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.
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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 DeCandidoCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved