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The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime Hardcover – April 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446531928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446531924
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,390,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whiting (You Gotta Have It) offers an intriguing glimpse into Japanese culture and the way baseball has shaped society in that country, as players wrestle with their desire to compete against the world's best while honoring the rigid mores of their homeland. The book isn't so much about Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki as it is about every Japanese player who made the jump to the U.S. before and after him, how they fared and what role they played in America's pastime-like the aloof Kasuhisa Ishii, the flamboyant "spaceman" Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the underachieving Hideki Irabu, famously derided by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner as a "fat, pussy toad." A few have succeeded, some have failed and many still toil in the U.S. Equally intriguing is super-agent Don Nomura, who found the loopholes in the Japanese players' contracts (league rules were translated from American minor league baseball's from the 1930s) that enabled the pioneers to make the break for Major League Baseball. Whiting effectively sprinkles in Japanese words to explain and illustrate principles and customs, and his extensive knowledge of both baseball and culture in that country makes for a compelling read. Details such as Hideki Matsui's taste for adult movies, the real genesis of his Godzilla nickname and Hideo Nomo's demand for large payments for print and TV interviews back in Japan add flavor, and reportage on Kazuo Matsui signing with the Mets this past off-season keeps the book up to the minute.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The author of You Gotta Have Wa (1989), about the nature of Japanese baseball, wraps his occasionally purple prose around first Seattle Mariner star Ichiro Suzuki and then other Japanese players who came to the big leagues in this country. He also examines American players and managers who went to play in Japan, such as Bobby Valentine and Alfonso Soriano. Ichiro (tellingly known by his one name only, like Cher or Bono) led the most Japanese of lives, trained by his father from earliest childhood and then in the Japanese style of baseball drill, which closely resembles boot camp. Ichiro's almost magical style and speed are grounded in that training but were allowed to blossom only when he was free of it. Despite reading a bit repetitiously, this collection of essays delivers considerable insight into the near-opposite American and Japanese approaches to baseball and to the culture of the game. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jack Fitzgerald VINE VOICE on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Robert Whiting has written several books about Japanese baseball, including "You Gotta Have Wa" and "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat." His latest effort, "The Meaning of Ichiro..." is a good bookend for the other two, in that here he details Japanese players finding their way to the U.S. Major Leagues. The title is a bit misleading, because the book is not strictly about Ichiro, but also deals with success stories such as Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, Kazuo Matsui and the challenges to a player like Hideki Irabu.

Whiting includes a lot of interesting history, some of it rehashed from earlier volumes, but necessary here if one is to read this as a stand alone piece. He details the birth of baseball in Japan, how it became Japanized with the intense training, and some early experiences in cross-cultural play with teams from the United States. There is also some philosophy, for it is important to understand the Japanese culture and mindset, as well as the almost martial training that players endure in Japan. All very fascinating stuff.

The bulk of the book focuses on those players since 1995 who have made their way across the Pacific to play for teams in North America. The stories about Ichiro, Nomo and Hideki Matsui are near-mythical, and one has to wonder how much truth was embellished by their families and coaches. But aren't the stories of players of this caliber always near-mythical?

While the prose reads well, and Whiting is very knowledgeable about the Japanese game, I found numerous factual errors. Ichiro was born in 1973, but the book had him entering junior high school in 1975! Now that's precocious. Probably a typo, but in a baseball book, errors with dates and stats are killers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kit Houseman on April 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Following the out-of-print The Chrysanthemum and the Bat (1977) and You Gotta Have Wa (1990), The Meaning of Ichiro can be looked at as the third in a trilogy of Robert Whiting books on Japanese baseball. (He also did an as told to book with Warren Cromartie). In it, Whiting pursues the next logical step, looking at the impact Japanese players have had on the American game, and how this has changed the relationship between the two countries in terms of society in general as well as in the baseball world. Whiting examines the make-up of various Japanese players and how it affected their success in the American big leagues. Besides Ichiro, he discusses Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hideki Irabu, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and Hideki Matsui, among others. He also looks at how foreign managers have fared in Japan, paying particular attention to Bobby Valentine?s tenure as skipper of the Chiba Lotte Marines. Whiting points out that for many years, Americans played in Japan, but no Japanese played in the U.S and he supports a conclusion that the emergence of Japanese stars in the major leagues has been a good thing for the relationship between the two countries. This is good reading for those who are interested in international baseball and how foreign relations are effected outside of strictly diplomatic circles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Ping on October 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Whiting revisits the experience of Japanese baseball, only this time through the eyes of Japanese players playing in the US. The biographies are well-written and focused as Whiting chooses to elaborate only on the most interesting or most pivotal points of each player's experience. But perhaps most impressive is Whiting's balanced understanding of race, racism, and nationalism on both the Japanese and American sides of the Pacific. Whiting doesn't pull any punches when addressing these issues but then again he doesn't hit harder than is warranted.

I particularly liked this book because it covers the period of time during which I've been a resident of Japan (96 to present). While the earlier title "You Gotta Have Wa" was an excellent read, it felt a bit dated to me as it descibes an earlier period I never experienced firsthand. Japan has changed a bit since the bubble days and in this book Whiting manages to concisely convey many of those changes through several viewpoints. I highly recommend it even if you've already read "Wa."
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Reade on June 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Meaning of Ichiro is Robert Whiting's third book about America's game and its Japanese counterpart. Superficially based around an examination of the impact of Ichiro Suzuki and other Japanese baseball players on baseball in America and Japan, Whiting provides some insights into the games themselves and the men who play them.
But while You've Got To Have Wa, Whiting's first book, provided the first real look into baseball as it is played in Japan, The Meaning of Ichiro brings very little new to the table. Whiting's points about the differences between baseball in the two countries are basically a rehash of things he's said in previous books. The only new material he provides is in the way of biographies, but these are mostly just quickly sketched vignettes (with the exception of his discussion of manager Bobby Valentine) that offer almost no interesting material beyond the occasional player scandal that received attention in Japan but not in the U.S. His analysis is shallow at best, often times providing little more then the stat lines for a particular player.
The biggest weakenss of The Meaning of Ichiro though is its lack of coherence. You've Got To Have Wa, an excellent book, neatly tied its combination of analysis and annecdotes together. The Meaning of Ichiro does not fit nearly so well. Chapters have very little connection between them. In fact, the constant repition of certain pieces of information makes it feel as if the chapters were all written independently then cobbled together at the last minute. In general, the book sorely lacks an editor, a failing that is additionally evidenced in the relatively large number of typos and grammar mistakes that made it through to the final printing.
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