Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan

By Robert K. Fitts | Go to book overview

10

Joseph Grew stretched out his long legs and put the final touches on the speech he would give the following evening at Hibiya Park to welcome the All Americans to Japan. He was constantly writing and giving speeches, thirty-five in his first year alone as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. His favorite was probably for the eightieth anniversary of Commodore Matthew Perry’s initial treaty with the Land of the Rising Sun—his wife, Alice, was Perry’s cousin, a fact Grew enjoying telling Japanese. Tall and thin, with gray hair, a mustache, and dark, bushy eyebrows, Grew was a Boston Brahmin—Groton, class of 1898, Harvard, class of 1902. His fussy sense of etiquette made him comfortable and popular with Japan’s aristocracy, but he had little understanding of most of Japan’s population or of the American ballplayers arriving the next day.

Although Grew was probably pleased with the speech, it read like most of his speeches—banal and pompous. “I am a ‘fan’ myself, decidedly so, and you may be sure that it is to me a great privilege, and it gives me one of those good old-time thrills that I used to get in exuberant youth, to find myself on the same platform with some of the doughty warriors whose names and valiant achievements have been just as familiar as those of the old Greek heroes of whom I learned at school but who could never quite compete in my youthful estimation with our own heroes of the diamond.” At least it was short and ended with an appropriate message of goodwill: “I am confident that the result of your visit here will be a further contribution to the ideal of mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual friendship between our two countries.”

Grew hoped that the baseball tour would accomplish these modest goals. In general, he found that goodwill tours and cultural

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