For the last 50 years Japan has come under intense Western scrutiny from many quarters. Scholars, writers, professional men and women in different pursuits have contributed observations and analyses of Japanese thoughts and lifestyles and behavior. Bob Whiting crafted a way of his own to add to the body of work on Japan. He chose baseball.

Whiting did not set out to be a writer, far less to combine writing about sports with examining Japanese attitudes. He said, "I didn't know if I had what it took to write a book at all. A friend of mine bet me I couldn't do it." Eventually he wrote it while he was living in New York in the early 1970s. Even then it might never have appeared had Whiting not been out of work and out of money. Desperate to pay his rent, he persisted with publishers until he succeeded with one. "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" was an instant hit, soaring on the best-seller list. Time magazine named it the best sports book of the year.

Born in New Jersey in 1942 and raised in Eureka, Calif., Whiting entered university there. He didn't do well. "My grades were bad, and I wanted a break," he said. "I joined the air force." In uniform he came to Japan. "I was in electronic surveillance, and at Fuchu worked in a windowless building for 12 hours a day. I went back to the States, but decided I wanted to return to Japan." In Tokyo he entered Sophia University.