him. Wills got two hits off Joe in that game and has been aswitch-hitter (and a big leaguer) ever since.
Stanka heardabout baseball in Japan in those years. When the Japanese major leagues werereorganized after the war, a Los Angeles businessman, Tsuneo Harada, known asCappy, was an American officer with the Occupation Forces and an aide toGeneral MacArthur. Cappy was a Nisei (an American of Japanese ancestry) and hehelped arrange postseason visits by American teams to Japan. Harada was, ofcourse, outside the organized apparatus of Japanese baseball, but after hereturned to the States he became a useful talent scout, locating Americanplayers (principally Nisei in Hawaii) who became Japanese stars. On a visit toSan Francisco, Harada gave a breakfast and talked to half a dozen Sacramentoplayers, Joe among them, about the prospects of playing with Japaneseteams.
Nothing came ofthe meeting then, for Joe was bought by the White Sox, reportedly for $30,000,in the last month of the 1959 season, when the Sox were battling the Indiansfor the pennant. In Chicago the outlook seemed excellent. "They gave me agood chance," Joe says. His first major league appearance came in thesecond game of a doubleheader with the Tigers. He relieved in the fifth inning,gave up one hit in the next 3‚Öì innings, got a hit himself, batted in a run andscored a run as the Sox won 11-4. But an eighth-inning appearance a few dayslater was the reverse. The first man he faced was Woodie Held, the terror ofthe Central League in Joe's old Cedar Rapids days. Woodie smacked a pitch 450feet into the center field seats for a homer. It was what the poetic Japanesecall a sayonara (goodby) home run, or sayonara homah, to be exact. Clevelandwon 6-5.
It was nearlysayonara between Joe and the White Sox after that. A training mix-up cloudedthe rest of his stay and had a lot to do with his decision to try Japan. He hadpulled a muscle and the Sox trainer advised him not to pitch for a while. Joesays that communications failed and Manager Al Lopez didn't know about theinjury, with the result that both Lopez and General Manager Hank Greenberg cameto feel that Joe was ducking assignments. Joe, in turn, didn't know how theyfelt until he stopped by Greenberg's office to discuss money matters (thepapers said he wanted $10,000 for the next year), and Greenberg snapped at him,"You've got guts!"
Joe never pitchedagain for the White Sox. Ineligible to play in the World Series because he hadjoined the club too late in the season, he morosely watched it from the stands.Later that year in Venezuela, where he was playing winter ball, Joe took stockof his career. "My future looked like it wouldn't be much different fromthe last 10 years. Even if I made it in the majors it still didn't look as ifI'd save any money. The majors aren't all that great unless you're awfullygood. There are guys in the big leagues making less than $10,000. I figured Icould do better in Japan. I decided to call Cappy."
Cappy Harada cameright back to say that there was a pitcher's job open on the Nankai Hawks, butit might go to somebody else if Joe hesitated too long. The job was for apitcher who could be counted on to win 15 games during the season. The WhiteSox had asked Joe to turn up for spring training, but he hadn't signed hiscontract for 1960. He told Greenberg he wanted to be placed on the voluntaryretired list. He didn't mention that he intended to go to Japan.
"Greenbergasked me what I had more important to do than play ball in the big league,"Joe says. "He thought I was just making the usual play for more money."To clinch his voluntary retired status, Joe should have sent a letter of hisintentions directly to the baseball commissioner's office. Instead, he says, hesent it to the White Sox office for forwarding, and "that was where I mademy big mistake." Greenberg had proposed to him that the White Sox hold the.letter until it was clear that Joe was not going to change his mind aboutleaving baseball.
By the timeGreenberg realized that Joe wasn't merely holding out for a better contract,Joe was on his way to Japan. His letter apparently never reached thecommissioner's office. The case excited quite a bit of newspaper discussionwhen it eventually came into the open—one veteran columnist said Joe was themost stubborn rookie in the history of baseball—and Joe had a sense of disquietwithout being really worried. "I knew there would be trouble," hesaid.
