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Tremendous Matsuzaka, Red Sox excitement reflects a USA-Japan series in WWII in neutral Sweden

by Robert Skole

BOSTON (31March 2007) -- Boston Red Sox spectacular pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka has created unmatched excitement among baseball fans in Japan and the United States.

But this is not the first time Boston and Tokyo have met on the diamond – at least according to “Jumpin’ Jimminy – A World War II Baseball Saga: American Flyboys and Japanese Submariners Battle it Out in a Swedish World Series” (published by iUniverse, Inc).

Based partially on historic events, this novel, by Robert Skole, a journalist living in Boston and Stockholm, tells the story of ball games played in the spring and summer of 1945 in neutral Sweden. Top-notch teams of servicemen of the two nations at war face off in a world series in a Stockholm replica of Fenway Park.

The American team is the 10-man crew of Jumpin’ Jimminy, a B-17 bomber that crash landed in Sweden. And over 100 US bombers did land in Sweden. The Japanese team is from a fictional submarine that went aground on Swedish rocks.

The series is organized by a baseball crazy Swedish major, who, as a boy, fell in love with the game seeing Jim Thorpe and Americans in demonstration ball games during the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The Japanese submariners have been making meatballs of his Swedish amateur ball players. Now, the best ball team in the Eighth Air Force could show the Japanese some real opposition.

The American team is led by two Bostonians – the plane’s pilot, who had been an ace pitcher at Harvard, and a crewman gunner, the catcher, from Boston’s working class West End. As kids, they had often played ball on Boston Common. The Japanese team’s star pitcher has, appropriately, a submarine ball that astounds and dazzles the Yanks. He can pitch nine innings without losing a bit of his super-hot steam.

Before spring training and the start of the series, the Jumpin’ Jimminy crew spends the winter months at various “civilian” assignments – most of them sheer joy. Like the tail-gunner/shortstop -- the only black B-17crewman in the Eighth Air Force -- who speaks fluent Swedish, learned when he worked at a Swedish market in Chicago. He teaches his Swedish “cousins” how to create the absolutely best darn vodka on the moonshine market.

The Polish-American co-pilot introduces Swedes to kielbasa, made according to his family’s famous recipe. The plane’s radioman, an amateur preacher, goes on a revival tour, with two charming blondes as interpreters.

The pilot and bombardier end up working on secret spy assignments for the OSS. Meanwhile, the Japanese maintain their sub, wait for orders from Tokyo, and dine on sushi featuring whale meat brought in from Norway.

All in all, it’s a wonderful romp in a Swedish island of peace, both for the Americans and Japanese – until spring training begins and the first pitch is thrown to open the Series.

"You are not going to read another book like this one in your lifetime,” says Bill McDonald, founder of the Military Writers Society of America,

The book’s author, Robert Skole, a long-time American foreign correspondent based in Stockholm, says Jumpin’ Jimminy takes up where Catch-22 leaves off, with brave Yank airmen heading for neutral, peaceful Sweden.

Skole has been on the staff of The Japan Times and has written for Japanese publications, including Nikkei Business. He has written a dozen books, mainly about Sweden.

He’s now one of Red Sox nation’s most excited fans, waiting to enjoy a version of his fictional story – with Japanese stars playing for Boston at Fenway Park

Please go to for reviews and more about “Jumpin’ Jimminy – A World War II Baseball Saga”.

The book is represented by Marty Shindler, of the Los Angeles based The Shindler Perspective, Inc. ( ).

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