Book Review – The Bass Diaries

Of all the foreigners who have played on the Hanshin Tigers baseball club, undoubtedly the most popular and accomplished is first baseman Randy Bass. He played for the team from 1983 to 1988, and won the league Triple Crown two consecutive seasons (1985 and 1986) while establishing the NPB record for highest batting average in a single season (.389 in 1986). Why, then, at age 34, did he suddenly stop playing baseball? What precipitated his sudden departure from NPB? The Bass Diaries (バースの日記) seeks to explain this, as well as give the reader a look into the life of one of NPB’s greatest import players.

The book starts with a foreword from Bass, explaining why he has decided to have his personal diary translated into Japanese and published for people to read. He also explains that he loves the Hanshin Tigers and all of their fans, and has nothing but great memories of being a player for the organization. The book literally is Randy Bass’s diary from 1985 to 1988, although the order in which it is shown is slightly different (1988, 1985, 1986, 1987). The reason for the changed order is because the most important part of the diary is what happened to Bass in the year he was released.

Let’s cut to the chase. Near the start of the 1988 season, Bass’ son, Zach, was diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumor and needed to be treated in the United States. Being the dedicated father that he is, instead of playing out the season while his son underwent treatment, Bass received permission from the team to return to America to be with his son for a month, after which he would return to the team. Unfortunately, treatment became more and more complicated, and although Bass communicated to the team that he needed more time, and despite what he thought was permission to extend his leave, the Tigers suddenly cut their star player loose. Then they insisted they were not responsible for his son’s medical bills, despite the clause in Bass’ contract stating otherwise. These negotiations are quite clearly recorded in his diary, which makes it clear that the organization was in the wrong.

On June 28, 1988, Randy Bass was unconditionally released from the Hanshin Tigers. The reason: he did not return to the team as promised on June 17.

On June 27, 1988, Randy Bass was unconditionally released from the Hanshin Tigers. The reason: he did not return to the team as promised on June 17.

The next chapters detail his (and the team’s) triumphant title run in 1985, his Triple Crown wins, his post-game fun — don’t worry, nothing scandalous about the Oklahoman senator — his investments, his thoughts about various teammates, rivals and coaches. Standing out in particular are his affiliations with foreigners on other teams (Warren Cromartie of the Giants among others) and his disdain for 1988 club manager Minoru Murayama.

Overall, this was a good read. There were definitely parts that could have been left out, though. Even his expressway tolls are recorded, translated and published here — is that really necessary, other than for us to know that the man kept track of his expenses? I really think it would have been better if Bass had taken a little more time and sat down with his translator and turned this into an autobiography or memoirs, rather than a pure translation of his day-to-day thoughts. The diary itself could have been the best source material for the book, which could have used a change of format, really.

Still, I’m glad I was able to learn a little more about the team’s history from the perspective of a man who is still revered as the equivalent of God and Buddha among Tigers fans (神様、仏様、バース様 – Kamisama, Hotokesama, Ba-su sama).

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