He was met at theOsaka airport by Japanese newspapermen and Kazuto Tsuruoka, the manager of theNankai Hawks, a grizzled old baseball warrior. "When I left Oklahoma it wassnowing," Joe said, "and here it was spring." The newsmen,observing his vast frame, pink features and pleasant manners, were pleased athow completely a gaijin he was. Soon he was tooling into town with his newmanager, while Tsuruoka explained the problem. The Hawks had won the pennantthe year before, but their pitching ace, Tadashi Sugiura, had turned in 38 winswith only four losses, plus four sensational Series victories, and the managerdoubted that he could repeat. Hence the requirement for a pitcher who could win15.
Joe won 17 in hisfirst season with the Hawks, while losing 12. His 2.48 earned run average wassixth in the league. But the buildup had been such that some fans weredisappointed. At a loss as to how to communicate an idea of Joe's awesome sizeto Japanese readers, newsmen had compared him to a sumo champion, those portlyman-mountains. Joe was expected to perform gargantuan feats in keeping with hisbulk. It was a letdown to find that he was only human on the mound, and hiswildness for a time led to his being known as Beanball Yank. The sportswritersexpected lots of lively copy from him, and Joe was too much of a nice guy and aworkmanlike performer to produce it. The language barrier was formidable.Things were touchy when Joe lost his temper during a game and began yelling athimself. Manager Tsuruoka says diplomatically that Joe revealed his deepconsideration for the team "when he told us that he was just criticizinghimself for his own mistakes and not being insulting to his teammates." Asfor his own relations with Joe in those early days, Tsuruoka says, "At thebeginning he would come and say 'Let me pitch,' but now he just awaits hisorders."
The superstarSugiura won 31 and lost 11. But the Hawks finished in second place. And at thestart of his second Japanese season Joe was doing so badly that even taciturnManager Tsuruoka said publicly, "Joe's good, but he doesn't seem to bedependable." Then in the middle of the season Sugiura was sidelined witharm trouble. The Hawks blew a 10-game lead. It was at this low point that Joebegan to carry a double burden, became a national celebrity and more than livedup to his publicity. The Hawks made a painful comeback, with Joe now the mostimportant pitcher on the club. Going into a decisive five-game series at theend of the season, Joe gave the Hawks a psychological edge with a one-hitter,facing only 27 men. He then won a second game and saved a third. His record forthe year was 15-11, with many of the victories bunched in. the last crucialweeks, and the Hawks won the pennant.
But Stanka's winsalso got him in trouble across the ocean. As the winning streak continued,rival teams in the Pacific League began to pressure the Japanese baseballcommissioner to see whether Joe was really eligible to play in Japan. The WhiteSox protested that Joe was their property. Commissioner Ford Frick was asked totake legal action against the Japanese for enticing Joe away. He was called anoutlaw, no better than the major leaguers who jumped to Mexican baseball afterthe war. As for Joe, he said, "It's unconstitutional, un-American andeverything else!" and went on winning Japanese ball games. He opened theJapan Series by shutting out the Yomiuri Giants of the Central League. He waswinning the fourth Series game when the luck that was making him one of Japan'sfavorite gaijins ran out. In the ninth inning, with the Hawks comfortably aheadand two out, Joe got the batter to loft a simple pop fly. The first basemandropped it. That was bad enough, but next came an incredibly bad call by theumpire on what should have been the third strike. It made Joe so furious thathe ran to the plate, keeping his hands behind him and rocking the umpire withhis chest while he berated him. The batter then got the game-winning hit.Rushing off the field, Joe bowled over the umpire, and the police had to chargeout on the field to break up a riot of fans, players and umpires at home plate.Joe won the fifth game 6-3 but lost the sixth 3-2. So the Hawks lost theSeries, and Joe was awarded a motorcycle and a citation known as the FightingSpirit Award for his trouble. The owner of the Hawks was so grateful for Joe'sperformance that he sent him to a jewelry store to pick out a pearl necklaceand earrings for his wife. "It was a wonderful thing to do," said Joe,"especially since the club wasn't sure I'd be back next season."
