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

By Robert K. Fitts | Go to book overview
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11

Massive, sleek, gleaming white, the Empress of Japan glided into an equally immaculate Yokohama Harbor. Once a vibrant hodgepodge of East and West, Yokohama combined European-style brick structures mixed with American clapboard homes and traditional Japanese cedar shops and dwellings. Japanese clad in loincloths and cotton jackets pulled rickshaws carrying white-gloved Western belles and top-hated beaus dressed in Victorian finery. That Yokohama died on September 1, 1923. The Great Kanto Earthquake leveled the city of 434,170. Fire consumed 85 percent of the city’s homes, killing 30,771. With millions of dollars of international aid, Yokohama rebuilt. Rubble from the destroyed buildings was used as fill to create the new harbor, featuring Yamashita Park with its formal gardens and tree-lined walkways.1

Captain Douglas slid the Empress into Pier 4 at eight in the morning. Running at top speed since leaving Honolulu, the ship had covered the 3,385 nautical miles in just six days, sixteen hours, and fifty-three minutes—a new world record.2 They had made up the time lost in the storm so the players would be able to attend the celebration at Meiji Shrine after all.

Five thousand fans lined Pier 4. Many waved American or Japanese flags, a few others “Welcome to Yokohama” banners. A special train chartered by the Yomiuri Shimbun had brought them to the pier from Tokyo. The train now sat idle, waiting to bring the ballplayers to the capital. The All Americans, dressed in somber suits, and their wives, sporting stylish furs and feathered hats, gathered on deck for the initial welcoming ceremony. Ruth leaned over the railing, waved, and shouted, “Banzai!”

“Banzai! Banzai!” five thousand shouted back.

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