At age 29, Warren Cromartie was a solid major league ballplayer who'd put in eight respectable years with the Montreal Expos. Moving to Japan was the last thing he had in mind when he tested the free-agent market. But when the Tokyo Giants outbid the San Francisco Giants for his services, Cro gulped-then went to work.
And work he did�under circumstances few would imagine, through ordeals that tested his foreign grit, with a stubbornness and a perseverance that sur- prised even him. Suddenly, in a script that he would have been crazy to write himself, he found himself on top�a Japanese sports hero of the most unlikely sort.
�Slugging It Out in Japan� is the remarkable story of a man who did exactly what the title says. He slugged the baseball, flirting with a .400 average in his best season. He slugged a pitcher, a shock- ing breach of etiquette which nearly caused a riot. And he has slugged it out with the benign indifference of Japan, holding court on the quality of the game, the quality of life, human relations, racism, sex, industry, even the tensions between the United States and Japan.
From his childhood in a black ghetto in Miami where he first learned the game, to his turbulent years with the Expos�where he shared center stage with the likes of Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Gary Carter, and Steve Rogers�to his arrival in Tokyo where he was proclaimed a messiah, this is the story of Warren Cromartie's life. He is outspoken, he holds nothing back, he aims to provoke.
It is also the story of Cro's interracial marriage to a French-Canadian woman, his complex relationship with his father, and his friendship with Tokyo Giants' manager Sadaharu Oh, the great hitter who surpassed Hank Aaron's career home run record. Not only did Oh become Cromartie�s mentor�offering him invaluable les- sons in batting�but the two men developed a camaraderie (they were both heroes, both outsiders in Japan). They become lasting friends�so much so that Cro's third child bears the name Cody Oh Cromartie.
But if Cro is quick to hand it out, he also takes it. He earned his significant keep�of that there is little doubt�but he had to pay for its cost. When it was not adulation, it was humiliation, ridicule in the press, dis- crimination that was institutionalized, let alone separa- tion from family, loneliness, and isolation. Still, out of this isolation, in this very different country Japan, Warren Cromartie found a place where he belonged.
Funny, angry, as blunt as it is pointed, and insight- ful when one least expects it, �Slugging It Out in Japan� is the human portrait of a man grappling for identity and acceptance, struggling always to find his way, daring to take the chance.
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About the Author
Robert Whiting is the author of several books on Japanese baseball, including �The Chrysanthemum and the Bat,� �The Meaning of Ichiro,� and the landmark work �You Gotta Have Wa,� which David Halberstam called "one of the best of all books on modern Japan�far more than a sports book," and James Fallows said "is the most illuminating book I have read on Japan, and the funniest." Whiting has written for Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, and Penthouse, along with a weekly column for the Asahi Weekly. He lives in Tokyo.