Joe obviouslycompares this treatment to his life during his various baseball frustrations inthe U.S. He spent much of last winter straightening out his affairs with theWhite Sox and getting taken off the list of disqualified ballplayers. TheHawks, reluctant to admit any wrongdoing but eager to keep him, urged him toclear the air by buying his own contract from the White Sox. He bought it for$15,000 (paying in installments), having been promised by the Hawks that themoney would be made up over the coming seasons. Although the settlement put himback in good standing, he remains angry at a system which he says treatsballplayers like slave labor and forbids a man to make a personal move tobetter his earnings and way of life. Like most of the American ballplayers inJapan, he prefers conditions there. ' "Mantle doesn't get any bettertreatment in the U.S. than we do here," he says. "These people arealways asking us, "Are you happy? Can we do anything for you?' "
Other Americansare basking in the same pleasant glow. Don Newcombe, currently starting a newphase of his career with the Chunichi Dragons, has an $18,000 contract. CarlPeterson, who was once Stanka's teammate at Sacramento, is now the thirdbaseman with the Nankai Hawks. Peterson is a solid, dependable, bespectacledveteran who generally batted around .300 in the Coast League and ran into atough obstacle when he reached the majors. He was brought up by both the WhiteSox and the Orioles, but his luck was no better than Stanka's. He was insurancewith the White Sox in case a newcomer who was trying out for shortstop didn'tmake it. The newcomer was Luis Aparicio, so Peterson went back to the minors."I played ball for 14 years in the States," he says. "I'm treated alot better here than 1 ever was there. I wish I had made the move a lotsooner."
The Taiyo Whales,who won the championship in 1960, finished last year in the cellar and arecurrently battling for the lead in the Central League, are counting heavily onthree Americans. Marcelino Agcaoili is a 22-year-old third baseman who wasdiscovered by a Whale scout in Hawaii, where he played on an Air Force team.Alfred Grunwald is a 31-year-old left-hander from Los Angeles with 10 years ofminor league experience. Jim McManus, 26, is a slow but hard-hitting firstbaseman, 6 feet 3 inches tall, from Chestnut Hill, Mass. He played with theKansas City Athletics and was one of the best batters on the Hawaiian Islandersof the Coast League last year, where the Whales met him during a goodwill tour.The Whales have built a new two-bedroom bungalow in Tokyo for him and his wifeand infant son, and McManus says he has no regrets for having bought hiscontract from the Athletics. "I couldn't be better treated," he saidpointedly, "if I was with the New York Yankees."
Kent Hadley, thethird American on the Hawks with Stanka and Peterson, was with Kansas City andthe Yankees. He was one of the figures in that famous deal three years ago inwhich the Yankees gave up Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern and MarvinThroneberry for Joe DeMaestri, Kent Hadley and an obscure outfielder namedRoger Maris. Hadley, a 27-year-old 190-pounder, was then considered to befirst-base insurance by the Yankees in case Bill Skowron's broken wrist didn'theal. Farmed out by the Yankees when Skowron appeared to be doing all right,Hadley went first to Richmond and had a fair season with San Diego lastyear.
But most of theAmericans on Japanese teams are Nisei. They look Japanese and are consideredJapanese by the fans. A star like Andy Miyamoto of the Giants, who won the MostValuable Player award after the Japan Series last fall and drove off with anautomobile as a reward, is a Hawaiian and blends right into the Japanesescenery. So does Wally Yonamine, three-time batting champion, who is now aplaying coach with the Chunichi Dragons. Other foreigners stand out more.Roberto Barbon, a dark Cuban second baseman with the Hankyu Braves, came toJapan soon after graduating from high school in Havana. His hitting is weak buthis Japanese is good, and Brave fans like his comic antics. Teammate LarryRaines is an American Negro who was a Pacific Coast League star and had a fullyear in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians. Mark Brownstein of theHanshin Tigers is the son of a businessman engaged in trade with Japan.Brownstein was a star pitcher with the University of Southern California andaccepted an offer from the Tigers because he "hoped to learn more aboutJapan."
