Banzai Babe Ruth (Hardcover)

Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan

By Robert K. Fitts

University of Nebraska Press, 9780803229846, 368pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2012

List Price: 34.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


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 waving 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. Robert K. Fitts provides a wonderful story about baseball, nationalism, and American and Japanese cultural history.

About the Author

Robert K. Fitts graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received a PhD from Brown University. Originally trained as an archeologist of colonial America, Fitts left that field to focus on his passion, Japanese baseball. He is also the author of Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game and Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball (Nebraska, 2008).

Praise For Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan

"Banzai Babe deserves a spot in any baseball (or Japan) lover's library."—Robert Whiting, Wall Street Journal
-Robert Whiting

"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."—Publishers Weekly

"This dramatic story, equal parts baseball and history, should appeal to anyone interested in Japanese cultural and political history and the sports-politics nexus."—Library Journal

"The history lessons in Banzai Babe Ruth go well beyond merely chronicling the games and the players. 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
-James Bailey

"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
-Michael R. Stevens

"Banzai Babe Ruth is far more than just a sports story. . . . No one could have told this incredible story better than Robert K. Fitts."—ForeWord Reviews