'Banzai Babe Ruth' By Robert K. Fitts

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In 1934, a group of Major League Baseball players, Babe Ruth among them, went on a tour of Japan to serve as ambassadors for the United States and the game of baseball. Robert K. Fitts wrote a book about the tour. Banzai Babe Ruth includes a number of interesting anecdotes, including one that involves Lou Gehrig's wife enjoying champagne and caviar in the Sultan of Swat's suite during the boat trip across the Pacific, much to the chagrin of her husband.

Bill's thoughts on Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan

When Babe Ruth headlined a team of Major Leaguers that toured Japan in 1934, Japanese fans turned out in large numbers to see him hit, cheer him as he paraded through their streets, and seek his autograph.

The response was so overwhelming that Joseph Grew, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, proclaimed that Ruth was "a great deal more effective Ambassador than I could ever be."

The affection was apparently mutual. Ruth enjoyed the reception he received, and his wife brought home lots of Japanese handicrafts and works of art with which to decorate their Manhattan apartment.

Seven years later, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Babe opened the window of that apartment and began throwing those items into the street, while his wife scrambled around attempting to save the most valuable stuff.

In 1934, U.S. newspapers celebrated the people of Japan for embracing Ruth and baseball. Their reasoning was that no people inclined to love baseball could be anything but admirable. After Pearl Harbor, the Sporting News opined that the Japanese "did not even deserve to play baseball."

Of such entertaining anecdotes and fascinating history is Banzai Babe Ruth made.

This segment aired on March 17, 2012.


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