Kaneko: Meet four little-known figures who tell the story of early Japanese American baseball

From Gemma Kaneko at MLB.com’s Cut4 on May 11, 2017:

Baseball first came to Japan in 1872, with an American professor named Horace Wilson. He’d been hired by the Japanese government to help modernize the country’s education system, and while teaching English at Kaisei Gakko (the forerunner to today’s Tokyo University), he decided his students needed a little more physical exercise. He taught his students America’s pastime, and soon other American teachers were organizing baseball games as well.  

The game rapidly gained popularity among adults thanks in part to Hiroki Hiraoka, who studied in New York City and brought his love for America’s pastime back with him. He was a Red Sox fan who missed seeing professional teams so much that he organized Japan’s first — the Shinbashi Athletic Club Athletics. Japanese immigrants who came to the US in the early 20th century were already familiar with baseball, and they wasted no time in forming teams of their own.

But before Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color line in 1947, Japanese Americans couldn’t play in the Major Leagues. That meant that Japanese immigrants and their American-born children started their own teams and competed for their own championships. The Issei and Nisei Leagues were just as vibrant as other outsider baseball communities, but fewer records of them exist. So, who were some of the athletes, umps and boosters involved? Let’s meet a few foundational figures now.

Read the full article here: http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2017/05/11/215019678/4-little-known-historical-nisei-league-figures

Originally published: May 11, 2017. Last Updated: May 11, 2017.