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Relaxed off the field, enjoying what is essentially a vacation trip (Robinson, Carey and Kucks are all on their honeymoons for that matter), the Yankees were still paying their Japanese hosts the ultimate compliment of serious baseball on the diamond.
Nobody was pretending that Japanese play yet was completely in a league with the American, but to Casey's eye it was improving fast. "Now some day if you said you had four or five players who could hit and five players who could play like the Japanese do now, you'd have the same as an American team because the American teams got too much punch for triples and doubles—the Japanese are going to come out sometime with a Rizzuto who can execute every type of play or a Nellie Fox of the White Sox or a Maranville, who can execute plays even though they are small of stature, and they're bright from the shoulders up."
It was cold outside, but the coaches were overheated and stuffy. Up front in the car a desultory card game was in progress. For anyone who cared to listen, Stengel started declaiming. Autograph hunters were interfering with pregame practice, he was saying. "You don't want to see a lousy infield for 50,000 people just for some autographs, d'ya? Those people who come out for six or 10 hours, they want to see a good workout. Sure. Now you saw that one a couple days ago. A disgrace, that's what. We're paid to look good out there." Around him a couple of his audience nodded.
Farther back in the car, Umpire John Stevens was talking about the rules-interpretation meetings and umpiring clinics he had been conducting with Japanese umpires. Quiet, likable Bill Dickey dozed, while Jim Turner, Stengel's pitching coach, gazed out at the stations flashing by. They clicked past like the stations south of Chicago—only this was another country and the stations had strange names: Samegai, Maibara, Hikone.
NOT SO FAR FROM HOME
"You never know how the other half lives until you get here," said Turner, "and then of course it's not the other half any more." Turner is from Nashville, and he has a soft Tennessee voice. He went on, comparing the places in Japan he had been so far. "I've watched the people everywhere we've gone. I like to look at their faces. You know, if I were picking a place to live here, have a home and have a business, I think I'd take Osaka. I like it better than Tokyo."
Osaka or Tokyo, it was still a long way from Nashville. But the Yankees—and all the American baseball players before them—had helped make it a lot less far. In this context, it made little difference that the Yankees were winning everywhere (only one tie marred their record); visiting American teams usually won anyway. Or that on that three-and-two pitch in Nagoya, while the bank buster was scooping up the 2 million yen, the Japanese batter had grounded out, and the locals had lost seven to nothing.
The sport itself was the thing. The fan in the grandstand knew it. The Prime Minister of Japan, a sound politician who stuck a Yankee cap on his head as he greeted members of the Yankee party; knew it, too. Even history knew it. As the 1955 Yankees entered Koshien Stadium they passed a bronze plaque bearing a bas-relief of a baseball player. On it was an inscription that read: "In memory of Babe Ruth (1895-1948) who played at Koshien Stadium in 1934."
They were there to play baseball, and play baseball they did. But in between—when they were not at official receptions or making theater appearances—the Yankees and their wives had fun being tourists. They visited tearooms, tried out chopsticks, went shopping for kimonos and were entertained by geisha