Kaneko: Who was the first Japanese player in American organized baseball?

From Gemma Kaneko at MLB’s Cut4 on April 13, 2018, with mention of SABR member Bill Staples Jr.:

If you just glanced at the photo of the 1886 Wesleyan University varsity baseball team, you might miss him. But he’s there, in the upper left corner, leaning against a tree: Aisuke Kabayama, shortstop and the earliest known Japanese-born person to play organized baseball in the United States.

But where would you find this photo in the first place? Bill Staples Jr., who chairs SABR’s Asian Baseball Research Committee, was at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame for a meeting about another great Japanese baseball pioneer, Kenichi Zenimura. He happened to notice the team picture.

“I was rushed for time,” he said, “So I took a photo, and decided that I would learn more about the topic later.”

With help from a translator in Tokyo, Staples was able to learn a lot. 

Kabayama was born on June 3, 1865. He went to school in Tokyo, and in 1880, his father sent him to the U.S. to continue his education. He went to high school in Massachusetts, and enrolled at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in 1885.

Read the full article here: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/who-was-the-first-japanese-baseball-in-the-usa/c-271935604

Originally published: April 13, 2018. Last Updated: April 13, 2018.