White are the
Among the tall grasses
The summer grass,
The baseball players are seen.
(1867-1902), translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa, University of
portentous resident of the city of Hiroshima (pop.: 400,000) is the 28-year-old
Californian who plays in the outfield for its major league Carp. The city's
fans, who in 1958 will pass in record numbers beyond the ticket takers at the
brand-new Hiroshima Citizens' Ball Place, call him "Hweebah," which is
the way the Japanese deliver "Fibber," which in turn was his father's
version of "February," the month of Fibber's birth, in Fresno.
If nobody has
ever called him by his proper name, Satoshi, which means, in Japanese, wisdom,
and which much more accurately defines his character than Fibber, he has not
complained. Indeed, although he has borne through life his full share of small
disappointments, and—once at least—a measure of pure injustice, he has
confounded fate as he confounded the rivals of his football days at Fresno
State College, most of whom outweighed him by 50 pounds. "Nobody," he
recollects, "ever hit me real solid."
Hirayama's spiritual past, however, the citizenry of Hiroshima hears nothing.
His memory is notably weak in the matter of his own considerable achievement.
To his father in Lindsay, California—Tokuzo, called George—and to his wife Jean
in Hiroshima he has delegated the task of pasting up his scrapbooks, while
Fibber himself, in the language of Carp Manager Katsumi Shiraishi, "plays
baseball like baseball."
city's copious affection for him can only be ascribed to its conscious
appreciation of his present talents. For three years he has been the Carp's
gracefully aggressive right fielder, lead-off batter and spiritual focus, and
in this year of promise he continues to be its vital center, as the Carp, who
have never finished higher than fourth in the Central League, point their hopes
toward the top brackets.
conscious appreciation, like all activity in a city whose devastation is so
recent to memory, is in fact an expression of Hiroshima's profound necessity to
achieve something much more ennobling than a mere pennant at baseball.
Thorstein Veblen might have been describing the aroused temperament of this
historic community when he spoke of a people "brought up against an
imperative call to revise their scheme of institutions in the light of their
native instincts, on pain of collapse or decay."
A way of life is
sought which shall be more humane and democratic than the feudal pattern of the
Oriental past. Yet it can be nothing so simple-minded as the blind adoption of
all things American. In the person of Fibber Hirayama, whose ancestry is
Japanese, whose techniques are American and who contains in fine balance within
himself his double heritage, the humiliated but emergent city of Hiroshima
glimpses in ideal fusion of West with East.
Three years ago,
when Fibber Hirayama arrived with his bride in Hiroshima, he was greeted by
10,000 persons. He paled. "It was something terrible." Informed of the
possibility of a small welcoming committee, he had earlier requested
translation into Japanese of a speech which he had rehearsed upon the train
from Tokyo and which, when silence was established, he delivered at Hiroshima
station. When 10,000 people hallooed with laughter he was appalled. In
beginner's Japanese he had attempted to say, "I am Satoshi Hirayama. I will
do my best," but he afterward learned that he had committed the ludicrous
error of misusing a word, which caused him to say: "I am Satoshi Hirayama
and a splendid fellow."