- The Sportsworld of the Hanshin Tigers: Professional Baseball in Modern Japan by William W. Kelly
In The Sportsworld of the Hanshin Tigers: Professional Baseball in Modern Japan, William W. Kelly provides readers with an innovative and comprehensive look at the how a modern professional baseball team exists in many different and seemingly disparate worlds. The author uses the concept of the “sportsworld,” a concept Kelly admittedly borrows from Howard S. Becker’s notion of an “artworld,” which Kelly describes as “the matrix of diverse actors and interests whose common focus on art objects and diverse contributions created value” (13). Kelly sees this approach as applicable to the world of sports, explaining that “sports too can precipitate local worlds of performers and others, who form a direct and mediated social nexus around a team, a place, or a style” (14). The participants in this sportsworld, according to Kelly, radiate out from the Hanshin Tigers from a variety of sources: the players, managers, and coaches; the front office and the parent company; the media; the fans, spectators and others who care about the team in their home region (15). According to the author, all these entities “are essential to producing the events, the practices, and the feelings that constitute the Hanshin Tigers as a recognizable sportsworld and distinctive baseball identity” (15). Given these definitions, Kelly describes this work as being “devoted to exploring these parts of the Hanshin Tigers sportsworld, their relationships to each other and their roles in defining this sportsworld” (15).
Kelly begins the book with an introduction to the Hanshin Tigers and their place in both Japanese baseball and its home region. After this important introduction, the author divides the book into chapters on each specific aspect of the Tigers’ sportsworld: the stadium and the seasons in chapter 2; the players in chapter 3; the manager and coaches in chapter 4; the front office and parent corporation in chapter 5; the fans in chapter 6; and the media in chapter 7. The last three chapters, according to Kelly, provide additional context for the Hanshin Tigers experience. Chapter 8 is a short history of Japanese baseball, while chapter 9 provides chronological context, discussing the Tigers in the period before and after Kelly’s research trips, which lasted from 1996 to 2005, and also provides a broader discussion of the team in the context of the development of Japanese society. Chapter 10 examines the Tigers in the present. [End Page 91]
Given his task, Kelly put together an extraordinary study of one team and all the attendant pieces that make up the Hanshin Tigers sportsworld. It is certainly a complicated endeavor, yet necessarily so, because any sportsworld is exceptionally complicated. The relationship between all these elements is deep, and their interplay is central to Kelly’s examination of this rather unique world. Kelly’s research on this matter is also magnificent. He is clearly a master of the English language works on the subjects, yet it is Japanese-language research that stands out. Here, Kelly uses a significant number of Japanese secondary sources to supplement his primary research in the country. What emerges is a portrait of a team in multiple contexts.
Kelly does superb work navigating these different contexts to create the larger story of the Hanshin Tigers’ sportsworld. Too many times, a book about a particular team in a given sport truly does not contextualize that team’s experience; such books are mostly about the team and do not go far beyond that particular unit. Kelly, however, looks at the larger picture, with each chapter becoming part of ever-expanding concentric circles radiating out from the team at the center. The Hanshin Tigers are known for the fortunes of its players on the baseball field. Those players, however, exist in a complex web of interactions with many different entities. The whole of the combination of these interactions provides the reader with a picture of the Tigers on a local, regional...