Even after success has been thwarted on the larger stage of the season, or even the game, there is always the next batter at the plate. The third chapter introduces the players themselves: how they are recruited, how they negotiate their contracts, their lives as professional athletes and after retirement, and the ambivalent status of the foreign players. Baseball generates a plethora of statistics that are used to evaluate the performance of the individual players, but in spite of these statistics it is difficult if not impossible to completely isolate the performance of one player from that of the team (87).
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Unlike the Yomiuri Giants and the Chunichi Dragons, Hanshin was not a media company, which gave the team less leverage in dealing with the media (175). Kelly points out that many fans see themselves in the same predicament, since they themselves are subject to periodic assessments of their work performance, assessments that they may not feel accurately reflect their contribution to the company. This connects with one of his main themes: the team (or its coverage in the media) as a melodrama of the workplace. Chapter 4 introduces us to the manager and coaches, in particular the ones active during the author’s fieldwork.
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The Swallows won the Central League for the second year running with one of the most dominant runs the NPB has seen in recent years, and with odds-on MVP favorite Munetaka Murakami continuing to raise the bar higher and higher, it's going to take something special to prevent the Japan Series trophy from winding up in Tokyo again. He describes a typical game day, the baseball season, and the annual cycle as well: since throughout most of the 20th century baseball was the dominant professional sport in Japan, it is the focus of media attention throughout the year. He makes a perceptive point about the cyclical nature of baseball, both within a single game, and over a season. “The manifold times of baseball kept everyone in the game, building suspense while deflecting frustration … ” (64).
In the first chapter Kelly explains how he got started on this research, introduces us to the team, and outlines the rest of the book. (If I were reviewing the book for a journal of sport history or sociology I would have a different task. ) The important point Kelly makes in this regard is that the Hanshin sportsworld does not merely reflect a certain moment in the history of a certain area of Japan, but it also helped to construct that moment and place (209). Kelly goes even further, and perhaps this is where the delay in publication has made a positive contribution. On the other hand, there are about 90 working in the front office and the parent company. Kelly provides an organizational chart of the front office (111), and writes of a division between what he calls the “suits” and the “uniforms, ” noting that “every decision about a salary offer, a trade, or a draft was both a ‘baseball’ decision and a ‘business’ decision … ” (124).
Japanese baseball teams are owned by companies whose main business is in another industry, and the team usually runs a deficit that the parent company writes off as a “public relations loss leader” (107). There are about 100 players, coaches, trainers and others associated with the team, including those on the farm team. “They made Hanshin baseball meaningful” (152). The daily sports newspapers took the central role in this construction, rather than the obvious suspect, television. Kelly takes us through the nuts and bolts of how the print media, radio and television cover the team.
Chapter 6 is about the fans. Anyone who has been to a game or watched one on TV has probably been struck by the organized, orderly and incessant cheering. Kelly describes in some detail how this was organized during his fieldwork, and a little of the history as well, focusing on the Private Alliance of Hanshin Tiger Fan Clubs (Hanshin Taigāsu shisetsu ōendan). The monograph itself can be read from a variety of perspectives. At its most basic it is detailed reportage. The bulk of the book is a dense and deep look at the world of the Hanshin Tigers: the players themselves; the team, the club, and the parent company–the Hanshin Electric Railroad Corporation; and the media, which “fabricate” the narratives that engage the fans and provide much of the material for this book. When this is the case, the simplest and most reliable solution is to use a VPN service to change your IP address to a different location.
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As reportage, this book will be essential to readers who seek to learn more about the Tigers, and baseball and sport in Japan. But the book goes beyond mere reportage to weave those elements into a larger analysis of the history, culture, and society of Japan, and for this reason will be of interest to readers who are not necessarily curious about sport, baseball, or the Hanshin Tigers per se. Since many of the readers of this journal very likely fall into this category, one task of this review is to demonstrate the relevance of the book to the study of (contemporary) Japan. As he writes in the Appendix, “A Note on the Research and Writing, ” the book is written in past tense, rather than the usual practice of writing in the “ethnographic present, ” to acknowledge the “consequential changes” that have taken place in baseball in Japan since the years described in this book (281).
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