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You've Gotta Have 'Wa'
Robert Whiting
September 24, 1979
"Wa" is the Japanese ideal of unity, team play and no individual heroes—a concept that ex-U.S. major-leaguers playing in Japan have had a lot of trouble grasping
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September 24, 1979

You've Gotta Have 'wa'

"Wa" is the Japanese ideal of unity, team play and no individual heroes—a concept that ex-U.S. major-leaguers playing in Japan have had a lot of trouble grasping

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"I don't think you can hit this pitcher," Nishimoto said.

"I can't hit him? I'm batting .340 against that guy!"

"Not tonight. That's my feeling. You're out."

That was too much for Spencer to take. He was in the dressing room changing into street clothes when he heard his name announced in the starting lineup. Nishimoto had put Spencer down as the third batter, but only because he was planning to "fool" the opposition by inserting a pinch hitter in the first inning.

Now Spencer was smoldering. When the game began and he heard the name of the second batter over the loudspeaker, he decided to get even. Clad in his underwear and shower clogs, he headed for the dugout. Grabbing a bat and smirking in the direction of Nishimoto, he strode out to the on-deck circle to take a few practice swings.

Spencer's entrance delighted the fans, and his picture was in all the papers the next day. Nishimoto was not amused. He ordered Spencer off the field and slapped him with a suspension and a $200 fine. Spencer paid up, later reporting with a wide grin, "It was worth every penny."

In 1972, John Miller became the first American to be released solely for his misconduct. Miller, who played briefly for the Yankees and Dodgers, arrived in Japan in 1970 and soon became the most dangerous batter on the Chunichi Dragons. He was a battler. A U.S. coach once said, "Miller is the kind of guy I'd want on my team. He'll fight you with everything he has. He doesn't know how to quit."

However, Miller wasn't the kind of guy the Japanese wanted. He was seldom on time for practice. If a workout was scheduled for 2 p.m., Miller would arrive at 2:10. This was more serious than it sounds, because his teammates would invariably be raring to go by 1:50.

"He always had some excuse," says a team official. "One day it would be because the traffic was heavy. Another day, he'd missed the train. He never once said he was sorry."

When reprimanded for being late, Miller's response was most un-Oriental: "Japanese customs are too military. I do good in the games, don't I? What else matters?"

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