Players likethese are acutely conscious of their extra-baseball responsibilities. As anextremely small and very conspicuous minority that could hardly be more in thepublic eye, they conduct themselves well. "I feel we can do 100% good forAmerica or 100% bad," Joe Stanka has said. "We're in thespotlight." The ambassadorial role sometimes comes hard to veteransaccustomed to the blistering language of minor league diamonds. But it is aidedby the innate good sportsmanship and friendliness of the Japanese stars.Shigeru Chiba, a former manager, says, "When I had a foreign player on myteam, a guy who came from the other side of the world, I wanted to talk to him.When he struck out, I wanted to say some words to comfort him, but I couldn't,and this distressed me." When Stanka is besieged by autograph seekers theydo not request his signature on a program. They hand him a card, about 10inches square, usually used for writing Japanese waka poems.
All this is along way from wading through the grass in semidarkness to another defeat withthe Duncan Utts. Joe now makes about $20,000 a year; he doesn't want to sayprecisely how much. "It's enough, anyway, so that I don't have to worryabout finding a winter job. I probably earn as much or more than most majorleaguers." By Japanese standards his salary isn't tops, for bonuses of$50,000 or more were paid for boys just out of high school. The owners have seta limit of $28,000 on bonuses, but it is largely ignored. Endorsements andpersonal appearances are lucrative extras for superstars. The clubs also shellout huge sums just to hang on to their top players who, under a humanitarianrule unique in Japan, become free agents after 10 years with the same team. Oneplayer whose salary was $25,200 earned another $78,400 as a stay-on bonus,making his year's earnings $103,600.
It is nowconventional for Americans, including players on visiting American teams, torate Japanese players as the equivalent of good Double-A or Triple-A talent inthe U.S. The Japanese lack the power for the heavy-hitting game that has beendominant in the U.S. since Babe Ruth, but their fielding is skillful and theirpitching is good. The general level of ability in a Japanese big league team isfar below its American counterpart; the players range from stars who could makeit in the American majors to raw boys out of high school. Dependence on thestars results in the al most un-Japanese cult of personality, withconcentration on individual heroics rather than team victory. Pitchers areoverworked. There are 20-30-and 40-game winners, and there are pitchers who areburned up fast. Japanese players are weak on fundamentals, simple strategy andwillingness to go all-out in seemingly hopeless situations. Mistakes are rarelycriticized. "A guy who gets a hit and then gets picked off will come backto the dugout and everybody congratulates him on the hit," says Stan-ka."They don't like to be criticized."
What the Japanesefeel they are learning from Americans like Stanka may be even more revealing. AJapanese authority, after pondering for a long time, said, "They hustle andnever give up." Manager Tsuruoka of the Hawks said Joe astonished theJapanese by the way he ran out grounders and covered first base. The manager ofthe Buffaloes believes that Japan is decades behind the U.S. in baseballbecause Americans play a wide-awake game, alert for every opportunity, and areconstantly developing new techniques. But for sheer, frenzied enthusiasm aboutbaseball, Japan has zoomed past the U.S. already. It is attracting the kind ofrugged youth who used to be drawn into military service in the old days ofJapanese militarism. "In a sense, baseball has replaced the army andnavy," says Kazuto Tsuruoka. Baseball is played with complete seriousness:Tsuruoka recently resigned as manager of the Hawks when they landed in thecellar.
In fact,everything about Japanese baseball is as amazing to the oldest student of Japanas it was a few years ago to Casey Stengel and is now to Joe Stanka. Whenfeudal Japan was first opened to the world there were idealistic spirits whohoped to give the nation the finest creations of Western culture, but what theJapanese have chosen for themselves, en masse, is a ball game that missionariesand teachers used to play in their spare time. There may be some sociologicalsignificance in that, or it may be merely another demonstration of the oldtruth that a pleasant aspect of the American character emerges when Americanslike Joe Stanka play baseball.